“Good fences make good neighbors.” an immortal line from Robert Frost’s poem Mending Wall may be among the most well-known proverbs about boundaries and is an excellent metaphor for healthy boundaries. Well made physical walls allow for drainage, air flow, they are built to flex as needed in order to serve their purpose, make clear limits. In some cases these walls take on a glorious patina of lichen, small plants, moss or vines. They become “naturalized” integral parts of the landscape. In other words they are inviting and welcoming while establishing clear boundaries. That is your aim too in setting personal boundaries.
Expecting others to and asking them to treat you appropriately is fundamental to your quality of life, your well-being and maintaining a positive self-image. Establishing flexible healthy boundaries and maintaining them are vital to take responsibility for yourself, your life.
Personal boundaries are like imaginary fences created to protect your body mind and spirit. They establish your limits and expectations for how other people will interact with you and indicate how you will interact with them. Boundaries can be mental/emotional or physical. Emotional boundaries demarcate where your feelings end and where those of another person begin. Physical boundaries define who can touch you, in what way and when you can be touched. They also govern your personal space, how close someone can physically approach you.
Healthy personal boundaries protect you from the unhealthy or damaging behaviors of others. They do not shut out everyone and everything but rather indicate what you expect and will permit. Healthy boundaries are flexible. Leaving some room to raise or lower the height of your personal boundaries, to adjust as needed allows you to fully experience life and maintain responsibility for your happiness. With healthy boundaries you are assertive as needed while respecting the needs, feelings, rights and opinions of others. You give and receive support. You are comfortable with yourself, and make others comfortable too. You do not let in people who do not make you uncomfortable or do not respect your boundaries.
Unhealthy boundaries can be too loose or rigid. Loose boundaries can result in expecting others to read your mind, or feeling responsible for other people’s feelings, or putting your hands on strangers. Boundaries that are too loose in the extreme are non-existent. Rigid boundaries can lead to literally shutting out all other people in your life.