Boundaries exist all around us. They are helpful and important for our understanding of personal and professional relationships with others. We all have a boundary that we might not necessarily reflect upon very often. There are a few different types of boundaries that have distinct traits to help explore how one typically interacts with others. As you read, take note of which characteristics you can identify with to determine your boundary.
Rigid boundaries are characterized by not sharing personal feelings or opinions with others. Individuals with rigid boundaries may appear stoic, uncaring, or cold, without much emotional reaction. They might have difficulty asking for help from others.
If you can identify with some of these characteristics, I would challenge you to explore what might be behind your reasoning to remain firm or private. For example, I have worked with some clients who can identify a difficulty with being vulnerable and open with people in their life, thus choosing to create rigid boundaries for themselves as a protection.
Porous boundaries or no-boundaries refer to an individual who may over-share information, thoughts and feelings. They might give too much to other people or also take too much. They might have difficulty getting their needs met on their own, relying on others to fulfill their well-being.
If you can relate to this type of boundary, you might find yourself saying “yes” when you want to say “no”. You might also believe that you are responsible for the feelings of others. If these traits resonate with you, it could be helpful to ask yourself to consider how people in your life respond to you. This gives you insight into changes that you might like to make for yourself to ensure self-respect and autonomy.
Healthy boundaries exist when we can be assertive and clear about our wants and needs. Those with healthy boundaries are often interdependent, and can use discretion to determine who to share personal information. Negotiation and compromise are also features of someone with a healthy boundary, also being able to make mistakes without damaging their sense of self. Individuals with healthy boundaries can also practice empathy, while also respecting the rights of others.
Oftentimes, we might have a combination of these boundaries, or we could adjust our boundaries based on our environment. For example, what we share and how we act with our best friends might not be appropriate in the work place with colleagues. In this case, it could make sense to monitor our boundaries. However, if it seems as though you are either rigid or porous across the board with most people in your life, ask yourself what changes you’d like to make to your boundary. A therapist can help you consider how to create a healthy boundary that works best for you. It’s important to keep in mind that when we start to make changes in our personal boundaries, others around us tend to react, sometimes in ways that might make us feel like we are doing something wrong. Remember- we have the right to set healthy boundaries for ourselves to ensure security, individuality and self-respect. Please reach out if you feel as though you might be struggling to create a healthy boundary for yourself. We can help!
Kimberly Vitolo, MS, IMFT
Marriage and Family Therapist