4 Ways to Know Your Boundaries to Better Understand Yourself and Others

During these unprecedented times, maintaining personal boundaries might have been a struggle for many of us due to having to adapt to radical changes that are completely out of our control. Knowing how to navigate our boundaries is so important for our overall wellbeing and if done in the right way, it can pave way for deeper understanding and better connected relationships with ourselves and those around us.

I recently finished reading Faith G. Harper’s book called Unf*ck Your Boundaries: Build Better Relationships through Consent, Communication, and Expressing Your Needs, and it has brought to light many ways in which I can better communicate my own boundaries as well as respecting others’. Boundary setting does not have to be so disruptive and daunting as it may seem and here are 4 ways to know your boundaries to better understand yourself and others.

1. Types of Boundaries

When it comes to thinking about our personal bubble, it can be hard to think of all the things that makes us feel uncomfortable so it can be helpful to use the following prompts given by Harper to think about what boundaries we may have that are related to each of these category and which of these boundaries do we feel are often easily violated or challenged in our everyday lives. You may even find some of your boundaries are more rigid, flexible, or permeable.

Physical BoundariesProperty Boundaries
Sexual BoundariesEmotional-Relational Boundaries
Intellectual BoundariesSpiritual Boundaries
Time Boundaries

2. Listening to Your Body

So according to Harper, gut reaction and gut feelings are “real, literal things”. She labels this process as the “visceral afferent messaging” which is essentially a triggering signal our body receives when we experience a boundary violation at a subconscious level. Paying more attention, being more aware, and mindful of how our body react to situations can be immensely helpful because your body might be trying to tell you something that could potentially be harmful or is violating your safe space. This doesn’t necessarily mean to solely act upon these feelings but it can help us to better understand ourselves and how to better tackle difficult situations.

3. How Do the People in Your life Respond to Your Boundaries?

This is about how to better communicate with others by expressing your needs clearly and effectively. Harper lists a few possibilities as to why you may feel like your boundaries often go unheard and disrespected by those around you.

This could be:
a. The other person may struggle to understand you due to a difference in communication style,
b. You might be dealing with a high conflict person or situation or,
c. The other person is abusive and exercising their emotional coercive control, meaning you should just get the hell out of there as soon as you can.

A solution to scenario a) could be sitting down with that person and have an open conversation with them by clearly expressing your boundaries and see how they respond. This might be daunting at first because we’re showing our vulnerable side but if the other person takes advantage of that and starts to become a defensive a**hole then know it is okay to walk away from a harmful situation. However, if the other person respects you and is willing to listen and work through things with you then it will open a path for a wider and deeper understanding relationship.

Scenario b) can often be times where we are caught up in a difficult family, friend, or work situations where certain factors in life makes it harder to just walk away from. Harper highlights, this is when the flexibility in your boundaries come into play. You may choose to tolerate the lack of respect for your boundaries to maintain the relationship in order to free yourself from the anger and frustration at the time. Of course, if this boundary violating cycle continues, escalating to scenario c) then hopefully you will know what the best course of action for your overall wellbeing would be.

4. How Do You Respect Other People’s Boundaries?

Now it would be a lie if I say we have never been that other person violating someone else’s boundaries because we definitely have put someone in an uncomfortable situation before both consciously and subconsciously. However, it can be more difficult now than ever as everyone’s routine is disrupted making it harder to know where someone might stand. In order to realise how we respond to other people’s boundaries, it will take some introspective work. Here are a few questions Harper suggests us to ask ourselves:

♥ Generally speaking, do people tend to respond positively to you? Do they tell you they feel comfortable sharing with you? That you hear them without judgement?
♥ Do you have people (or at least one person) in your life with whom you are able to have deep and authentic exchanges of ideas and feelings?
♥ Are you able to maintain these relationships over a long period of time?
♥ What kinds of situations make it hard for you to respect the boundaries of others? Is it with certain decisions that cause you concern?

Again, boundary-setting can be daunting because we are essentially confronting each other about things we do that makes us uncomfortable but when building and maintaining meaningful relationships, it is never harmful to ask clarification on what level of support someone is looking for. I can assure you that the person will appreciate your honesty and openness, over you making assumptions on what they may or may not feel comfortable with.

“Handling No”

As Harper says it “being told no sucks”. As human beings, it is hard to take rejections or at least in a positive way because when we are told no, we are essentially not getting what we want. It is important to know that often when someone tells you no, it is their way of informing you their boundaries and the last thing you should do is to take this personally. Once we learn to respect other people’s boundaries and understand that they aren’t attacking your personhood, it is then others know they can trust you, making you “the embodiment of safe space”.

Overall these are just some of the many points highlighted by Harper’s book on boundary setting. If you would like to know more about this on a deeper level I would suggest you to get a copy of the book for yourself here.

At the end of the day, we are all going through a very very very difficult time right now and the most important thing is to be patient, kind, and honest with each other. Through the practice of boundary setting and communication, I hope that it will pave way for building richer and more meaningful relationships with the people around you.

Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section and like this blogpost if you have found this helpful!

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Just a lil reminder, take care of yourselves and stay safe!

KM x

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