Everyone should set boundaries in their lives. Whether it’s with family, friends, at work, or somewhere else, the need for boundaries isn’t one that should be understated. When you don’t set them, it’s easy to become trapped in a machine of your own making. This can result in a lot of pain and discomfort for you until you begin drawing lines.
If a lack of boundaries has you feeling used or trapped, it’s time to begin imposing your limits firmly and unwaveringly. Here’s how experts reveal how strict boundaries can set you free.
1. It Establishes Identity
It can seem odd to conflate identity with boundaries. That is why it should be made clear that you aren’t, as a whole, defined by your boundaries.
However, boundaries are a good way to set up your identity with those in your life. You clearly define your limits and individuality, says behavioral neuroscience researcher, psychologist, and scientific editor Joaquín Selva, Bc.S.
Essentially, when you set up boundaries, you’re making it explicitly clear what is okay and what isn’t okay. It shows:
- Who you are
- How much you’ll tolerate
- What you can take responsibility for
- What is simply unacceptable to you.
- Where you stand
When everyone knows these things – and, potentially, more – about you, you’re free to be who you are around them without worrying about being taken advantage of. You’ve laid the ground rules, so now, you’re free.
2. Boundaries Can Make You Kinder
When you have strong boundaries, what you’re doing is an act of compassion. That might be a surprising thought, but that’s because many people have a negative idea of boundaries. There’s an underlying stigma that the act of setting boundaries is unfair or mean – but Brene Brown, Ph.D., says that this is simply incorrect.
In reality, those who have strong boundaries are often very kind. Why? Well, you’re telling me what works for you and what doesn’t in a respectful manner. This allows them to adjust their knowledge of you and allows them to outline their own boundaries.
Those who set boundaries may even have a better time understanding other people’s emotions. With this comes new freedom – you can empathize with others and know where they’re coming from, so you’re not afraid of any hidden meaning they hold. You’ll also know how to interact with this person in a way that works for them, which is also very positive for communication freedom.
3. It Lets You Care For Yourself
Setting boundaries is an act of self-care and not one to be taken for granted. According to counselor and psychologist Dana Nelson, this is because in all aspects of life, not setting boundaries can be very harmful. Therefore, when you do set boundaries, you’re good to yourself and your mental health.
Whether in your personal relationships, at work, or with anyone else, poor boundaries or a complete lack of them can lead to:
This is why boundary-setting is especially important for vulnerable individuals who require more self-care. Research has found, for example, significant benefits in this field for new mothers.
4. It Can Prevent Work Burnout
Many studies point out that the act of setting boundaries is inherently good for your ability to work and your professional relationships. You can feel more fulfilled and positive in your career if you have clearly set and defined boundaries.
Confused as to why this is the case? Think about it logically. If you don’t set boundaries at work, you might wind up:
- Being asked to do more work than you are feasibly able to keep up with
- Getting requested by colleagues to help them even when you have your hands full
- Having unrealistic expectations thrust upon you.
- Being forced to disrupt the work-life balance in favor of work
This is why boundary-setting can set you free in the workplace. You’ll work hard, yes, but within the limits that are best for you!
5. It Gives You Permission
When you don’t set boundaries, you wind up falling into bad situations where you’re forced to endure negative circumstances that you don’t deserve. Dana Gionta, Ph.D., a coach, and psychologist, says this can be because of:
- Low self-esteem
How do these feelings hold you back when it comes to boundaries? They can make you:
- Fear the potential responses of other people to your boundaries
- Believe that you have no right to set boundaries, especially with authority figures
- Try to cope with boundary-breaking that ends up harming you in the long run
- Think that saying “yes” when you don’t want to is a sign of you being a good person
- Feel drained from taking on too much
- Get taken advantage of by those who will use your lack of boundaries against you
So when you set boundaries, what you’re doing is being brave and permitting yourself to have these limits. They’re a sign that you respect yourself enough to know your worth – and to know that you deserve to have your space respected in turn. If that’s not freeing, what is?
6. It Gives You An Abundance Mindset
An abundance mindset is best defined as a mentality where you believe that the world contains sufficient nourishment, resources, wealth, opportunities, and individuals for you and everyone else. You believe there is enough to contribute in a positive way to your life and happiness – and that there’s also enough for everyone else.
This kind of mindset is freeing because it removes the fear of losing or missing out. You stop clinging to the ideas of a scarcity mindset, such as that:
- You’ll never get your chance
- You need to hold onto everything you have with all you’ve got.
- If you lose something, you’ll never get it or anything equivalent back.
- You are missing out if you’re not “on par” with others.
When you have boundaries in place, you’re able to see your worth more clearly. People who keep crossing boundaries directly communicate to them again and again can’t help raising red flags. If things don’t work out, you’ll keep your positive thinking well; you know there will always be options for you.
7. It Makes You Free To Choose
Freedom can often be defined as the ability to make choices as you desire. If that’s how you define freedom, then setting your boundaries will certainly give you that. Here are some choices you’re free to make thanks to boundaries, according to self-love coach, licensed marriage and family therapist, psychotherapist, and brainspotting practitioner Jennifer Twardowski.
· Supportive Life Decisions
When you set your boundaries, what you’re doing is allowing yourself to make decisions in your life that serve your needs and support you. You get to choose things that actively help you instead of going by the whims of others.
· How You’re Treated
Setting boundaries means you get the first and last say in how anyone is allowed to treat you. Those who don’t meet those boundaries and refuse to do so are people you simply don’t need to deal with. You get to forge better, more positive relationships thanks to these boundaries.
· What’s Best For Your Health
Your wellbeing can be affected by a lack of boundaries. When you set boundaries, you get to choose limits that protect your health. You know what will hurt your mind and body, so your boundaries can be built and specified to protect you from things that can weigh them down.
8. It Frees You From Bad Relationships
Sadly, when you first set boundaries, some of your relationships are going to fall apart. It’s an unfortunate and even upsetting fact, but it’s also a freeing one. At the end of the day, you’ll be much better off for it.
Meanwhile, the relationships that do survive the addition of your new boundaries will be stronger than ever. You’re setting a precedent for positive, healthy relationships that flourish with good limits and new understandings.
Need help weeding out the toxic people in your life? Here are some warning signs to start looking out for:
- Complain about you to a third party
- Are interested in gossip about people who explicitly want to keep things private
- Dominates all conversations you have with them
- Demands emotional support at all times when they need it, regardless of what you’re doing
9. It Teaches You About Yourself
Sometimes, setting boundaries uncovers facts about you that you hadn’t considered before. As you do your best to support these boundaries, you’ll also discover why you need them and where they came from. Here are some freeing and empowering things you may learn about yourself through boundaries, according to Gionta:
· Your Past
When you set boundaries, you may begin to realize how your past has influenced your need for them. This is especially true if you’re beginning to set boundaries with family. What led to the necessity of this limit for you?
· Your Emotions
Setting boundaries puts you deeply in touch with your emotions as they occur. Typically, resentment and discomfort are the biggest signs that people are starting to slip through your defined limits. This means you’ll get more and more used to being aware of and in tune with your feelings.
· Your Environment
Before you put up boundaries, you might have thought everything about your living and/or workspaces was completely fine. After setting these boundaries, though, you might have to confront the reality that your environment may be toxic for you. It’s jarring to realize but fixing it will be positive for you in the long run.
Setting strict boundaries makes it clear to you and everyone around you that there are things that are simply off-limits with you. Sure, not all boundaries have to be inflexible, but those that are can’t be shaken, and that’s important to have in your life.
Remember, you’re a worthy human being who deserves respect and compassion. Someone who doesn’t comply with that isn’t worthy of your time. Setting boundaries is a clear sign that you respect yourself and care for your wellbeing. It can be difficult to maintain these boundaries at first, but they will set you free!