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Boundaries 101

Updated: Apr 21, 2021

Much like consent, boundaries are an essential personal and relational tool that we are rarely taught about in the scope of sex and relationship education. Like most topics that are withheld from us in formal education, boundaries (or the lack thereof) have a social and economic impact. Much like consent, boundaries help us identify and solidify our self-worth and value in the middle of the great patriarchal capitalist ocean that we’re all trying not to drown in.

It boils down to the fact that each person has autonomy over their time, their energy, their body, and their resources. 

Most of the harmful social systems that we experience rely on us not recognizing our boundaries, or not feeling able to communicate them. Having and holding boundaries is masked in the illusion of being selfish, being lazy, being prude - the list goes on. But if we were taught about the significance of boundaries in our professional and personal lives, we would not feel subjected to so many instances of disempowerment. We would feel entitled and able to communicate what we know to be allowed or not allowed when it comes to our own time, resources, and bodies. 

So what are boundaries? Boundaries are a communicated limit that is set between you and another person. Boundaries can be strong, meaning they should never be pushed, or loose, meaning they are malleable. Boundaries can change overtime and can change depending on who we are interacting with, where we are, or how we feel that day.

The first step to setting a boundary is to identify it within yourself. You can do this right now by imagining a scenario in which you feel safe, comfortable, and relaxed. How are other people treating you in that scenario? What aspects of your body and energy are being respected? Now imagine a scenario that feels uncomfortable, stressful, and overstimulating. How are other people treating you in that scenario? What aspects of your body and energy are being violated? These are your boundaries. 

It’s good to find a way to articulate them in a clear and concise way, because the second step to setting a boundary is to communicate that boundary to other people. Boundaries work best when other people are aware of them and understand their significance. Begin by starting a conversation. You can say something like, “I think it would be best for me if…” or “I will be most comfortable if…” and then state your boundary. Boundaries should be focused on you and not someone else. For instance, setting a boundary might look like saying “I need…” instead of “You need to stop doing…” Communicating boundaries is often the harder step, but it’s invaluable. Since most of us aren’t taught about what boundaries are or why each person has autonomy over themselves, talking about boundaries with our co-workers, friends, bosses, partners, or family members can be an eye-opening experience. We all have boundaries already embedded in our subconscious; finding ways to articulate and communicate them should be advantageous for everyone. 

Let’s look at some examples of boundaries in various aspects of our lives. Maybe some of these are boundaries you hold and have been searching for ways to express. Maybe some of these are boundaries you never thought you were allowed to establish in your own life. 

Examples of boundaries at work:

“I only work from 9-5, so I won’t check my email or answer calls at night.”

“I appreciate constructive criticism but I am not okay with being yelled at.”

“My students and I can talk about my personal life, but we can’t be friends on social media.”

Examples of boundaries in partnership:

“I am not okay with disclosing my location at all times.”

“I expect communication between us before we talk about a romantic issue with our friends.”

“I need one day of the week to spend by myself.”

Examples of boundaries in sex:

“I don’t want to have penetrative sex yet.”

“We can see and have sex other people as long as we are using barrier-method contraception.”

“I like being submissive but I don’t like to be degraded.”

Boundaries are a commitment to protect yourself, to keep yourself feeling safe and comfortable, and to communicate to others how best to care for you. They are essential when it comes to caring for our mental and emotional health, and can create better environments in the short-term and long-term.

As always, I got a bunch of information from this source below:

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