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August 9, 2023

Boundaries: What, Why, and How to Use Them Well

by Tracy Yellin, MSW, LCSW

The term “boundary” invokes a strong emotion within people. Most imagine a physical barrier between two things, whether it’s a person or another object, or a line drawn on the ground to separate spaces. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a boundary as “something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent.”

National Boundaries Awareness Day

In 2022, self-development coach Evelyn Marley created National Boundaries Awareness Day to be acknowledged on August 8th of each year to bring awareness to those who are seeking to live their best lives and maintain connection with others while still taking care of themselves mentally and physically.

Types of Boundaries

There are several types of boundaries including personal, emotional, time, financial, sexual, material, and currently around social media usage. Setting boundaries within relationships is important, no matter whether they are with family, friends, at work, or with romantic partners.

Having and maintaining boundaries can foster greater self-care and sense of compassion towards ourselves as we determine what we will and will not allow into our lives. In that concept lies a sense of power that we are able to link boundaries to taking care of ourselves and still maintaining connections with the world outside of ourselves. In allowing ourselves to have and maintain boundaries we can prevent several unwanted emotions such as fatigue, anger, resentment, and burnout.

4 Steps to Creating Boundaries

If looking for a place to start with learning to set boundaries, some steps include:

  1. Define your boundaries. Decide what is important to you.
  2. Communicate what those boundaries are to others.
  3. Keep the boundary clear and simple. Be consistent.
  4. Focus on yourself. Set consequences of broken boundaries and be clear what happens when boundaries are crossed or broken.

In the words of Brene Brown, Ph.D., LMSW, “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.” Go forth, love yourself, set boundaries, live authentically.

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