Why are boundaries important?

In an earlier blog post (available here), I described how saying no, or putting boundaries in place, can be a valuable form of self-care. I want to look here in a little more detail at boundaries, and why they have so much impact on us.

When I visualise these boundaries I am describing, they take on the form of a little forcefield that I have control of. Now I realise that this may sound quite isolating, and as a therapist working in a relational way, this could be perceived as counter-intuitive. However, I am in no way suggesting that boundaries should be so solidly drawn that they prevent the natural development or continuance of relationships.

The purpose of a boundary in this context is to give the boundary-creator the safety they need to become more in touch with their own wants and needs.

In daily life, we are constantly bombarded with the need to balance what we want, with the wants and needs of others. Society is built on the philosophy of adherence to a moral code (in addition to the code of law). We try not to stand too close to others in a queue (personal space); we don’t behave in a way that causes distress to others. Yes, some people take exception to this, but on the whole the majority go along with this concept.

We generally adhere to this because we recognise the function of boundaries. We interact with strangers, but we have an awareness of the needs of others and of ourselves.

If we then take this down to a personal level, these invisible boundaries become a little blurrier, and in some relationships can become non-existent – I’m thinking of a mother-infant relationship, for instance.

We all get to decide what our boundaries are; they will differ from person to person, from relationship to relationship. It can be as simple as asking your partner or children not to come into the bathroom when you are using the toilet! Or it can be something more complex, like saying no to the family member who needs your help, but doesn’t offer any gratitude.

Managing boundaries is related to our connection to our internal experience. Do you feel resentful to be asked to do something for someone, only to find yourself doing it anyway?

Why might that be?

If the connection to our internal experience is undeveloped, it becomes more difficult to formulate just what the feeling is, and where it comes from.

Taking some time to identify our boundaries, and how we feel when our boundaries are breached, is a form of self-care. Enforcing our boundaries is a form of self-care. Not explaining to others why you have a boundary is your right.

If you have situations in your life where you feel your boundaries are not being respected, think about how it would feel to making those boundaries clearer. There is no right or wrong way to enforce a boundary. What is important, is to understand your motivation for having one in the first place.

If anything in today’s post has resonated with you please feel free to get in touch!