What does it mean to have better boundaries?

There are many different types of boundaries available at our disposal: physical, mental and social. If someone physically touches us or our property without permission, we usually tell them that that behaviour is unacceptable. Mental boundaries are self-imposed rules or limits, such as making a point to take a break at lunchtime. Social boundaries maintain a set of invisible rules about whom we surround ourselves with and what kind of behaviour we will tolerate and reward in others.

Being cold or aloof is not the same as having healthy boundaries, but they often get mistaken. You can be warm, outgoing, and engaging and still have good boundaries in life. You can be cold and distant but have terrible boundaries.

Having poor boundaries sometimes comes from having poor self-esteem or an aversion to conflict. You may not feel you deserve to be treated well if you have poor self-esteem. If you are conflict-averse, asserting a boundary can feel like creating conflict. But interestingly, research has also shown that people with more effective boundaries are less likely to violate the boundaries of others as well.

Maintaining good boundaries protects our mental health and ensures that outside influences don’t chip away at our focus. Boundaries allow us to enrich the quality of our experiences. Saying no becomes an act of self-care. If you want to keep your boundaries intact, take some time to reflect on which values are the most important to you and what rules may be necessary to support and maintain them. Boundaries provide essential structure to your values.

The ability to set healthy boundaries shows self-love and compassion because you are cutting out the things that harm you. It acknowledges your intrinsic right to choose what is important to you, to protect your inner core and to decide how much power you give to others.

An element of having good boundaries lies in knowing what you want, understanding your values and limits, trusting yourself and your abilities, and recognising the importance of your feelings. You are simply caring for yourself and affirming your own needs as well as those of others. You define how you should be treated (by yourself as well as others, incidentally). By acknowledging the enduring core of truths inside us, it is much easier to achieve our life goals since we are more consistent, more in control and less likely to be swayed off course.