- Lori Carol Maloy
Why Boundaries Are Important for Your Overall Mental Health
Updated: Mar 16
Do you fall in love at the drop of a hat or tell your life story within minutes of meeting someone? Have you ever compromised and done the opposite of what you believe in just to please the person in front of you? Are you angry at your spouse or special someone most of the time but continue to say yes when you mean no? Are you snappy and rude when you don’t want to be? Are you full of resentment and frustration at everyone around you and constantly feel used and underappreciated?
Even worse, maybe you are feeling abused and walk on eggshells around your partner or loved one or continue to cycle in and out of toxic relationships.
If any of these statements describe you or someone you know, weak personal boundaries may be the culprit.
Personal boundaries are the space between you and another person. They are the lines you draw and the rules that apply to how you are to be treated and how you treat others.
Boundaries can be articulated through verbal and non-verbal language and are the voice from deep within you that sound the alarms and set the rules for interpersonal relationships, an internal police force of sorts. This voice speaks from your convictions and values and gives you power in how you are to be treated and how you approach the world around you.
It seems now more than ever people are struggling with relationships. How to handle conflict is a big issue and creeping stealthily alongside conflict is the enemy of weak boundaries.
What do your boundaries look like?
· Solid and clear
· Monstrous and aggressive
· Weak and timid
· Or outright invisible
Being aware of what kind of boundaries we have is important for healthy relationships and proper self-care.
Knowing how to say no and being comfortable with using the word when everything inside you knows you should is a must in establishing and maintaining healthy relationships. Having the awareness of knowing when to step back and let go of trying to control and handle everything are more key elements of good boundaries. This can get tricky when you are taking care of everyone else and not yourself.
Learn how to draw the line in the relationship and why healthy boundaries matter.
More on boundaries
According to Joaquin Selva, BC.S., Psychologist in a 2020 article published on PositivePsychology.com, the ability to implement healthy boundaries helps establish your individuality and is vital to your well-being and over all mental health.
It’s okay to take care of yourself, say no if you want to say no, and have friends and activities outside of your relationships.
It’s also okay not to take that extra shift at work, take on teaching the extra class at church, coach several sports events, and be the pushover who always picks up the slack when you’re dog tired and already have too much on your plate.
Dr. Henry Cloud has been a champion for healthy boundaries in relationships for years and has written several books on the topic. If you are struggling with some of the issues within your relationships that we’ve already mentioned, I would encourage you to check out Dr. Cloud’s books on boundaries.
Check out his website at www.drcloud.com
Why worry with boundaries?
Well, by not having healthy boundaries and never saying no we might overwork or overextend ourselves, jump into relationships prematurely, allow abuse, forget who we are and what is best for us.
The results of having no boundaries or having very dim boundaries:
Along with depression, anxiety, and guilt
It’s not okay to be controlled by someone. Walking on eggshells around another person is no way to live and can create feelings of hopelessness and increase anxiety and depression. Being controlled or controlling others is catastrophic to a healthy relationship, and jealousy is a cancer that will kill a relationship and steal your joy.
Learn to recognize who you are and identify the areas of your life where your boundaries are weak to non-existent. Begin to educate yourself on what a healthy relationship looks like. As the years go by what others see as abuse you may see as normal because you have grown so accustomed to the maltreatment.
Examples of boundary violations in relationships
· Stipulations on friendships outside of your romantic relationship
· Jealousy and repetitive questioning
· You might be unable to say no to your partner (partner refuses to listen, hear, and validate you and your needs)
· Physical or emotional abuse
· One sided relationship
Self-Care and abuse
It’s okay to take care of yourself and having your own thoughts, beliefs, and identity. Part of good self-care is having healthy boundaries and saying no when you feel like saying no. Speaking up for yourself and having hobbies of your own that bring you joy and peace. Taking time for yourself for no reason feeds your soul and knowing what makes you tick are key elements in recognizing when something is not okay. This is all good self-care.
Maybe it’s been so long since you’ve thought about you that you don’t know what you want, what you enjoy, or how to be alone with yourself.
Maybe you’re afraid to stand up to your partner and share your voice for fear of what he might say or do to you. If so, it’s time to reach out and get help. Physical or emotional abuse and control are never acceptable. Abuse is a repetitive and downward cycle that usually does not stop without intervention.
Trying to keep the peace by giving in at all costs or settling for anything just to please another person is not healthy and sends a message to everyone around you that anything goes and that there are no rules or guidelines in how you should be treated.
Reasons to have healthy boundaries
· You will gain self-respect and the respect of others
· You will become more self-aware
· You will learn to be more assertive and courageous
· You will get your needs met
· You will fulfill your goals
· You will learn self-care (which allows you to be at peace, be happier, more content, feel loved, and have a greater capacity to care for others)
· As we model healthy boundaries for our children, they learn healthier patterns of behavior
· You will have healthier and longer lasting relationships
· You will have less burnout at work, home, and in daily living
· You will have a decrease in anxiety, depression, and guilt
· Decision-making will become easier
It’s not easy to spot boundary violations in all areas of your life, especially if they have been going on for years. Other people might criticize and misunderstand you and find it hard to comprehend how you have allowed yourself to be treated so unfairly. But relationships never start out in such a negative light, or we would never go deeper into the relationship. Maltreatment creeps in slowly and grows over time as we fail to stand up for ourselves and draw out good boundary lines or leave toxic relationships.
Different relationships require having the skills to implement the appropriate boundaries for that type of relationship. For example, work relationships, friendships, romantic relationships, parental relationships with children of different ages, and close and distant relationships can be quite different and boundaries within each of these relationships will vary.
Knowing who you are, what you want and need, what you want to accomplish, and how your values factor into the mix are all vital components in learning to implement appropriate boundaries, set limits, and get your needs met.
Ask yourself these questions:
· What kind of relationships do I want?
· How do I want to be treated by friends, loved ones, partner, co-workers?
· What are my life goals: short term, mid-term, and long-term goals?
· Know what acceptable and not acceptable treatment and talk is
· Get to know and love yourself.
· Educate yourself on boundaries and self-care and find someone to talk to (a friend who will listen, a professional counselor, self-help books, your family, a pastor)
If any of the above thoughts and actions are not allowed within your relationship, I urge you to seek out professional help and call a hotline because you are in an abusive relationship.
The Florida abuse hotline is 1-800-962-2873
Allow yourself to keep trying and moving forward
When we haven’t been taking care of ourselves for a long time, the early process can feel overwhelming and alien. Early self-care may feel odd and selfish, and even uncomfortable when we are not used to it. Feelings of guilt are not uncommon.
Learning to set boundaries and love yourself and feel joy might be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do, but it will be well worth it and will help you build a life you will be proud of.
If you recognize yourself on these pages, don’t ignore your pain and needs any longer. Keep moving forward one step at a time.
Resume the search in finding out who you are and what you need to recreate a healthier you.
Boundaries are vital for your sense of self and your self-efficacy. We need boundaries in order to stand up for ourselves, but we need to stand up for ourselves to create boundaries. Start wherever you are and begin educating yourself about healthy boundaries and which ones you struggle with. You have already begun the journey or you wouldn’t be reading this blog.
It’s okay to say no, to have a voice, and to get to know ourselves; to know what we like, to have hobbies, and to learn to be okay with being alone with ourselves. Everyone deserves to meet their own needs and enjoy the one life we’ve been given.
Joaquin Selva outlines the four steps to getting what you need through healthy boundary making. When presenting your requests:
· Define exactly what is working or not working for you
· Communicate this as clearly as you can using I statements
· Don’t overexplain or get off point
· Set consequences if your requests are ignored
There are many great resources in bookstores and on the internet on the subject of boundaries and codependency. Several resources have been identified within this article.
I also recommend you check out Melody Beattie at melodybeattie.com. She’s written a lot on codependency and boundaries and has loads of information on her website.
If you’ve struggled with boundary issues, I’d love to hear about how you’ve overcome and where you are on your self-care journey.
In closing, I’d like to encourage you to take care of yourself, find someone you trust and talk about what you are struggling with. Take the first step to begin building better boundaries for a richer life.