Establishing Boundaries

When I visited the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) temple and gardens in Cardiff by the Sea, CA,  I appreciated the fence—boundary—installed between the gardens and the cliff.

Due to erosion, it’s imperative to keep visitors from stepping too far forward, which many people want to do because of the stunning photo opportunity.

When it comes to human beings, there are many types of boundaries: personal, professional, relational, social, ethical, etc. 

Boundaries are internal and external lines that we draw. They delineate where our — physical, mental, emotional, spiritual — space ends, and where another’s may begin. Boundaries establish what’s okay and what’s not okay. They help us:

  • Stand up for ourselves
  • Keep us from doing things we shouldn’t
  • Protect and take care of ourselves

Boundaries are not separation, they’re not division. Boundaries are respect for ourselves and others.

As I tell my clients, establishing boundaries is one thing, but it’s not enough. To be effective, they must also be maintained. 

Are your boundaries in good condition? Are they effective? Click To Tweet

Are your boundaries in good condition—are they effective?

© TuesdaysWithLaurie.com

51 thoughts on “Establishing Boundaries

    • Carl — Thank you for being the first person to throw your hat in the ring today. I couldn’t agree with you more about learning to say “no” without guilt. That’s huge! 🙂

  1. As a teacher and a mother, I cannot stress enough the importance of rules and boundaries. I worked with many autistic children and they get very upset when these are broken, but we all need them to know what is or isn’t acceptable.

  2. Hi Laurie,

    Boundaries is a topic I have written a lot about over the years.
    Every level of form or distinction requires boundaries, to enable it to be different from what is around.
    Without boundaries form cannot exist.
    And, as you say, we have many different types of boundaries.

    And complex boundaries can be very flexible and responsive to context, letting some things come and go, stopping others, actively transporting others.

    We are very complex and ever changing entities, much more like a fountain than a statue in the nature of our forms.

    We breath, we eat, we drink, we listen, we contemplate, we observe, we interact, ….
    Our boundaries always changing, responding to context in more or less appropriate ways.

    We have history and memories, and we are an ever becoming, full of possibilities and tendencies and creativity.

    Yes, we must have boundaries, and hard boundaries tend to become brittle and break.

    The essence of complexity lies in responsiveness and cooperation, in our ability to transcend our current being and create something beyond, repeatedly.

  3. Boundaries are not viewed as a “fun” topic, so good for you to bring them up! We creatives like to push past boundaries and go “outside the box.” Yet, to know the best way to do that, we need to ….. know the boundaries. As children, boundaries are imperative. I see parents of young ones “these days” who don’t set structure and boundaries, and their poor kids are a mess. As teens, we test the boundaries, but thank goodness we know what they are. As adults, we stretch the boundaries, and that’s not a bad thing. As writers, we know that if we stretch those boundaries too hard, our meaning will snap back in our face like a rubber band. 🙂 So …. to boundary stretching, but staying within the moving lines.

  4. Having boundaries in the work place is, for me, very important. I work with some people who feel the need to know everything. Luckily, we have worked together long enough for them to know that I do have boundaries and they do respect them.

  5. Hi Laurie, I am so glad you have written about boundaries today. It is something I’ve only recently embraced (or rather, to the extent that I wish I had established eons ago). Not only do I feel more empowered, but also in control of things I hadn’t realized were (actually) in my control (like saying ‘no’ to an event). The timing of your post couldn’t have been better. Thank you, Laurie! Cher xo

  6. Great topic. People define or see boundaries differently. It comes up in hugs–what is a welcome, friendly greeting for one feels uncomfortable and intrusive for another. What is a comfortable volume for one is shouting and feels hateful for another.

    • Melodie — You are OH-SO-RIGHT! In the examples you shared, boundaries are SUBJECTIVE.

      For instance, my mother was NOT a hugger (except with her IMMEDIATE family).

      And I’m NOT a fan when people share their rap music. It simply isn’t my taste.

  7. One of the delights of teaching 2-year-olds on Sunday is helping them establish boundaries. They use “careful feet” instead of banging into walls with their wheel-y carts. Instead of grabbing someone else’s toy, they are taught to share. Great topic. Laurie!

  8. Setting boundaries is hard, especially with family. Everyone wants something different, whether it be an adult child wanting a hands-off parent or a needy mom wanting a doting child. I think I messed up more than I succeeded, especially with setting my own boundaries.

  9. Growing up in a small community, in an large extended family, “everyone” knew “everything” about me. I had to learn how to build and maintain boundaries. The lessons aren’t over. Day in and day out, I’m continue to learn how to build and maintain them.

  10. I am working on an interesting boundaries experience right now. One of the things I like about being retired is that I can just leave places and people that attack my boundaries freely, but I do a healing meditation group with a person who has severe Parkinson’s disease. She every once in a while just goes on the attack, often embarrassing me and now often with hostility. I believe it is because of the Parkinson’s but I just put my head down and say something like “Oh dear!” Once or twice she has called to apologize, She is also extremely competitive and because I am the most knowledgeable about this meditation process – I think that is where her confusion comes from. The others in the group become supportive when we leave group But truly I want to find a stop point to the attacks; I am thinking today that I need to leave the group because I am not able to be as effective. The Parkinson’s makes it hard for me to respond … Working at trying to figure this out I have had to work on boundaries all my life, and not being so polite Not uncommon for folks who were criticized constantly – retreat better than words

    • Patricia — I can see the dilemma. From an outsider’s perspective, if you decide to leave the group, the people who are benefiting from it will miss out on your wisdom. But it’s equally important for you to not be attacked. If leaving the group is the only way to accomplish that, then it may well be time to cut that tie.

  11. Great questions Laurie! But not an easy subject. While boundaries can be important, they can become walls. Boundaries are also not fixed like a fence between neighboring houses. We sometimes need to rethink our boundaries as time passes and situations change. We also have to learn the boundaries of others. Five years ago we moved to an area where people have strong personal boundaries but often have no regard for the boundaries of others. It’s been like a graduate level course in interpersonal relationships — including establishing and protecting boundaries without building walls. 🙂

  12. I think I’ll go along with Robert Frost’s co-wall mender and offer the short answer, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Laurie, you know well that I’ve had to run the cows out of the road more than once. I appreciate people who keep up their responsibilities to be thoughtful, aware and decent. It’s not easy, we all go through rough patches, utter words that can’t be unsaid, we have gone beyond our boundaries with others. I understand this is not quite what Frost meant with this line but I find it handy from time to time.

    • Sandi — yes, Yes, YES. I couldn’t agree with you and the esteemed Mr. Frost, more. Even if he didn’t mean the line quite that way, it does, indeed, come in handy 🙂

  13. Oh dear, I’ve learned a boatload about boundaries after the ex flew the coop and I ended up with another compulsive type. I’ve also learned a lot about being codependent and a ton of other stuff. What a lightbulb moment to realize I can be like, “Nope. I’m not okay with that” rather than trying to justify this or that in so many ways so I can achieve my beacon of normal (which is what I did time and again growing up with a bipolar mom.” I learn slowly, but I do learn my lessons well!

  14. You ask really good questions, Laurie, and not the obvious ones. Are my boundaries effective? I doubt that anyone living in this culture and reading on line can say a resounding, “yes!” We know we end up going down internet rabbit holes, for example. And the longer we live in one place, the more likely it is that we have accumulated individually innocuous “yes” responses until they have need to be weeded out to keep the other plants in our boundary row healthy. Thanks for helping me name what I try to do, however imperfectly.

  15. Laurie, to keep my boundaries in good condition, I ask myself: “Is this a Healthy Decision for me?” I have shared this question with others in my books and programs. It is a simple, but effective way to take good care of ourselves.

  16. Like the first person posting here, saying “no” – not just to what others think and expect me to do, but also what I expect of myself. I also have problems with others who seem to have no boundaries when out in public. Specifically those who seem to think they own the public transit vehicles and literally take up too much space and block the exits and getting to them. One of these days I (or someone else) will trip over one of those extremely large baby buggies or someone blocking the way while standing and texting or playing games on their device. And don’t get me going on the latter.

  17. I ‘ve never had a problem with boundaries or drawing the line . With a naughty but adorable pup like Arthur, the word NO ! Is a regular occurrence 🤭😂🐾🐾Cherryx

  18. What a provocative lead-in. Applying boundaries is always difficult with a all-too-flexible, liberal mindset but I have applied some over the last few months and they seem to be sticking so far. 🙂

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