Do you struggle to assert your boundaries or feel confused about what boundaries you might be lacking?
In this week’s episode, we are going back to boundary basics, so you can gain clarity on the actual state of your boundary skills.
I’m breaking down different types of boundaries, how to identify boundary violations PLUS giving you some tips and scripts so you will have the words you need to assert healthy boundaries!
Let’s start with identifying boundaries. The act itself of drawing boundaries is communicating clearly about what is ok and what isn’t ok with you to the people in your life. It’s telling the truth about how you feel and about what you want and need.
But if you were raised in a family system that did not teach you what healthy boundaries are (and let’s be honest, most of us were), then it can be difficult to even know you need them and then more difficult still to actually establish and enforce them. You can’t expect yourself to have mastery over something you never learned, right? Right.
What I’ve found in over 2 decades as a psychotherapist is many of us got some seriously bad intel about boundaries.
A fence around a house is an easy boundary to see and understand. Personal boundaries are like the invisible fence around the “house” that is you. The thing is, you have to establish the fence with your actions, body language, and actual words.
Your boundaries are as unique as you are. Clearly communicating your boundary preferences, desires, and deal-breakers is like sharing your own Rules of Engagement with others. It transparently identifies permissible ways for others to interact with you and sets relationships up to succeed.
The following is a breakdown of the different categories of boundaries you can use to build your personal Rules of Engagement.
Your most basic physical boundary is your body. Physical boundaries include who had the right to touch you and how plus how much personal space you may need. Examples of physical boundary violations include someone grabbing you without your permission or barging into the bathroom without knocking.
Asserting a healthy physical boundary can sound something like:
“I’d like to make a simple request that you knock before you come into my room.”
You alone get to decide what sexual touch is acceptable. How, when, and with whom you have intimate exchanges need to be self-determined. Someone coercing, pressuring, or forcing you to be sexual with them or behaving in any way intended to arouse or gratify their own sexual impulse without your expressed consent are examples of sexual boundary violations.
This can include grabbing you, massaging your shoulders, or making a lewd or inappropriate comment. If you don’t want it, if it’s unwelcome, if it makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s a violation.
Asserting a healthy sexual boundary could sound like:
“I don’t have unprotected sex.”
“Please step back, you are standing too close for my comfort.”
Material boundaries represent the ways you relate to your material possessions and how you want other people to relate to them. How many people have access to the things you own? Do you lend money or not? Would you let someone borrow your car? Are any areas of your home that are off-limits to others?
All of the conditions and stipulations around your “stuff” are in this category. An example of a material boundary violation would be someone using your computer without asking or borrowing clothes out of your closet without your permission.
Asserting your material boundary around money lending might sound like:
“I have a “No Lending” money policy. So, it’s not personal, but the answer will have to be no.”
Mental boundaries are about your values, opinions, and beliefs. Healthy mental boundaries mean you know what you believe and what you think about things. It also includes the ability to listen to others, even when you don’t agree with them. Having healthy mental boundaries allows you to take in what someone else is saying, even if it’s a difficult conversation, without shutting down or exploding. It is holding onto your own opinion, even if you are in the minority.
Someone making demands instead of requests or disparaging your beliefs are violations of your mental boundaries. Do you have someone in your life who often tries to wear down your “No”? This looks like you expressing your boundary and clearly saying, “No,” and the other person guilting you, making you wrong, or trying to convince you to change your mind. (So exhausting!)
To assert a limit you might say:
“You’ve asked and I’ve answered.”
“We will have to agree to disagree because I won’t tolerate you belittling my opinion.”
You are responsible for your feelings just as others are responsible for their feelings. When you have strong, healthy emotional boundaries, you don’t blame others for the way you feel and on the flip side, you don’t accept blame for how someone else feels. Healthy emotional boundaries means you are clear about what is on your side of the street so to speak, and what isn’t.
If your emotional boundaries could use some strengthening, you might feel compelled to “fix” things for the people around you or give unsolicited advice or spontaneous criticism. You might get very emotional, combative, or defensive regularly.
An example of an emotional boundary violation is someone telling you, “You shouldn’t feel that way.” No one has the right to tell you what you should or shouldn’t feel.
Your personal boundaries are totally unique to you and we all have our own default boundary style. For example, someone with porous or malleable boundaries might overshare personal information or overly invest in the problems and issues of others. On the other end of the spectrum, if your boundaries are too rigid, you might not ask for help when you need it or avoid close relationships to minimize rejection.
Healthy boundaries fall somewhere in between. When you have clear, appropriately flexible boundaries, you have a deep understanding of yourself, your preferences, desires, needs, and deal-breakers, and you can communicate them effectively.
Cultivating these skills will take some learning (and unlearning!), but I promise you, it is possible and waaaaaaay worth it. Healthy boundaries protect you from emotional harm, safeguard your time and energy, strengthen all of your relationships and FREE you to be your most empowered self.
I’ve created a special bonus with situation-specific Boundary Scripts and you can get it (along with a ton of other juicy bonuses) when you pre-order my book, Boundary Boss: The Essential Guide to Talk True, Be Seen, and (Finally) Live Free!
So if you know you could use help on what to say in the moment to assert your boundaries, what are you waiting for? Get started right now becoming the Boundary Boss you were meant to be and pre-order the Boundary Boss book. (I would also be so grateful for your support for my first book baby ?)
You know you people are it for me. The literal reasons I do what I do. I am in awe of your commitment to living your one-of-a-kind amazing life, YOUR WAY!! So thank you for being in my crew and as always take care of you.
Here are some more ways I can support your Boundary Boss journey:
PRE-ORDER THE BOOK Boundary Boss is THE essential guidebook for authentically expressing your desires, setting healthy limits, and bringing more satisfaction, joy, and peace into all of your personal and professional relationships. There are super JUICY bonuses when you pre-order, so what are you waiting for?
TAKE THE BOUNDARY STYLE QUIZ I always say, ya can’t change anything until you become aware of it, so take the quiz and discover your unique boundary archetype!
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