As a psychotherapist, I often educate people about what we lovingly refer to as “boundaries,” which isn’t always an easy concept and has some misconceptions. Here, I’ll break it down for you.
Boundaries are ways in which we interact with the world, setting limits to protect and respect ourselves and others. There are several types of boundaries. Three very common ones are physical boundaries, emotional boundaries, and time boundaries.
Physical boundaries are focused on our physical space. These can include physical touch like hugging as well as sexual boundaries. This can also mean knowing our physical limitations, and staying focused on body autonomy for ourselves and those around us.
Emotional boundaries refer to your bandwidth for who and what you can emotionally support. How much energy can you expend on showing up for others? Whose energy do you find draining? Who are you spending time with when you are energized and relaxed?
Time boundaries show respect for our time and others. Being punctual, texting when late, and respecting how much time someone has to offer are ways of holding time boundaries. Being explicitly clear with how much time you have available is crucial when setting time boundaries.
Time boundaries and emotional boundaries can overlap, for example when one sets aside an hour to speak with a friend but needs to end the call on time. Physical and emotional boundaries are both disrespected when someone encroaches on our personal space.
Setting boundaries for yourself around what kind of media you consume can also help improve mental health. Unfollowing anyone who is unrealistic or prompts you to compare yourself. Don’t want to see that seemingly perfect sorority sister from college on the IG? Simply hit the mute or unfollow. Creep sliding into your DMs – block block block.
Boundaries require healthy communication when maintaining the relationship is a priority. If there is any hope for mutual respect, boundaries must be clearly articulated. Ghosting/not answering is not setting a boundary. Saying No to overcommitting yourself because you have no time left to volunteer for the bake sale is a boundary.
Ultimately boundaries ensure that you prioritize and protect yourself. When you say no thank you to an opportunity, you open the door to saying yes to you.