Boundary Setting is Essential for Mental Health

Featured Illustration: Carmi Grau

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It is important to note that when someone is placing a boundary on you, it’s usually a positive sign that they want to improve and grow your relationship/friendship. Boundary setting is important for mental health and to get to know oneself throughout our journey to healing. Chances are that in relationships/friendships, both people may have different feelings from each other and expectations based on one another’s upbringing and cultural background. We tend to believe that communication is just about talking and listening, but that is far from the truth. To communicate effectively, we must place boundaries.

When boundaries are set, we teach others how to communicate with us, and most importantly, we show self-love and respect. 

This is important because if we don’t place boundaries, we become tired and end up doing unnecessary and free emotional labor. The following describes some important categorical boundary settings: 

5 major categories of boundary setting

  • Emotional: Emotions are valid and therefore no justification of them is needed.

-Emotional dumping: This is a reminder that we may want to tell our friends everything, but we must first ask them if we can talk about our mishaps or any other emotional situations (as everyone has their share of healing they are going through). If that friend is not available to hear things, don’t take it personally because they might be going through a rough patch as well. 

-Assumptions

  • Material:

This has several examples, but one that stands out is paying for dinner/lunch amongst friends. We know that it can get expensive to order takeout, but for the sake of maintaining boundaries in a relationship/friendship, offering to pay half or for the next time really helps keep things balanced. Borrowing items is the second example in this category. We have the right to impose boundaries of no longer letting others use our belongings. 

  • Time/energy:”

This means that you do NOT have to say “yes” to every single plan. This is also applicable to work. It can be a bit tricky because you may want to maintain an excellent work ethic, but it is essential to work at your best, and for that to happen, you will need your days off and mentally prepare for returning to work. 

Other examples include:

-Going back and forth with plans/last-minute cancellations

-Facetiming/calling at inappropriate times

-Favors: it is okay to say “no” without justifying yourself 

  • Mental: Allow yourself to have opinions/beliefs that differ from those around you.

Violations of this agreement may include imposing your own beliefs onto others.

  • Physical:

-This includes the violation of personal space. Some people do not like hugs or close proximity while talking and others are the complete opposite. It is important to note who you may talk to and what level of touch they are comfortable with (hugs, proximity/personal bubble). 

-Inappropriate comments

-Unwanted sexual discussions: This may happen at work, and it is okay to vocalize your discomfort and shut off the conversation. 

It is important to feel comfortable with placing boundaries and letting people know what is permitted in your presence and what is not. Remember that your feelings are valid and should be a priority. If at any point you feel that you’re not deserving of such boundaries or you don’t feel good enough to validate those emotions, it means you might have to do some inner reflecting: “Why do I feel uncomfortable validating such emotions and where does this all stem from?”

Sometimes when we feel such discomfort, it is due to childhood trauma and our upbringing. Don’t feel shame or guilt for communicating your boundaries to others. As we grow, we learn new things about ourselves — a form of self-research, if you will. When things become clear, you follow through and you realize that boundary setting may change from time to time and that’s completely okay. It is normal to “pre-troubleshoot” and check-up on boundary setting in relationships and with those who we communicate with.

Even though boundaries have such a negative connotation, they help solidify our friendships and communication with others. The discussion does not mean altercation, it’s simply establishing standards for the wellbeing of both parties. It is also important to accept boundaries that are placed by others. Establishing clear boundaries is a form of self-care.