The importance of setting boundaries

img des: Four friends sitting together

Author: Isha

What are boundaries and why are they important?

Boundaries define your limits and comfort zones in different relationships and situations. The boundaries you share with your close friends are probably different to the ones you have with your family and distant friends. As you adapt to new situations in life (ex: COVID-19, moving schools), your boundaries might change. Boundaries can be material, physical, sexual, emotional, or mental, and sometimes these overlap.

Life changes, emotions and different perspectives can make boundaries difficult to establish, but they are important to maintain because they strengthen and build relationships, while honouring your own needs.

Ways to set, maintain, and respect boundaries:

Start by setting clear priorities. Understanding your priorities can help you create a basis for you to set your boundaries. For example, during exam season you may choose to decline offers to go out with friends or family to prioritize studying time. Some people value time to spend alone because it helps them reorganize thoughts and develop personal growth. It is okay to say “no” to a request if it does not match your priorities. This clarity will help you and the people around you better understand your boundaries.

Priorities and goals can change so it is important to reflect on them frequently and communicate when you want to change a boundary. We all go through changes in life, so it is important to understand how your boundaries change. For instance, if you go through a major life change (ex: loss of a loved one, moving cities) you might need to be less be less involved in some of your friendships, temporarily or permanently. Open and honest conversations can help you define and communicate your boundaries.

Asserting yourself and being vocal helps you maintain boundaries. Sometimes people need respectful reminders to help them understand your preferences. It can be difficult to say no or to speak up when you feel a boundary isn’t being respected. Assert yourself and outline your boundaries in a clear and calm way, and someone who respects you will honour your boundaries. If someone continually ignores your boundaries after you’ve communicated them, you may want to consider if this is a person you want to have in your life.

If someone continually ignores your boundaries after you’ve communicated them, you may want to consider if this is a person you want to have in your life.

Lastly, sometimes you need to draw boundaries with yourself. This is important to remember because sometimes parts of life (ex: school, work, a relationship) take up an unhealthy amount of focus. It is always important to prioritize your mental health. Identify and address your physical and mental signs of stress (ex: tiredness, loss of focus, or trouble falling asleep). Listen to your body and mind to make time for yourself!

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