Does the thought of boundary setting make you sweat and feel anxious?
If so, chances are you need them more than you know.
Boundaries are one of my favourite topics and something most of my clients struggle with in some way.
The concept of boundaries gets a lot of attention in the personal development space.
Many women also have misconceptions about what boundaries actually are, and this leads them to feel guilty about setting any.
In this post, I will define boundaries and review the various different types of boundaries. I will also review why boundary setting is important and a few key mindset shifts that you need to start setting healthy boundaries.
Ready? Let’s dive in!
What are boundaries?
Boundary setting comes from a place of agency.
Part of boundary setting is being able to identify that something in your life is bothering you, realizing that you are in control of that reaction and setting limits or rules in your life to limit your exposure to that situation/person.
I really believe that boundaries are one of the most fundamental mental health strategies I teach. It is also one of the most important strategies to keep your relationship healthy.
What different types of boundaries are there?
When I teach my clients about boundaries, I often share that there are two main types (or categories) of boundaries: internal boundaries and external boundaries.
These categories are then broken down into specific types of boundaries that can guide your behaviour in your life.
I’ll review my framework for understanding boundaries below.
Internal Boundary Setting
Internal boundaries are how you regulate your own behaviour and your relationship with yourself.
For example, how do you regulate your self-talk, manage your own behaviour, manage your time, and engage in self-discipline?
I also refer to internal boundaries as constraints.
Constraints are internal “rules” you use to guide your own behaviour, in the pursuit of a healthy or well-balanced life.
An example of a constraint might be: “I only drink one cup of coffee otherwise I’ll have the jitters and be anxious all day” or “I move my body at least once each day for 30 minutes.”
These self-imposed “rules” help you regulate your own behaviour to keep yourself feeling well and happy.
Constraints help us set internal guidelines or benchmarks that we can create to help us support healthy behaviours.
External Boundary Setting
External boundaries are what most people think of when they hear the word “boundaries.”
External boundaries are also commonly referred to as interpersonal boundaries.
These boundaries define how you behave and allow yourself to
When External Boundary Setting Causes Anxiety
Desiring a community or relationship that loves and accepts you and feeling emotional about it is a primitive part of being human. As women, we are inherently social creatures and our mental health is often impacted by the relationships in our lives. This is not a bad thing.
There was a time when if you weren’t part of a community you were more likely to die. Being a part of a community meant survival.
The emotions around wanting to feel accepted and loved are very instinctual and normal, as are the emotions that come up when you think about setting boundaries (fear, panic.)
So if you are someone who finds yourself sweating over the thought of setting boundaries in challenging relationships, know you are not not alone.
The truth is that any behaviour that has the chance to make us feel ostracized or disliked is very threatening to our primitive brain. The feelings of anxiety and stress around boundary setting have evolved to motivate you to maintain relationships for survival.
The issue with our primitive conditioning is that many times it is not working for us, but against us.
This primitive conditioning often motivates us to avoid any conflict and therefore we default to becoming chronically passive people-pleasers with no boundaries (all in the name of survival.)
The point is: Don’t be hard on yourself if you struggle to set boundaries. This is hard and challenges some of our deepest survival instincts.
However, without healthy boundaries, we can’t have healthy relationships. Without healthy relationships, our mental health will struggle.
We need to have the courage to overcome the emotions that hold us back from boundary setting so we can truly live mentally healthy lives.
Types of boundaries:
Interpersonal Boundary Setting Is Important!
Many of us have been brought up or raised to have very poor personal boundaries. Most of us (women) have actually been conditioned to give or be everything for others.
Boundary setting is choosing to honour yourself in a way that is healthier and it is relationship preserving.
Mindset Shifts You Need to Set Boundaries
At the root of this, we have been conditioned to believe we are not as worthy as others.
This is a fundamental mindset shift that you need to make to set healthy boundaries.
When we don’t believe we are worthy of good treatment, we allow ourselves to be treated badly in relationships. We believe that we exist to serve others, be everyone’s emotional dumping ground and keep everyone else happy (while sacrificing ourselves.)
By carrying this belief, we will continue to allow ourselves to be in relationships that are not healthy – in other words, these relationships may be abusive or disrespectful.
Setting healthy boundaries means that you know and believe that you are as worthy of happiness as everyone else, even if it upsets or disappoints someone.
You Are As Worthy As Everyone Else
If you struggle with feeling worthy, here are a few exercises you can do to strengthen your self-worth muscle:
- Spend time each evening writing down 3 things you love about yourself. Celebrate small wins and see how incredible you are.
- Be mindful of negative self-talk. Many of us have a ruthless internal critic that tells us we are not worthy. Recognize that that voice is actually not yours, and those thoughts are not real.
- Reflect on how your unhealthy boundaries are impacting your mental health. Ask yourself if how you are feeling is worth the relationship you’re struggling with.
HAVE A LISTEN + SHARE YOUR TAKEAWAYS!
THIS EPISODE DIGS INTO:
- What are boundaries?
- What are the different types of boundaries?
- Why are boundaries so challenging to set in our relationships?
- A critical mindset shift you need to make in order to set healthy boundaries in your life.
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