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Understanding Your Boundaries & Limits

August 17, 2021
by TammyS | For Seniors


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There is power in being aware of our personal boundaries.  Boundaries are the limits we set for ourselves, and they have a big impact on our dignity, emotions, energy, and overall happiness.  Even more importantly, boundaries ensure that we get our own needs met and are not being exploited.

Think about a time that you may have been fatigued, stressed, worried or just not your usual self.  Could it be that you were trying to fill too many expectations that others had for you, either at work or in your personal life?  Have you ever felt uncomfortable or angry with a person, but did not understand why you felt this way?  Could those feelings have been due to your boundaries being crossed?

We all set boundaries in our personal and professional lives, whether we are aware of them or not, and it is up to us to express and maintain those limits.  There are many different types of boundaries that include emotional, physical, sexual, workplace, material, intellectual, financial, and time.  These can range from how much money we are willing to spend on a certain item, how much and what types of food or drink we consume, which people we let into our homes or personal spaces, the types of people we feel comfortable associating with, how we are treated at work, etc.  Most of the time these boundaries are part of our psyche and we have not consciously thought much about them.  However, in order to truly be aware and not fall prey to “manipulation”, we must be cognizant of what our boundaries and limits are.  And, not surprisingly, our boundaries and limits change over time.  Something that did not stress, exhaust, or bother us at age thirty or forty may become intolerable to us at fifty or sixty years of age.

There is no right or wrong way to come to this awareness and insight.  Some like to make lists, others prefer to think on their own, while still others may feel comfortable discussing their limits with a loved one or other trusted person.  Quite naturally, we are all unique individuals with differing childhoods, personal and work experiences, educations, sexual orientations, religious beliefs, etc.  Because of this, no one can fulfill every need of another person or situation.  We all have our own talents, propensities, and susceptibilities and these largely determine the paths and careers we will follow.  What one person finds invigorating and challenging may totally overwhelm another person.

It is quite natural that we may be asked or expected to perform outside our comfort levels at times, especially in a professional situation.  Life is not perfect, and things happen that can stress us.  It is when these expectations continue for an extended period or they exceed our ethical or moral boundaries, that we must speak up and make our boundaries known.  How do we do that?

  1. Be clear in your own mind what your boundaries are.
  2. Set your boundaries early with new acquaintances or work associates.
  3. Be consistent in order to avoid confusion by others.
  4. Express yourself clearly.  Leave no doubt as to exactly what your limits are.
  5. Clearly state what you want or need to happen.
  6. Do not feel the need to justify your boundaries.  They are your truths and perspectives and do not need to be clarified to anyone.
  7. Challenge or rethink your boundaries over time.  Do you need to set stricter limits with someone who keeps pushing your boundaries?
  8. Respect the boundaries of others.  This may make it more likely they will respect yours.

To recap, never feel guilty about setting boundaries.  They are an important means of caring for your emotional, physical, and mental well-being and protect you from being taken advantage of, feeling overwhelmed or overcommitted, and physical and emotional abuse.

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