A common word that I’m sure we’re all familiar with at this point is “boundaries.” But what are boundaries, really? Everyone seems to have a different opinion or approach to them.
The term boundary just refers to the line you draw (literally or metaphorically) to mark an area of ownership.
I like to think of boundaries as how we choose to approach the world. Because we cannot control how someone approaches us and our boundaries, but we can control how we respond to them.
So how does this pertain to people and socializing?
Boundaries are multi-level. They also exist in just about every relationship we have in life: partners, family, friends, employment, and even down to the one-off people we interact with.
They aren’t always a hard no – they can also be maybes or even soft yeses with limitations. They can take shape because of intimacy issues, privacy issues, and everyday interactions. Boundaries grow as we grow, changing or disappearing throughout our lives.
A quick cheat sheet to basic boundaries.
First, let’s talk about the various types of boundaries.
- Rigid – hard no. Nothing shall pass this fortress wall.
- Permeable – everyone walks all over these like they don’t exist.
- Flexible – the middle ground, the goldilocks sweet spot. These boundaries are meant to protect as well as help us grow and often are born from collaborations or compromises.
The seven categories of boundaries
When speaking of boundaries, we often focus on personal boundaries—where one person’s personal space or needs end, and another person begins. The truth is that there are various types of boundaries. Faith G. Harper, author of Unf*ck your Boundaries, categorizes boundaries into seven different types kinds of boundaries.
Physical – boundaries of touch, both of others touching you and you touching others.
Property – boundaries that deal with the things we own or even lay claim to.
Sexual – boundaries regarding physical and emotional aspects of sex and aspects of our sexual selves.
Emotional-Relational – boundaries that demonstrate respect for our personhood and the personhood of others. These deal with how we want others and ourselves to feel and not taking responsibility for other people’s emotions.
Intellectual – boundaries dealing with thoughts, beliefs, ideas, and our access to information/opportunities to learn.
Spiritual – boundaries around our belief systems, how we practice them, and what we choose to share (not force) with others about our beliefs.
Time – boundaries regarding the expenditure of our time (days, hours, minutes, etc.)
Now, keep in mind that boundaries are what you make of them. Your life will ultimately dictate the shape and form of your boundaries and how you enforce them.
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