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Setting Boundaries Makes You a Jerk

Have you ever had to set some impossible boundaries with someone equally as impossible? It can bring about a whole string of thoughts and feelings that we tend to internalize as the empathetic humans that we can be. Let us break the stigma on boundary setting and learn how to apply this healthy practice to our daily lives.

What does setting boundaries even mean?

Setting boundaries means letting someone know what you will and will not tolerate. These are the rules and limitations that we set for our own mental health to flourish, within our relationships. There are many types of boundaries including emotional, mental, time, material, verbal, sexual, spiritual, and physical. Depending on your source, the boundary names may vary as there are a lot of moving parts to consider. When we talk about boundaries, we are talking about 3 different styles of boundaries that you could have- porous, rigid, and healthy boundaries.

Throughout this reading, keep in mind that varying cultures can affect boundary styles as well. For example, in some cultures, eye contact is inappropriate but in others it shows respect and shows that you are listening. Boundaries come in various forms and they each play a crucial role in defining the parameters of the connections we make.

Boundary Styles

Porous boundaries include those who might overshare everything. They tend to not be able to stand up for what they want and they will be people pleasers out of fear of being rejected. This is your person who might get overly involved with another’s issues and take on some of those issues or emotions themselves. Whenever I think of porous boundaries, I think of a porous sponge, just soaking up everything around them and then squeezing it all right back out without any boundaries.

Rigid boundaries are pointy like the mountain peaks. Individuals with these boundaries are usually those who do not have very many close relationships because they are very protective of their personal information. This could look like someone who is avoiding intimate relationships or someone who relies only on themselves.

Then we have healthy boundaries, where we hope to see more and more people be at. These boundaries are a collaboration of porous and rigid, in just the right amounts. This is going to be your person that knows what they want and what they stand for, and their actions tend to align with their values. They are not the type to over or under share personal information as they understand their wants and needs and can communicate them to others in a healthy way. This is also going to include someone who respects the boundaries of others and accepts the boundaries in the relationship.

It is important to know and understand that this does not mean that you are only going to align with one boundary style. One may have rigid boundaries at work, but porous boundaries with family members. This varies depending on the people, the setting, and your own personal point of view. You may not even be consistently one type, and that is okay too. The purpose of this is to be educated so you can start thinking about these things when you set your own boundaries or accept someone else's boundaries.

Boundary Types

When it comes to emotional boundaries, it is important to feel like your emotions are being respected. Although, this also considers your emotional availability and ability to emotionally support others in your circle. Emotional boundaries also consider how much personal information that you are sharing with others when it comes to emotions. I think we have all met the person who overshares everything but then you also have those that refuse to release next to any personal information. I don’t mean your social security number and address, but letting someone know your emotional status. For example, if someone is saying something that is hurting your feelings, removing yourself from the situation might be a boundary. Do not spend time on those who will not respect your emotional boundaries for what they are. Remember that everything is a two-way street. In respecting another’s emotional boundaries, be sure that you do not take on their emotions for them as this represents porous emotional boundaries as well.

Material boundaries include anything relating to possessions or financials, including how willing you are to ‘share’. These boundaries are violated when someone steals or damages another person’s possessions or when they are pressured to give up items. Having healthy boundaries involves knowing when to utilize them. For example, if a close friend of 20 years asks to borrow your car for the day, you may be more inclined to say yes. But if someone you met at the grocery store yesterday asks for your car for a day, I suggest not allowing them to have it, as this would interfere with the material boundaries you should have regarding such an expensive item. When it comes to material boundaries, it is important to show consistency. Let’s say your coworker forgot to bring lunch and you offer to buy them lunch, which they accept. It might be a good idea to set the boundary of this being a one-time event so that the coworker does not think that forgetting their lunch means that you will buy them lunch every time. This would be abusing and breaking your material boundaries, IF you clearly set them with the other person.

Time boundaries refer to how a person utilizes their time. If you want your time boundaries to be healthy, you must spend a favorable amount of time in each area of your life. For example, if you are putting all your time and energy into work, you will see that your laundry isn’t getting folded, you aren’t spending time on your meaningful relationships, or you aren’t practicing too much self-care. It is the same with relationships as it is for those activities. If you are putting all your time into your romantic relationship, you may better your romantic relationships, but then social and family relationships may suffer for this overcompensation. This is where effective scheduling and calendars/planners can become very handy. If you have somewhere to write your activities down, you will be able to physically see how much time you are putting into the different categories of your life.

Physical boundaries quite simply mean personal space. When considering these boundaries, think about how much or why you would let someone else touch you or how much you will touch someone else. It is important to think about the setting that these things are happening and the types of relationships that you may have. For example, you may give your significant other a kiss before they leave for work in the morning. However, if you give a customer of yours a goodbye kiss, you might be looking at a restraining order. In a situation like that, a handshake might be more appropriate for that type of relationship in that type of setting. Physical boundaries are violated when someone touches you when you don’t want them to. It is important to be clear and transparent within your boundaries of physical nature. If someone is touching you and you don’t want them to, speak up! Depending on life experiences, this may be something that you struggle with, but it is so important. If you are in a position where you feel that you can’t say 'no', I think it may then be time to evaluate how and why you were in that type of situation and how to best avoid it in the future. And above all, talk to a trusted source about your experience.

Speaking of saying ‘no’, this is also necessary when it comes to sexual boundaries. The details for this type of boundary are like physical boundaries but regarding sexual activity. To respect sexual boundaries, the other person must provide consent to engage in these activities. This includes being sure to respect the different preferences of your sexual partner- knowing what they will and will not allow. Sexual boundaries are about understanding and respecting those limitations, including not pressuring someone to engage in these activities. 'No' means no. I also wanted to discuss sexual comments. Even though sexual boundaries are mostly physical, it is important to include any sexual conversations that could happen through technology or social media for example. This boundary would be a combination of sexual and verbal types.

Verbal boundaries include a bit of a crossover into most other boundaries. I am sure that you have heard the phrase “treat others the way that you want to be treated”. Although there can be mixed feelings about this phrase, I think it is important to consider this statement about verbal boundaries. This refers to what you will and will not allow conversation to be that you are a part of. This also includes how you will let others speak to you and how you speak to others. For example, if someone is telling you that you are fat, YOU have the right to get out of that conversation. If you ask someone to not say something to you and they do anyway, that is breaking your verbal boundaries. If someone thinks that something is wrong and you don’t want to talk about it but they keep pressuring you, bam, verbal boundary broken. To maintain healthy verbal boundaries, one must first know what they will and will not tolerate and be able to communicate this effectively to those that they encounter.

Mental or intellectual boundaries refers to a person’s thoughts and ideas. It is the freedom to be able to think for yourself, develop your own values, form individual opinions, and to believe what you wish to believe. This is another great example of how setting is vital in determining your intellectual boundaries. For example, if you are interacting a stranger from yoga class, is it appropriate to talk about politics? Maybe it is, but it is a slippery slope and one way to make a conversation potentially go in the wrong direction, so probably not the best default conversation to have. Intellectual boundaries can help you figure out the best way to talk with someone. If you are interacting with a 5-year-old, you may not want to talk about college-level science topics, but rather, meeting them where their intellectual boundary is.

Spiritual or religious boundaries are always sensitive to discuss and no harm is intended by this section. If you are someone that believes in Christianity, and you go to church every Sunday, you may set a boundary of not working or attending any events during your regular church hours. This is a great example of a religious boundary. A lot of individuals who participate in a particular religion or spirituality may live their life in accordance with their spirituality/religion. For example, some individuals will not have sex before marriage.

What if boundaries are not respected?

Always be sure to communicate your boundaries effectively. To my knowledge, humans are unable to read minds. It would be nice if we could, but we can’t. Always communicate your boundaries and be consistent with them for the best results.

It is one thing to know how YOU respond to boundaries, but what if you are interacting with someone who just won't respect your boundaries that you are putting up? Well, this is where you may have to evaluate the relationship that you have with that person and decide what you want to have in your life and what you do not. Sometimes setting boundaries will create turmoil in relationships, and it is usually when this happens that you know you must make a change. Know and understand your values and morals to help you determine the right boundaries to set for your life.

Positivity attracts positivity, don’t let others bring you down. I know it is easier said than done, but it is true. Always stay true to your boundaries and learn to respect the boundaries of others as well. Sometimes compromise is essential to maintaining healthy relationships, but not if it goes against the values or morals that you live by. For further exploration of your own boundaries, consider seeking out resources such as online quizzes to help identify your boundary type.

Let's break free from the misconception that setting boundaries makes us jerks and instead recognize it as a fundamental aspect of self-care and healthy relationships.


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Hi, thanks for stopping by!

I'm Jessica, author of Howtolivewhiledying. I am a passionate advocate for those navigating the complexities of chronic health issues, overcoming drug and alcohol addiction, and the profound impact these experiences have on mental health. I invite you to join me on a journey of resilience, growth, and empowerment. Let's foster a supportive community where vulnerability is celebrated, and healing is not just a destination, but a continuous, courageous journey. Subscribe to my blog for more!

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