An Introduction to Boundaries: The Imaginary Fence
A key factor in healthy relationships and mental well-being.
By Vic LeBouthillier
“Boundaries are the borders separating where you end and I begin.”
Like an imaginary fence, boundaries provide a sense of space and protection between us and the people around us.
We can change the amount of personal space we have by expanding or shrinking these boundaries. Like fences, our boundaries have gates that we can open or close, allowing specific people into our personal space. Boundaries are the borders separating where you end and I begin. They give us the opportunity to create personal space that is safe and comfortable, protecting our emotional and mental resources, privacy, physical space, and energy. We use our boundaries to tell people what’s okay, what’s not okay, what’s important to us, and what we want.
Some people find it quite easy to create and maintain healthy boundaries, while many others find it much more challenging.
Unfortunately, the ones who struggle miss out on the benefits that boundaries provide, like self-worth and healthier relationships. We teach others how to treat us by the behaviors that we allow, the ones we stop, and the ones we reinforce. An expectation that many of us have is that we will automatically be respected by others. While there are some people who will be sensitive to our needs and give us that respect automatically, there are others who need to be taught how to respect us. This teaching is done by using our boundaries.
In our upcoming blogs, we will discuss what boundaries are, when and how to set them, and what to do when people are not respecting our boundaries.
We will look at why it might be difficult to set and enforce boundaries, how to get better at it, and how to monitor our progress. Developing effective boundary-setting skills yields enhanced self-confidence and self-worth, improved communication, healthier relationships, and more balanced physical, emotional, and mental health. Feeling disrespected can act as a trigger, and learning how to set boundaries can help us control inappropriate expressions of anger.