Boundaries are the space, be it physical or psychological, that is created between ourselves and others. They reflect what is acceptable to us, what we consider as inappropriate, our perception of what we can cope with and also what is too much for us. When we are not aware of our boundaries and when these are not communicated to others, we may feel overwhelmed, suffocated, or we can even possibly feel that we are being taken advantage of. These feelings can happen to us in a number of different contexts, such as in our intimate relationships and friendships, within our families and even in the context of work.
It is not always as easy to set or communicate boundaries to others. We may be afraid of a number of reactions when we set boundaries; such as the fear of angering or disappointing people in our lives, of being seen as difficult or selfish, or of damaging a relationship. However, while our worry is that of possibly being seen as unkind, research shows that there could be more compassion in a relationship when boundaries are clear. This is because when our boundaries are clear, we tend to give the other person what we genuinely want to give them, rather than doing it because we are afraid of or uncomfortable with saying no. This may also leave us experiencing more peacefulness in our relationships, rather than being resentful and angry at others for leaving us feeling that we are being taken advantage of. Think of a friendship. If a person is not comfortable with their friend borrowing a large sum of money from them, but they are afraid that saying no might damage their friendship, then this person might still hold feelings of resentment around this experience.
Naturally, while thinking of and communicating our own needs, we also need to be aware of the needs of others. We might agree with others to compromise at times, and this support the feeling of give and take which is often an important factor in a relationship.
Brown, B. (2010). The gifts of imperfection: Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are.
Rebecca Cassar is a Family Therapist practicing the Systemic Approach. She specializes in offering therapy to families, couples and individuals who are experiencing distress in their relationships. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 79291817.