Creating healthy personal boundaries isn’t about blocking others off. Instead, you’re building a strong foundation to help you interact with the people around you in a healthier, safer way.
Boundaries aren’t just for strangers, but for everyone—family, friends, co-workers, and partners. The ability to advocate for yourself doesn’t weaken your relationships—it strengthens them.
What do Healthy Boundaries Look Like?
Healthy boundaries actually make it easier to navigate your relationships. If ever your boundaries are making a relationship harder, then your boundaries may be too loose or too rigid.
If your personal boundaries are too stiff, you might:
- Keep others at a distance
- Seem detached or uncaring
- Have few close relationships or avoid them
But shifting in the other direction to become fully open isn’t a solution either. People with too-open boundaries may:
- Get too involved
- Struggle to say no
- Overshare personal information
- Please others at the expense of themselves
Finding balance is important. During and after recovery, healthy boundaries improve communication with loved ones, which is vital to mending relationships after a difficult period. It’s also an opportunity to prove to others what they can expect from you going forward.
Boundaries in Life
Boundaries cover a wide variety of situations and vary between contexts. You might establish boundaries concerning your personal space, your sexuality and sex life, your emotions and thoughts, your possessions, your time and energy, or your culture and religion.
One person might be more comfortable discussing their sex life but prefer that people not invade their personal space. Others may show a strong sense of value over their possessions and prefer never to lend them out while being incredibly generous with their time and attention.
An important part of the process is determining which boundaries you value and taking steps to protect them. By setting boundaries, you gain agency and apply a strategy to conserve emotional energy. Avoiding the stresses of boundary violations improves emotional well-being and self-esteem.
And if someone violates your boundaries—meaning you tell them “no” yet they press on—then you should consider the violation a clear indication that this person may not be healthy to be around. Establishing these boundaries also helps you recognize the boundaries of others, building mutual respect.
Remember that boundaries aren’t set in stone. Comfort levels change over time, so if you start to feel more or less comfortable, make sure that you communicate it to others.
Boundaries in Recovery
Healthy boundaries help restore the sense of agency that can be lost during the recovery process, freeing people from the sense of being bound to addictive substances. They evoke the sense that you’re taking back your life and actualizing yourself again. Boundaries are also an indication that you value your own needs and feelings, which is a sign that you’re returning to a normal life.
For example, healthier boundaries between home and work can create a healthier family situation, which in turn reduces the chance of relapse.
Examples of Boundaries
Boundaries are more than just respect for personal space. They can be:
Each type of boundary within an individual can vary from relationship to relationship. For instance, you may have fewer emotional boundaries with a partner than a parent and fewer physical boundaries between yourself and a long-time friend. Similarly, you may discuss your sexual life with your therapist or a close friend while avoiding such topics with your boss. These boundaries are normal and healthy. Perhaps most importantly, you are not alone in feeling uncomfortable when these boundaries are breached.
Although interpersonal boundaries are a major part of this discussion, there are other situations in which it’s good to have healthy boundaries. Setting up do not disturb or not checking your email outside of normal work hours, for example, are perfectly reasonable boundaries to have since working outside of your scheduled work times or beyond your listed duties is not mandatory and, therefore, shouldn’t be able to interfere with other aspects of your life.
How to Set Boundaries
To set and communicate boundaries, you should state your limitations with calm assertiveness. In other words, you should avoid aggression and hostility.
- I feel ______ when ______ because _______.
- What I need is __________________.
This template is a great starting point because it lets you tell a conversational partner—whether that’s a family member, friend, partner, co-worker, etc.—how you feel and what needs to change without assigning blame.
Introspection is how you’ll determine your needs and values. Recognizing your physical reactions to boundary violations means you’ll be able to identify when your boundaries are being violated. By setting boundaries early and following them consistently, you’re setting a precedent for the people around you to follow. If someone doesn’t know how to act around you to keep from overstepping your boundaries, then the emotional labor may actually overstep their emotional boundaries, creating a situation where both parties are feeling violated
It’s important to remember that boundaries can change, which is why we must communicate them once they’re established.
Finally, grow comfortable with self-advocacy. While saying “No” may seem harmful or confrontational, healthy separation can actually make relationships stronger. So if you are asked to cross a healthy boundary, you have the right to refuse and are not required to explain. If someone isn’t respecting your refusal, then they are violating your boundaries. By being able to recognize, you can identify potentially harmful relationships.
Grow Self-Advocacy with Silicon Beach Behavioral Health
If you’re struggling with boundaries as a consequence of addiction, don’t hesitate to contact our center for sober living in Los Angeles. Call our toll-free number to learn how we can help you build healthy new boundaries and move on from addiction. Los Angeles rehabs are everyone. Come find the right one for you.