What Are Boundaries?
In social studies, we are taught that a boundary is what separates state lines. Personal boundaries, on the other hand, are the line that separates our physical space, feelings, and needs from (ourselves and) others. These boundaries are used to share how we want to be treated by ourselves and others.
Boundaries are often formed to help protect our mental health. These boundaries can be made both externally and internally. The simplest way to explain boundaries is learning to say “no” to things that make you feel uncomfortable, invalidated, unimportant, or overextended.
External vs Internal
External boundaries are boundaries that we create to protect our space, feelings, and needs from other people. These boundaries may include telling someone not to touch us, saying “no” to taking on someone else’s responsibilities, or managing our time. It is important to remember that boundaries interact with other people’s boundaries. This means, a healthy relationship is built on respect between both parties’ boundaries.
Internal boundaries, on the other hand, are boundaries we set with ourselves to honor ourselves. We often overwork and overwhelm ourselves with expectations that exceed our limits. These boundaries help us to acknowledge and respect our limits and values.
Benefits of Internal Boundaries
Internal boundaries allow us to love and respect ourselves from the way we treat and honor our bodies to the way we treat and honor our minds. Internal boundaries are formed to help boost our own self-worth. These boundaries allow us to be mindful of the way we care for ourselves.
- Are we criticizing ourselves constantly? Or are we taking time to celebrate all we have accomplished?
- Are we overextending ourselves? Or are we respecting our own personal limits as well as time constraints?
- Are we invalidating and suppressing our emotions? Or are we allowing ourselves space and time to feel and heal?
- Are we blaming everyone else for our discomfort? Or are we honoring ourselves by being honest with our own mistakes?
- Are we disrespecting our personal values and beliefs to fit in with society’s expectations? Or we are acting in line with who we are, who want to be, and what we want to offer?
Internal boundaries will follow the second question in each of the above bullet points. The boundaries we set impact what we feel inside. Boundaries that honor who we are and what we want offer encouragement and support. On the other hand, boundaries that ignore our limits and do not align with our values create a disconnect within ourselves.
How Do I Set Internal Boundaries?
Ask yourselves the following questions:
- How am I overextending myself?
- How am I hurting myself? (Think emotionally too!!)
- What are my values?
- Who do I want to be?
- Where am I not being honest with myself?
Now, create boundaries that align within these questions. Examples of internal boundaries are shared below.
4 Internal Boundaries Examples:
- Reframe your negative thoughts to encouraging thoughts.
- “I always make mistakes” à “I am constantly able to learn from each mistake”
- Tell yourself “no”
- “No, I am not going to add more to my to-do list today. I do not have enough time or energy to take on every responsibility today. I respect my own limits. That is okay.”
- Validate your emotions.
- “I am feeling sad today. It is normal to feel sad. I am going to let myself feel sad.”
- Be accountable to yourself.
- “I did not enforce my boundaries in the past. My partner was not respectful of my boundaries, because I did not enforce them before.”