#Askingforafriend: Why boundaries matter
By Kiesha Collins
GCU Office of Student Care
How often do you overextend yourself by committing to people, activities and tasks out of fear of saying no?
Growing up, we often are taught the basics of how to interact with others – say thank you when someone gives you a gift, hold the door if someone is behind you, shake hands when introducing yourself. But where and when do we learn what boundaries are or when they are important for us?
According to “Boundaries” author Dr. Henry Cloud, boundaries “define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins. … Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom.”
When discussing boundaries, it is important to keep in mind that everyone has different boundaries for themselves and for others. The reason why this happens is because our boundaries are defined by our past experiences, our family values, our core beliefs, religious beliefs, social environments, etc.
Boundaries are necessary for our self-care. Boundaries keep us safe and protected physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. A life without boundaries can leave us feeling depleted, taken advantage of and resentful toward others and potentially lead to low self-esteem.
Believe it or not, saying no to others is a healthy boundary that you are allowed to implement in your relationships from time to time. Sometimes we have to prioritize our self-care and energy to properly show up for others later on.
So what do healthy boundaries in a relationship look like? It can range from …
- Cultivating an equal partnership where the power is shared
- Being assertive, confident and honest in your communication (knowing that it is OK to say no without fear of judgment or rejection from the other)
- Having a strong sense of identity (you don’t easily accept the opinions of others about yourself
- Taking responsibility for your actions and choices, and yours alone
- Knowing when to physically and emotionally distance yourself from toxic individuals who may not be treating you lovingly
There may be times when others push against your boundaries or attempt to make you feel guilty. As uncomfortable as this may be, continue to give yourself permission for remaining true to what you need in the moment.
You are not wrong or bad despite the negative responses or reactions you may get in these types of moments. Rather than concede, be clear about communicating your needs and boundaries, and remain consistent. Through continued communication and consistency, people in your life will come to respect and appreciate your clear boundaries as well.
If you tend to struggle with communicating or setting boundaries with others in your life, it may be helpful to learn more about this by reading Cloud’s book. He addresses the many struggles that young Christians face when learning how to lovingly say no to others.