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When you first hear the word boundary, it may make sound like a way to disconnect and separate from others. Actually, the opposite is more true. Setting boundaries in romantic relationships, family relationships, and friendships is a way to express how and when you feel comfortable when it comes to navigating communication between yourself and others. When setting boundaries, you are choosing to put yourself and your emotional wellbeing first, while also creating stronger relationships with others on your terms. Boundaries are also flexible. This can help boost your self-confidence while still allowing room for you to show vulnerability to others when you decide for yourself when to cross a boundary you have previously set.

When you set a boundary with someone, you are defining the terms of that relationship. These terms can cover both physical and emotional boundaries, such as what you consider personal space or whether you take responsibility for another persons emotions. When setting boundaries, focus on how you are feeling. If you feel discomfort, anxiety, guilt, stress, or fear in a situation, this is an indicator that you should set a boundary regarding situations like that one. By setting these boundaries for yourself, you are able to regain a sense of your own identity within a relationship and feel empowered by the decisions you make. Without boundaries, it is possible that you may rely on other people for your happiness and decision making, which ultimately will lead to a weakened sense of identity and self-confidence.

Emotional boundaries should be set in relationships in order to ensure that you are not spending your emotional energy trying to fix others, take responsibility for others actions, rely on others for your own happiness, or feeling like you need to be needed or given approval by others. It is healthy to say no to things that threaten your boundaries, say yes to help from others when it is needed, speak up for yourself, share personal information with others only when you feel ready, and ask for your own space. Physical boundaries can also help make you feel more comfortable in relationships. These include deciding whether or not you feel comfortable with certain physical situations, such as hugging, hand holding, kissing, and other intimate activities, and also how your physical space is treated, like your phone, your living space, or any other personal belongings.

If you are setting personal boundaries, make sure you are also recognizing and respecting the boundaries of the other people in your life. Watch for social cues in order to see what other people may or may not be comfortable with. If you aren’t sure what someones boundaries are, communicate with them about them. For example, you can ask your friend if you can hug them before you do in order to gage whether or not they feel comfortable with it. If you want other people to respect and follow your boundaries you need to show that you also respect and will follow the boundaries of those around you. And if you feel like someone is constantly threatening your boundaries, it is okay and healthy to reevaluate if they are someone you want in your life.

– Haidyn Emmerich
Nourish Your Mind Blog Contributor
Neuroscience & Psychology Student – Syracuse University
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