Dear Readers,

Recently, I have been thinking about the concept of boundaries and what it means to establish healthy boundaries with yourself and others. In my own experience, I have always found that it hasn’t always been an easy concept for me to adopt. I have always struggled to say no to others when I am emotionally spent, or when I simply feel uncomfortable. I often struggle to have my intentions heard in fear of losing relationships or being misinterpreted. Throughout my life, I have found myself time and time again in uncomfortable and unsafe situations with others because I did not recognize my needs. I felt as if I had to go along with what was going on and felt afraid of speaking up. But I am here to tell you now that that is not the right way to go about these issues.

Establishing boundaries can be beneficial in the improvement of mental health as well as within relationships overall. And you might be asking—Well how exactly can I go about establishing boundaries? And what can they look like exactly?

Boundaries are limits that we establish for ourselves or ourselves in relation to others in order to establish a healthier mindset or life overall. There are many different types of boundaries such as: mental, sexual, emotional, and physical.

Mental boundaries can be helpful if you experience negative processes that apply to your thoughts and opinions. For instance, this can be helpful to establish if you allow your emotions to be highly reactive in relation to others opinions and suggestions towards yourself. In response, trying to actively listen with an open mind is useful to establish a boundary with the negative thinking that can occur when this happens.

Emotional boundaries are helpful when separating your emotions and responsibilities from others emotions and responsibilities.  For instance, allowing yourself to fix other people’s problems and taking on other’s emotions without regard to your own emotions. Maybe you feel that you need to please a certain person all the time. With this in mind, you could say “Thank you for sharing this with me, but I don’t think I can help without this causing harm to my own mental health.”

Sexual boundaries can include establishing your own comfort level and appropriate activity with others. For instance, when engaging in a sexual activity you could establish with your partner(s) the 4 W’s— what, where, when, and who. It is extremely important to establish these for a safe and consensual experience.

Physical boundaries can include who is able to approach you in close proximity, and who and how someone is able to touch you. You can establish these by explaining to others what approach is most comfortable for your needs.

At first, these boundaries can be hard to establish, especially if you are not used to prioritizing your needs first, or you never have practiced setting up healthy boundaries before. You might feel guilty or selfish, but it is important that you take care of yourself and listen to your needs. You might even be unsure if it is what you need, or you might feel as if setting up boundaries might cause a relationship to end.  But in the end, if it is causing you more grief, it might be time to consider what you need to do to solve the issue.

Boundaries are meant to give you safety, and the most important aspect of this is that you communicate effectively to others so that they can understand your needs.

  1. Think about the issue and how it is affecting your wellbeing.
  2. Think about solutions to the issue and how you can solve it.
  3. If boundaries are needed, establish what type you may need.
  4. If it involves others, communicate this to them in a calm, clear, assertive manner.
  5. Most importantly do not apologize to others for your needs.
  6. After these boundaries are in place, check in with yourself and see if there is any improvement. Are they respecting your boundaries? Are you?

It also helps to have a support system of people who respect these boundaries— getting rid of toxic relationships if they do not respect the steps you are taking can be an option.

Boundaries are important in improving our mental health overall. It is not selfish but a way of recognizing what we need in order to have safety, support, and positive growth in our lives. Whether it is establishing a physical boundary with a co-worker, an emotional boundary with a friend, or a sexual boundary with a partner—boundaries can greatly improve your well- being and sense of self.

I have recently started to adopt these practices in my life and I can already tell a huge difference in my mental health. It is not easy to do, but it has felt so empowering standing up for myself. I think I  needed to do this in order to grow into a better version of myself.

I challenge you, readers, to evaluate your life and relationships with others. Is there anything you can do to improve and create a more positive sense of self with boundaries?

– Teresa



The views expressed in this blog are my own, and do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the University of Victoria. I monitor posts and comments to ensure all content complies with the University of Victoria Guidelines on Blogging.