It’s the Little Things: Boundaries — The Practical Side

One of my daily, never-ending lifelong goals is to eat well and drink plenty of water. Some days I excel at eating healthy food, drinking plenty of water and even managing to squeeze in time to exercise too.  Other days, I do not. Eating well and taking care of my physical body is a goal I will never retire—one I work at day in and day out.

Just as I aim daily to care for my physical body, I also try to maintain good mental health as well. One way I care for myself emotionally is by continually evaluating how I am doing with identifying and maintaining healthy emotional boundaries. Just like diet and exercise, identifying, setting and maintaining healthy boundaries can be elusive at times if you are not mindful of engaging in this process on a regular basis.

Some boundaries—what I call the bigger ones—are obvious and easier to maintain. For example, we would all agree on the following boundaries:

  1. People should not be verbally or physically aggressive with one another.
  2. People should not take things that do not belong to them.
  3. People should not break laws that protect the greater good. For example, people should not get behind the wheel of a car when they are intoxicated.

All of these are what I refer to as “big, obvious boundaries.” But what about smaller and harder to identify boundaries like topics of conversations or physical proximity (how close you stand to someone)?  What about the boundary of physical touch. For example, some people are okay with a shoulder pat or hug while others only want to be touched by their closest loved ones. These are the smaller, trickier boundaries. These types of boundaries become even more complicated as they change depending on the relationship. For example, a co-worker may be okay with their partner playfully slapping them on the shoulder while joking, but may not like it if another co-worker engages in the same behavior.

For now, just think about your daily routine and the people involved in it. Can you think of times when you feel unheard, misunderstood, uncomfortable or even disrespected? Here are some questions to consider:Is there a certain action someone in your life regularly engages in (or fails to engage in) that upsets you?

For example, your co-worker calls you a few times a week afterhours when you are home and trying to have dinner with your family, even though the calls are not about pressing work issues. Another example may be:  You feel overwhelmed at home and like you have too many responsibilities there, but no one ever seems to pitch in to help you. A third example may be, your boss calls you by a nickname s/he made up for you, but you prefer to be called by your proper name like the rest of your co-workers.

I will speak more on healthy boundaries in the personal blog on this piece; however, if you are struggling with identifying or setting healthy boundaries, a licensed Orlando psychotherapist can help you. She will help you outline your boundaries and learn positive ways to implement them so that you can have healthy relationships and a peaceful daily life where you feel understood and respected.  Please contact Life Enhancement Counseling Services today at 407-443-8862 to speak with an experienced mental health counselor.


Yolanda Brailey