Have you ever felt that you were being taken advantage off? Have you ever had to give in to other’s need to the expanse of sacrificing your own needs? Have you tried to ignore your feelings of injustice when being asked to perform something for others? Are you someone who are so busy giving and doing for others and feel guilty when taking time out for yourself? Have you ever felt resentment or anger when being taken advantage of?

What are boundaries?

Boundaries can be defined as setting limits in the ways we interact with others, which conveys what are acceptable and unacceptable behaviors during those interactions. There are three broad categories of boundaries:

  • Rigid boundaries: saying no to almost everything, keeping others at a distance, or avoiding close relationships, even with intimate partners
  • Loose/nonexistent boundaries: Giving in to all requests, getting too involved with others’ problems, oversharing personal information, or seeking to please others for fear of rejection
  • Healthy boundaries: valuing our own opinions, sharing personal information appropriately (not oversharing or sharing too little), understanding our expectations and making them clear by communicating, and respecting the decisions from others

Benefits of setting healthy boundaries

Even though some people might think that setting boundaries mean that we are building “brick wall” to keep people out or to stay at a distance from others, the truth is that setting healthy boundaries is known to have tremendous benefits. We are able to live a life that is consistent with our values and identity. We are able to promote our mental health and well-being. We are helping others to define what we will and will not hold ourselves responsible for. Additionally, keeping healthy boundaries at work can help us to experience more fulfillment and less stress in our professional life, which in turn leaves room for a better personal life. In contrast, a lack of boundaries can lead to an imbalance or unhealthy relationship because one partner may feel that his or her privacy was compromised or he or she has to sacrifice for the relationship. This imbalance relationship may eventually lead to resentment, anger, and burnout.

How to set healthy boundaries?

Setting healthy boundaries can depend on situations or environments. Our healthy boundaries at home can be very different from those at work. For instance, we might keep our personal lives separate from our professional lives by not sharing too much about our private lives with our coworkers. We might say no to a friend who wanted to meet up while we are busy with other commitment.  

Setting healthy boundaries require some practice. For instance, saying “no” firmly to something you do not want to do is one way of setting healthy boundaries. Sometimes, you might feel that you need to provide excessive reasons to support your convictions. However, setting healthy boundaries is respecting the fact that everyone has the right to determine what they do and do not want to do.

Written By:
Dr. Ooi Ting Huay
Clinical Psychologist
SACAC Counselling

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