Learning how to set boundaries can be really hard. Especially when you’re setting boundaries in relationships that’ve previously gone unchecked.
But whether you’re setting boundaries at work, or in interpersonal relationships, boundary setting is an important part of self-care. It aids in protecting you from burn out and resentment, and boosts your emotional wellbeing and sense of autonomy and identity.
Today we are going to discuss 7 types of boundaries that are worth looking at when building relationships with others and deepening your relationship with yourself. But before we dive in, it’s important for us to understand exactly what boundaries are.
First, It’s important to understand what boundaries are:
Boundaries are clear, communicated guidelines established to help communicate the behavior you will accept from others and what behaviors they can expect from you in all types of relationships.
These boundaries will vary person to person and situation to situation. For example, appropriate boundaries in an audition room might seem a bit stifling at movie night with the girls!
What’s important to keep in mind here, especially as we get into the 7 types of boundaries below, is that boundaries are all about you. Not about controlling the other person.
For example: If you send me a text at work, I won’t answer it until I’m on my break or work is over.
See how this puts all of the power of boundary maintenance on your shoulders rather than being dependent on the other person’s ability to change their behavior?
This also allows you the freedom to be in control of how that boundary is maintained.
Visualizing Boundaries in Relationships
You see, boundaries are often viewed as walls. But instead, I’d like you in imagine a boundary as a large fence with a locked gate. Then, when you come up against things that test your boundaries in any given relationship you have three choices:
-Be pushed over the fence.
-Choose to unlock the gate and walk through the fence.
-Choose to stay put next to the fence.
Thinking of boundaries in this way allows for relationships to grow, ebb, and flow based on the level of trust built up in those areas.
The 7 types of Boundaries
Boundaries will vary relationship to relationship. They can also change depending on the setting; i.e. if you’re one on one, in a large group, or working professionally.
That’s why understanding the different types of boundaries can be helpful. So that when you feel imposed upon, resentful, or angry, you have to tools to deduce which of your boundaries was infringed upon and how you might go about communicating your needs.
Boundaries around our time can be very challenging for people in our industry. Because we love what we do, it can be very hard to protect the need for us to have “off-time.”
Personally this might look like having one day a week that you don’t take class, don’t practice, and don’t submit to auditions, etc.
Relationally this might mean setting a time limit of availability when helping others with self-tapes. For example: “I’d love to help with your tape, but I have to leave by __ time.”
It could also look like protecting your “free-time” so it actually remains free, giving you the opportunity to incorporate rest or even spontaneity in your life.
Emotional boundaries require us to be in tune with how we are feeling emotionally and psychologically. Ask yourself, “How emotionally available am I right now? Do I have to capacity to help in this way?”
This one comes up a lot during audition season. Sometimes we’ve recently been dealt a big rejection and at the same time a friend of ours is asking for help on a final callback.
It’s okay to communicate your need for space and say no. It might sound like this,
“I am so happy for you and I am rooting for you, however I don’t have the capacity to help you with this right now.”
This also comes up around the holidays when family members are talking about political issues you have a personal tie to, or even asking you questions in an effort to understand your choices. But again, It’s okay to communicate your needs and ask to change the subject. It might sound like this,
“I love that you want to understand more about me, but emotionally I don’t have the capacity to explain it all right now. Thanks for understanding.”
Remember, like Brené Brown always says “Choose discomfort over resentment.” The momentary discomfort you may feel expressing your needs, is way better that letting a relationship deteriorate because of resentment or anger.
“When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice” -Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection
Mental boundaries represent the freedom to have your own thoughts, values, and opinions. Mental boundaries are excellent around the holidays. Debates surrounding politics, religion, morals, etc. can become heated very quickly when our loved ones find we disagree with them.
But sometimes these debates become less about understanding one another and more about changing your mind. At that point, it’s time to set a boundary.
Setting a mental boundary might sound like,
“I respect your perspective, and I understand how you might feel that way, but I do not agree.”
Physical boundaries are one of the most often crossed out of the 7 types boundaries we are discussing today. And that’s because a lot of people assume others’ physical boundaries based on how they like to be touched. That’s why it’s a good rule of thumb to always ask before hugging or touching someone.
It also means that physical boundaries are super important to communicate early on. I find that people are more than happy to observe physical boundaries once they are communicated, so don’t be afraid to voice your needs.
That might sound like,
“I don’t love giving hugs unless I initiate them.”
“I know physical touch is important to you, but I don’t feel comfortable with it, is there another way I can support you, right now?”
Conversational boundaries exist so you can communicate topics that you do and do not feel comfortable discussing. Now, this is not a get-out-of-tough-convos-free card. This is a way to protect your peace when triggering, upsetting, or hurtful conversations arise.
Setting a conversational boundary might sound like,
“I would rather not be a part of this conversation. I’m going to go to another room.”
Or (in the event that this conversation is also crossing a mental boundary)
“I appreciate your perspective, but I do not agree. And while I love learning more about something your passionate about, I’d like to take a break from this subject.”
Material boundaries exist to help you protect your autonomy surrounding monetary decisions, giving, or lending to others.
If you’re a girl, you’ve likely had someone ask to borrow a piece of clothing. I, personally, do not like sharing clothes. As that was an anomaly in our college dorm I had to set a boundary. It sounded like this,
“I don’t like to lend my clothes out.”
Or, if I had the time,
“I don’t lend my clothes out, but I’d be happy to be a set of fresh eyes on styling something in your closet!”
Material boundaries are also helpful when it comes to lending money.
“I’m not able to lend you money right now.”
Finally we have arrived at the last of our 7 types of boundaries: Internal boundaries.
Internal boundaries are all about self-regulation and how we expend our energy on ourselves and on others.
Setting an internal boundary might sound like this,
“I have been social all week, I need to weekend to refill at home with myself.”
“I feel really low after making that mistake, I’m going take a moment and breathe before I jump into my next task.
How to Set Boundaries
Now that we know 7 types of boundaries. Let’s talk about how to set them.
It’s surprisingly simple.
First, you define what you need and what boundary will help you fill that need.
Then, you communicate your need and boundary. Boundaries are best received when stated in terms of what you’d like rather than what you don’t like – keep this simple. You do not need to over explain or apologize.
Finally, you need to set consequences. These are not punishments for crossing boundaries, these “consequences” are focused on communicating how crossing these boundaries makes you feel.
“When you don’t respect the boundaries set around my free-time, I feel like you don’t value my need for rest.”
Remember, boundaries can always be adjusted. You can always open the gate, close the gate, or communicate a new boundary.
But boundaries, despite their name, give relationships freedom.
Freedom from resentment. Freedom from anger. And freedom from unintentional hurt. When we communicate our needs with others, we learn more about ourselves and them.
So, if the person does not react well to these boundaries or pushes back, don’t be afraid to stand your ground and restate your need and your why calmly.
Remember, “Discomfort > Resentment.”
What do you think?