Be In Control of Your Own Life:

Boundaries and Boundary-setting

 

by George Desnoyers

 

 

Everyone needs boundaries.  They are limits we set that are related to our activities.  Think of boundaries as fences we build to protect us from potential problems.  They are especially important to people who need to spread themselves between family and job requirements, who need to maintain constant involvement in a complex set of interpersonal relationships, who face the pressure of leading a highly public life, or who have large responsibilities.

 

Boundaries are sometimes set when a problem has arisen and there is an immediate need for them.  But it is usually better to set them in advance.  Our judgment is usually better when we are considering potential problems ahead of time than it is when we are suddenly faced with an actual problem.  In addition, boundary-setting after a problem has arisen (or after boundaries have been violated) is often harder due to a need to change our own behavior or to persuade others to change theirs.

 

The areas in which boundaries should be set vary with individuals.  Your experience with boundaries will not be exactly like anyone elseís.  Although experience with boundaries is different for everyone, they generally work best for those who tend toward orderly lives and who maintain some awareness of how they are using their time and energy.

 

When you are setting boundaries for your own life, you are often setting parameters that will impact others with whom you interact.  The use of reason and tact is highly recommended.

 

Some basic rules in boundary-setting are that we consider our abilities and limitations, that we set reasonable goals for ourselves, and that we be willing to pass responsibilities to others.  There are times when we must be assertive, and have to be able to say, ďNo, Iím sorry.  I just canít do it.Ē

 

Boundaries need to be taken seriously in order to work.  But they also need to be relaxed and/or re-evaluated at times.  Life sometimes brings situations that are very unusual, or even situations that we could never have anticipated.  When you decide that a previously rigid boundary must be relaxed, allow it without any feelings of guilt.  When the unusual situation goes away, you can re-impose the boundaries you had been following before it occurred.

 

The attached table is a partial listing of various areas in which people may want to consider establishing boundaries, and also the purposes often served by boundaries set in the different areas.

 

 

 

 

                                    Some Areas and Purposes of Boundaries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Areas

 

Purposes

 

 

 

 

1

Occupational/family/rest and recreational/contemplative boundaries

 

To provide for a healthy overall balance among major components of our lives

 

 

 

 

2

Spheres of engagement

 

To provide for balance in our lives with respect to our involvement with various communities, from our own family to all of humanity

 

 

 

 

3

Privacy boundaries

 

To protect family; to provide for necessary private time and space for ourselves and others; to prevent invading or violating the privacy of others; to prevent our own privacy from being invaded or violated; to prevent loss of respect

 

 

 

 

4

Personal/relational boundaries

 

To maintain individuality and trueness to self amidst the pressures to conform and satisfy others

 

 

 

 

5

Amount of work

 

To avoid burnout or collapse

 

 

 

 

6

Number and kinds of tasks over which energy is expended

 

To prevent unacceptably diluting effectiveness in important areas

 

 

 

 

7

Ethical boundaries

 

To prevent unethical or immoral conduct

 

 

 

 

8

Theological/religious boundaries

 

To avoid abandoning or compromising important theological beliefs and principles; to respect religious beliefs and practices, our own and those of others

 

 

 

 

9

Professional boundaries

 

To keep the conduct of our professional lives within acceptable standards

 

 

 

 

10

Physical health boundaries

 

To provide the diet, exercise, and rest necessary for good physical health

 

 

 

 

11

Spiritual boundaries

 

To provide for spiritual growth and well-being

 

 

 

 

12

Relationship boundaries

 

To avoid the unwise building of personal relationships with one or more persons that interfere with the proper relationships we should have with others

 

 

 

 

13

Economic boundaries

 

To provide for economic needs of ourselves and our families, for the present and future; to balance our needs with those of others; to avoid becoming excessively materialistic

 

 

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