Brisbane Psychologist Sharon Hulin explains how to identify healthy vs unhealthy boundaries, and what that may look like in real life …
Yes and No.
These two words define our limits and boundaries.
We lose our personal power when we say yes, but mean no. We set ourselves up to be victims or martyrs.
When someone says no, it is often interpreted as a personal rejection.
When someone says yes, we take it that we are being liked and accepted.
There is honour and respect in knowing what your boundaries are, what you are willing and not willing to do (Angeles Arrien, The Four-Fold Way).
The following are guidelines to assist you in identifying healthy vs unhealthy boundaries.
Signs of Unhealthy Boundaries
Here are some of the most common signs that indicate a person with unhealthy boundaries. Perhaps you know somebody with these traits, or you recognise them in yourself:
- Telling it all.
- Talking at an intimate level at the first meeting.
- Falling in love with a new acquaintance.
- Being overwhelmed by a person – preoccupied, obsessed.
- Acting on the first sexual impulse.
- Going against personal values or rights to please others.
- Not noticing when someone else displays inappropriate boundaries.
- Not noticing when someone invades your boundaries.
- Accepting food, gifts, touch, or sex that you don’t want.
- Touching a person without asking.
- Taking as much as you can get for the sake of getting.
- Giving as much as you can for the sake of giving.
- Allowing someone to take as much as they can from you.
- Letting others direct your life.
- Letting others describe your reality.
- Letting others define you.
- Believing others can anticipate your needs.
- Expecting others to fulfil your needs automatically.
- Falling apart so someone will take care of you.
- Self abuse.
- Sexual and physical abuse.
- Food and chemical abuse.
Rights to Appropriate Boundaries
To offend someone is to punch through their physical, sexual, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual boundaries.
These statements and affirmations are useful in gaining understanding into what are appropriate or acceptable boundaries for yourself and others:
- I have the right to think about what I feel and take the time I need before I express my feeling.
- I have the right to leave the room if a person is offending me and won’t stop when I ask them to.
- I have the right to trust my own values about sexual contact.
- I have the right to establish and relate to religious, spiritual and humanistic values of my own understanding.
- I can accept others’ choices for themselves, even when they differ from what I would choose for them.
- I have the right to establish how physically close I want another person to be next to me.
- I have the right to say no if someone asks me to do something that I feel uncomfortable doing.
- I have the right to determine with whom, when, how, and where I will be sexual.
- I have the right to ask for straight forward, honest feedback from others.
- I have the right to know about and manage my own body.
- I am not responsible for other people’s feelings unless I have offended them.
- I have the right to end any form of contact with anyone who offends me or hurts me.
- I have the right to detach from a person who is numbing their internal pain through substance abuse.
- I have the right to ask for help.
- I have the right to question authority.
- I have the right to ask questions of anyone provided they are not intrusive.
- I have the right to make my own decisions.
- I have the right to immediately stay clear of any triangular relationship or involvement.
- Whenever I need to, I have the right to give back the feeling reality I carry of my parents or primary caretakers.
- I have the right to cancel an engagement if I feel I need to take care of myself and I can express that directly to the person.
- It is OK for me to leave the situation if I feel myself building up to a rage attack that could emotionally or physically harm someone.
- It is important for me to be separate enough from others to allow them to have their reality.
- I have the right to my own privacy, space and time.
- I have the right to have my own friends separate from my spouse/partner.
- I have the right to tell a person to lower their voice if they are yelling at me.
- It is OK for me to listen to another person’s anger provided they are not dumping on me or being abusive.
- I don’t ever have to fix people who are in emotional pain.
- I have the right to choose not to interact with anyone who is under the influence of drugs/chemicals.
- I have the right to think and believe anything I want – I need only face the consequences of my beliefs/thinking.
In light of these, here is a list to help you identify what offensive behaviours look and feel like:
- Insults and name calling;
- Yelling and dumping anger;
- Blaming or discrediting;
- Underhanded comments;
- Shaming, inflicting guilt, disgracing, humiliating and degrading;
- Criticising and belittling;
- Joking about, laughing at or teasing;
- Deceiving, tricking or betraying;
- Being cruel;
- Intimidating, threatening or inflicting fear;
- Bullying, overpowering or stifling;
- Withdrawing, or withholding love;
- Disapproving, or patronising;
- Misleading, or raising hopes falsely;
- Breaking promises;
- Making light of or minimising your feelings, needs and wantsl
- Responding inconsistently, or arbitrarily;
- Making vague demands;
- Saying, “You shouldn’t feel __________” ie angry, sad, betrayed, etc;
- Saying, “If only___________” ie you were different, better, etc;
- Implying, “You’re not OK the way you are”.
Reflecting on your own Personal Boundaries
In my work with clients, I may ask them to ponder the following questions to help them reflect on their own personal boundaries, and whether they are healthy or unhealthy:
- Am I aware of my own limits and boundaries? Do I honour and respect the boundaries of others?
- What boundaries do I have a hard time with?
- Where is it that I can set healthy boundaries?
- With whom or where do I have difficulty setting healthy boundaries?
Setting and maintaining healthy personal boundaries is important because it helps to reduce stress, and allows you to experience self-esteem and the power of who you are. Whenever you are fully visible and know where you stand, you experience what it means to be in your power. This can be achieved by maintaining a balance in personal time, energy, and resources.
If you are wanting to work on your personal boundaries, I welcome you to make an appointment with me.
Author: Sharon Hulin, BA (Double Hons), MA (Psych), MaPPi, ANZMH.
Sharon Hulin is a Brisbane Psychologist with a keen interest in working with individuals who feel they would like to develop in the area of personal boundaries. With a solid grounding in academic training and scientifically researched best practice models of care, and many years of experience, Sharon provides support and guidance to help you clarify, heal, understand and integrate.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3067 9129.