Monday, April 7, 2014

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Healthy Boundaries: What They Are, Why They’re Important, and How You’ll Know if You’re Missing Them

Its SpringDo you feel like you’re being taken advantage of at work? Are you spreading yourself too thin? Are you allowing others to treat you in a manner that is not respectful or healthy? If you are communicating your needs to others, do they listen? Do you have a chip on your shoulder?

If you can relate to these questions, you may have poor boundaries in your interpersonal relationships. Boundaries are considered to be the space, both physical and emotional, existing between you and another person. In other words, boundaries are limits which you set, either verbally or non-verbally, directly or indirectly, that are important to maintaining your physical, emotional, and social well-being that you expect others in your life to respect.

Boundaries can be unhealthy or healthy. For example, an unhealthy boundary might be “I can never say ‘no’ to my friends.” A healthy, alternative boundary may be “I have a right to say ‘no,’ even to my friends, if what they’re asking violates my space, values, or rights.”

Unhealthy boundaries can be set at two extremes: too permissive, dependent, and attached OR too firm, independent, and distant. Both can be problematic in relationships. Those who set boundaries that are too permissive often feel that others do not respect them, take advantage of them, and/or take credit for their work. For example, these persons may be asked to frequently stay late at work, take on too many tasks, have difficulty saying “no,” and have trouble communicating their needs to others. Those who set boundaries that are too firm or distant may feel afraid of others violating their space, being vulnerable, feeling out of control, and/or have difficulty relating to others. Others may see these individuals as cold, distant, over-controlling, difficult to read, or defensive.

At the Community Counseling and Assessment Clinic, many of our clients struggle with setting and maintaining healthy, respectful, and appropriate boundaries with those who are important to them. We find that after these clients are able to identify the healthy boundaries they’d like to set and learn a variety of ways to set and maintain these boundaries in their important relationships, they report that they are better able to communicate their needs and experience increased satisfaction with their relationships. If you are having difficulty setting or maintaining healthy boundaries, counseling may be something to consider.

- Post contributed by Will -