The Unselfish Act of Setting Boundaries

In our society, the term “boundaries” has become commonplace. Typically, it’s used in the context of protecting oneself from unhealthy relationships or work life. When people pursue counseling to help make progress in their lives, issues with boundaries often move to the forefront.

When trying to make choices about boundaries to establish, the ultimate goal is to live in a way that is most healthy for all individuals and groups involved. Often the reasons it’s difficult to slow down a dating relationship, navigate the work / personal life balance, or maintain a close spousal relationship in a family with kids, is the fear of hurting or neglecting someone or something. Therefore, we over commit, exhaust all our energy, or become too emotionally committed too soon.

What we must remember in order to thwart these tendencies, is that boundaries are good for others as well. Establishing boundaries isn’t a selfish move; it’s a healthy one.

When our boundaries are breached, it’s not just us who suffer. Long term, a romantic relationship may suffer, because too much too soon leads to hurt feelings for our significant other as well. The company suffers long term when we overwork, because we aren’t functioning in our healthiest mental state, leading to lower productivity and burnout. And while the kids need quality time with their parents, they need the refreshed version, not the maxed-out, distracted parent who doesn’t have the mental space required for emotional connectivity.

So, remember that as you seek to gain control of different areas of your life, it’s for the betterment of those around you as well as yourself.
Maintaining boundaries is a lifelong balance rather than a quick fix, and therefore requires continuous self-assessment. There are many approaches to managing boundaries and regaining balance. For now, a few essentials to consider:

1. Tell Someone

One reason you may be struggling with these issues is a product of maintaining the same patterns you developed during childhood. It’s difficult to see outside of this paradigm. Who is someone who knows you and can provide new ideas, honest feedback, and accountability as you seek to change? Counselors can be helpful with this because of their ability to view your circumstances from an uninvolved, and therefore less biased, perspective.

2. Write it down.

What are the areas of life where you need to draw boundaries, and what are your specific action points? Put it on paper to assist your planning process and return to your notes later to test whether or not you’re making progress.

3. Read something.

a. “Boundaries,” by Henry Cloud. – A helpful read, this book is written from psychospiritual perspective, incorporating Christian values.

b. “Codependent No More,” by Melody Beattie. – This book focuses on the concept of “codependency” in relationships, a topic closely intertwined with boundaries.

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