Boundaries are Good For Your Mental Health

By Desiree Kabore

If you are reading this, I am pretty sure the algorithm on TikTok and Instagram has already presented you with lots and lots of information about BOUNDARIES. I know, I know…it is almost cliché now because it has become such a common part of everyone’s vocabulary lately. And while all the therapists you know are celebrating the term finally getting the mainstream attention it deserves, you might be feeling some type of way. But stick around, because I want to tell you how creating boundaries can improve your mental health!

One thing I always emphasize with my clients is the importance of boundaries. Boundaries are limits you set within relationships in order to protect yourself and also to protect those relationships. Boundaries help you to think about what you value in relationships, your work, how you want to be treated, and to establish how you will not be treated. These boundaries are important, otherwise, we can easily become manipulated, feel used, become overwhelmed, and feel violated. This can then lead to negative thoughts, feelings, stress, and low self-esteem. When I talk about boundaries, I mean boundaries with friends, family, your partner, your kids, your job, and your doctor’s office! I am talking about everywhere in which you interact with humans! Many people can find it challenging to create boundaries because it, at times, requires you to say exactly what you mean and be very direct. People say they’re not always comfortable being direct because they don’t want to feel needy or want to hurt feelings. But when we are not direct, especially with boundaries, we may be hurting our own feelings. Being direct, particularly for women, can lead us to be labeled aggressive, abrupt, mean, and do I really need to tell you the most famous word women are called? Also, if you are not a particularly good communicator or are a people pleaser, you may find creating boundaries challenging as well. Establishing boundaries requires you to be clear about what your expectations are, communicating your thoughts and feelings, and being vulnerable. Maintaining healthy boundaries can improve self-esteem, develop independence, and avoid things like burnout and emotional overwhelm.

Depending on how challenging the relationship is in which you are trying to establish boundaries can determine how explicit you need to be when setting boundaries. Let me give you an example. If your mom, who tends to over involve herself in your personal life, likes to share the family gossip, or criticizes your every life decision calls or texts you multiple times a day at work and makes you feel like shit when you do have a chance to answer, you might have to be extremely clear with her. That might sound something like “Mom, I can’t answer the phone every time you call or text me at work. I get off at 5 pm so I can talk then.” Now, I already know that some of your moms are definitely NOT going for this! This may be anxiety inducing for your to even think about saying to your mom because it may get a negative reaction or cause a fight. People who love and respect you will at least try to honor your boundaries because they don’t want to hurt you. They may need reminding but that’s your job and you get to decide how many times they get to be reminded before you disengage.

Another example of how to set a boundary is if your friend always wants to talk to you about the problems she’s having with her boyfriend and tells you very specific details about terrible things he had done and said to her. You get upset because he’s causing your friend to feel hurt but every other week, they make up and you are expected to act like nothing happened. You all hang out and all you can think about is the terrible things she told you. The next time she starts talking about her problems with her boyfriend, you might create a boundary by saying something like “I am really sorry you are having a hard time, but these conversations make me upset to know he treats you like this. I don’t think I’m the best person to talk with about this.”

Creating boundaries is not meant to set up barriers in relationships. Boundaries are often an opportunity and a gift to the person on the receiving end. If someone is setting a boundary with you, that means that they value the relationship and would like to continue to make it work by giving you an opportunity to let them know you respect and care for them. Often, it’s the people who push back when you set boundaries that usually benefited the most from your lack of boundaries in the first place. A good way to find out who your true friends are is to start setting boundaries. Maybe you have a friend who always asks for money, a sister that borrows your car but never fills the tank, a parent that talks negatively to you about your sibling that you’ve been wanting to set a boundary with but are reluctant. The ones who benefit from their relationship with you with a lack of boundaries will show themselves. You have to teach people how to treat you. A client once told me that after she started setting and keeping boundaries with people around her, she felt “so much lighter and so free.” Setting boundaries is the key to peace and mental wellness. Boundaries can be a tool that helps facilitate the management of your emotions in conjunction with psychotherapy when distressing emotions are having a negative impact on your daily life. It is time to prioritize you and your mental wellness; creating healthy boundaries is the first step in self-care. If you’d like to work together on setting boundaries, let’s set up an appointment to meet!