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The importance of boundary setting

By Amalia Pryor, LCSW

We often hear the word “boundaries” used when discussing mental health and self care. Boundaries are merely a way to self –preserve from the world around us whether it be our family, friends, romantic partners and career. If we let people over step into our lives, it can cause anxiety, stress, or frustration. It’s important minimize stress where we can in our daily lives.

Setting boundaries with others is imperative because it separates our process from other people’s experience in life. It’s significant because it helps us become more aware of our own process so that we can fully own and be in control of ourselves. We can be easily influenced or feel we always need to appease others before we think about our needs.

I often hear clients say they feel badly about setting boundaries with others and not wanting to hurt people or they can feel hurt when someone close to them sets a boundary. The quote below simply sums up boundary setting and why it’s important in maintaining any and all relationships.

“When people set boundaries with you, it’s their attempt to continue the relationship with you. It is not an attempt to hurt you” ~ Elizabeth Earnshaw

I think a helpful perspective is that when we set a boundary, it’s because we most likely want to maintain a connection. People need to tend to certain parts of themselves so that we can be more available and present for the relationship, otherwise we wouldn’t be expressing the boundary at all.

Most of us automatically assume that boundaries will mean there is a blockage between themselves and the other person. We fear connection can be lost or distant. Or just generally assume boundaries have to be negative – it doesn’t have to be.

It takes trust to set a boundary. It takes vulnerability to expose our limits and needs to other people. It also takes a lot of bravery to speak our boundaries because we don’t know how they will be received and how it will be responded to.

A few tips I have for setting a boundary:

  1. Start small- Boundary setting is like developing any new skill, it will take time and practice to refine your approach when a situation presents itself
  2. Be clear and direct- Once a boundary is communicated, this is not enough, we have to do follow through. If a boundary is crossed we must assertively and kindly communicate it to the other person.
  3. Leaning into support systems- Setting and keeping boundaries can be very difficult at times, it’s important to lean into our support systems such as friends, family, and or community supports to bounce feelings and ideas off of as well as practice boundary setting i.e- role playing. It is also recommended to read and do research. There are many books, articles as well as social media outlets that can provide additional information and perspectives about setting a boundary.
  4. Self-awareness- Lastly, knowing why you are setting a boundary and why it’s important to you. Having a better understanding of your feelings and limits will guide you through why the boundary is important to maintain. Protecting our mind body and soul is crucial in our development as beings. Always remember boundary setting is a form of self-care.

Please feel free to contact an Encircle therapist for assistance with boundary setting and healthy communication.

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