The Difference Between Good Boundaries and Bad Boundaries
Establishing healthy boundaries is an important part of being, well, healthy!
Clear boundaries in both our lives and relationships are the key to success in both. Whether you are out on a date with a new person or taking on extra work to help out some of your teammates at work, it’s crucial that your boundaries are well defined and well inforced.
Unfortunately, boundaries are not always healthy. Sometimes, the boundaries we put up designed to prevent us from being hurt or facing rejection can backfire, inflicting real harm on our ability to thrive.
So, what are some good boundaries and what are some bad boundaries?
What Are Boundaries?
Personal and professional boundaries are all about defining what kind of behavior is acceptable and what kind is not. Boundaries don’t only apply to interpersonal relationships. They also form the framework of your personal, spiritual, and political beliefs.
Some people define boundaries as the kind of behavior we expect from other people in our lives. This is not entirely accurate, in my opinion. While we can certainly hope or expect that our friends or family will not treat us poorly, this is not realistic. Families fight and friends feud and you, unfortunately, have no real control over other people. You do, however, have the ability to control how you react to these people.
Good boundaries prevent us from being at the mercy of the behavior of others. Have you ever met someone who puts up few (if any) boundaries in their lives? They are often walked upon by everyone, simply because they can be. Call me cynical, but if you regularly depend on the kindness of strangers, then you are going to be disappointed by them daily.
Setting up good boundaries means that you know how to take care of yourself and keep yourself safe from those who wish to use you to their own ends. Of course, this is easier said than done. There are countless people out there who are strong, intelligent, and powerful but have still been at the receiving end of physical, emotional, or even sexual abuse, despite the boundaries they have set up.
What your personal boundaries allow you to do is know and gauge when someone infringes on you. You can then make an informed decision about what to do from that point, whether it be to go for help from a friend or even report them to your boss or other authority.
Boundaries are also very useful when it comes to making up your own mind. Effective decision making requires you to know what you want and what you don’t want. If you don’t have healthy boundaries in place, there is a good chance that your wishes will be “overruled” by others in most situations.
While boundaries can be useful to keep us from harm, they can also harm us unless we are cautious.
Let’s say that you were in a passionate relationship that ended badly. Your heart was broken in a way you never thought it could be. In that kind of situation, putting up a personal boundary that would prevent you from being hurt that way again is entirely understandable. Unfortunately, it can also hurt you. What if, a year or two later, you meet someone who is your soulmate, but you reject them because of the boundaries you put up way back when you were heartbroken? In that case, this would be a bad boundary.
This also applies to taking chances in your professional life. If you have experienced a lot of rejection professionally, you might set up unconscious boundaries that protect you from the frustration and pain of being unable to find professional fulfillment. Unfortunately, this boundary could also prevent you from taking the risks necessary to get ahead in your career.
Now, this isn’t to say that these boundaries aren’t useful at first. After a bad break up, you definitely don’t want to meet someone new. Constant professional rejection is hard, so saving yourself some of that pain can help keep your ego (which is a good thing!) intact. These boundaries become problems when you don’t take them down after they are no longer useful.
No Boundaries Whatsoever
Have you ever met someone with no sense of boundaries whatsoever? These are the kind of people who will say anything, no matter how rude or offensive. They will push up against the physical limits of others, hugging them even though that person might not be comfortable with them doing so. I have certainly known at least a few in my life.
One of the reasons why you need good boundaries in your life is to protect yourself from people like that. You can’t control how they treat you, but you can certainly control how you react to them. If they try to hug you, you can say, “No, don’t hug me.” If they say something incredibly offensive, you can say, “That’s not funny.”
People like this will often become offended when you call them out on their lack of respect for your (or others) personal boundaries. They’ll say, “Geez, calm down, it didn’t mean anything,” or, “Lighten up, it was just a joke.” Trust me, it DID mean something and it WASN’T just a joke. You can’t let these kinds of people try to manipulate you to put aside your boundaries, especially if you are interacting with them daily.
If someone at work does something that infringes on your boundaries repeatedly, tell your boss. If the boss does nothing, go to the person above them. You have to fight for your boundaries.
For me, boundaries boil down to respect. You need to respect other people’s boundaries, just like they need to respect yours. But more than that, you need to respect and recognize your own boundaries. Don’t make allowances for people who repeatedly push you beyond where you feel comfortable. Part of taking charge of your own story is taking charge of how you react to other people’s behavior. And if someone is genuinely infringing on your boundaries, it’s time to take action.
We talk a lot about boundaries in the Time to Thrive program. In this program, you will be getting professional coaching on how you can take charge of your life and step into your truth. Plus, you get to do this with a supportive tribe of others who are on the same journey.
And if you want more information about Time to Thrive, I invite you to visit this page. There, you can find more about what this coaching program is all about and how you can sign up. I can’t wait for you to join this tribe on our journey to reclaim our energy and lives, becoming more powerful than we ever have before!