Do you know what your boundary style is?

Are you aware of how boundary styles can impact you and your relationships?

Whether we say “yes” when we want to say “no,” or don’t ask for help because we distrust others, our predominant boundary style often prevents us from living authentically. 

Curious to learn more? Join me for a deep dive into the differences between rigid and porous boundaries, how they negatively impact the quality of your life, and the transformative power of healthy boundaries. 

You’ll come away with a deeper understanding of your boundary style and where you might need to make adjustments.

Prefer the audio? Listen here.

3 Main Boundary Styles

Let’s start with my definition of boundaries: they are your personal rules of engagement. They inform others what is okay and what is not okay with you. 

Boundaries are comprised of your preferences, desires, limits, and deal breakers (your non-negotiables).

There are three basic boundary styles: 

  1. Porous
  2. Rigid 
  3. Healthy

We all have a certain boundary style, and it’s not uncommon for folks to have good boundaries in one area of life (work, for example) and disordered boundaries in another area (dating). 

Everyone is different. My goal is to raise your awareness around your own boundary style because identifying it is the beginning of making any needed changes. 

Let’s look at the differences between porous, rigid, and healthy boundaries. 

#1: Porous Boundaries

Having porous boundaries is like having a house without a fence or a front door. People come and go as they please, taking whatever they want with them. 

With porous boundaries, we feel unprotected because not having a front door leaves us vulnerable to people who may not be emotionally trustworthy

When you have porous boundaries, you may overshare personal information or be overly invested in the problems of others

You may also find it challenging to set limits with people. 

For example, if someone asks you to help them all day, you may think you need to commit to the entire day rather than saying, “I’m free between 12 and 2.” 

Or you may say “yes” to things when you really want to say “no.” 

Why do some of us have porous boundaries? 

Depending on the family system you grew up in, asserting your boundaries may have resulted in love being withdrawn, punishment, or, in severely disordered systems with abuse present, physical harm.

Some of us learned it wasn’t safe to set boundaries as kids. As the saying goes, people pleasers were parent pleasers first. 

Additionally, women are often raised and praised to be self-abandoning codependents

Being conditioned to put others first, be nice, and be as helpful as possible can lead to porous boundaries in adulthood. 

#2: Rigid Boundaries

I cover porous boundaries a lot, and a member of my VIP community said she automatically says no rather than yes:

“I grew up seeing my mom say yes and seething with resentment for saying yes. Instead of repeating this behavior, I say no automatically. I strongly guard my time, but I think this habit keeps my life small. I miss out on opportunities to meet new friends and expand my skill set by saying no.”

This is an example of having rigid boundaries (the opposite of porous) as they are inflexible

This looks like “my way or the highway” and putting up walls to avoid feeling obligated to or vulnerable with people. 

People with rigid boundaries often have difficulty trusting others, which minimizes the closeness they experience in their relationships. 

They might have difficulty asking others for help, too. And when people hurt them, they may withdraw in anger or punish people instead of admitting their hurt. 

Inside the guide are questions to help you identify your boundary style and where you might need to make boundary adjustments. Download it here

Automatic Reactions Are Not Authentic Responses

With porous boundaries, you may find yourself automatically saying “yes,” and with rigid boundaries (as was the case with my VIP member), you might automatically say “no.”

Anything we do automatically is less a choice and more a reaction.

If you were raised to be a “good girl,” you probably learned that not giving an answer is ‘rude’ and being considered ‘nice’ is the holy grail of womanhood.

But saying “yes” when you want to say “no” is not nice. It is dishonest. 

There is nothing wrong with confidently and mindfully saying “yes” or “no,” but an auto-yes or auto-no may be habituated and ingrained reactions. 

How can you pause before reacting to make mindful and intentional choices?

Daily meditation. 

I gained about two to three seconds of reaction time just from a dedicated meditation practice. 

How much would your relationships change if you gained two to three seconds of response time?

Mine changed a lot

I didn’t have to apologize as much and I realized I didn’t owe anyone an automatic answer. I began telling people, “I need to think it over.”

You don’t necessarily need to meditate to achieve this, but I highly encourage you to make some sort of mindfulness practice part of your daily routine. (If you want to meditate, check out Insight Timer– I have a bunch of free meditations there!) 

#3: Healthy Boundaries

Healthy boundaries are the sweet spot between too porous and too rigid.

They are flexible. 

If you have healthy boundaries, you can compromise and meet in the middle. It does not have to be your way or the highway or endlessly taking one for the team

Let’s say you go to bed at 9:30 and your partner goes to sleep at midnight. If you want to go to bed together, the compromise is to go to sleep at 10:30. 

When you have healthy boundaries, you have good self-respect, high self-esteem, and know your time is valuable. You’re aware that what you think, how you feel, and what you want matters. 

You truthfully, confidently, and mindfully assert your boundaries without guilt. You emotionally empower yourself to make healthy choices and take responsibility for those choices and your happiness.

With healthy boundaries, you can separate your needs, thoughts, feelings, and desires from those of others.  

You also wait to see if someone is emotionally trustworthy before sharing personal information with them, and your relationships involve mutual sharing. 

Healthy boundaries involve protecting your physical and emotional space from intrusion, without guilt. For example, my phone ringer stays on silent to protect my peace. 

Some people wish my ringer was on, but I generally have my phone nearby. If something is an emergency, I get back to them immediately. If it’s not, I respond on my own time

In relationships, healthy boundaries show up as you not doing all of the emotional labor

It doesn’t have to be perfectly equal. For example, there is mutual sharing in my relationship with Vic. Whoever sees that the dishwasher is done will put the dishes away. The last one up makes the bed. 

But it doesn’t always play out this way. When I’m busy writing a book, Vic takes care of the majority of the housework and I do the same for him when he’s working on a big project. 

How to Work Towards Healthier Boundaries

The first step toward healthier boundaries is gaining clarity on your boundaries and boundary style. A deeper understanding leads to quicker, lasting change. 

Inside the guide for this episode is everything you need to get started on your journey to healthier boundaries. 

It contains questions to help you uncover what you learned about boundaries growing up, get clear on where you might need better boundaries, and develop a greater understanding of your boundary style. There are even boundary sentence starters for when you’re ready to begin setting boundaries. 

Having a deeper understanding of your boundary style and where it comes from leads to less self-judgment and more empowerment because you know you can break the cycle. 

What are you waiting for? I’d love to know what you find out! Tell me: what boundary style resonated with you? How does it negatively impact the quality of your relationships or life? How might it protect you? Drop me a note in the comments or on Instagram (@terricole). 

I hope you have the most amazing week and as always, take care of you.

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