In the past few years I’ve seen a lot more conversation online about personal boundaries. Today, I’m going to share with you what I think of as the 6 common types so that you can think about how to set boundaries to better your mental health and relationships.
As much as people have come to better understand the necessity (and utility) of personal boundaries, these ideas have also gotten a bad rap. Many consider those with a sense of boundaries as healthy, balanced people. However, people who set up personal limits are now also commonly thought of as stubborn, stone-wallers who seek to punish people who make mistakes.
Be mindful of those who seek to challenge appropriate and healthy-boundary setting as they may be fighting against a change in access to you which has previously enabled them to impart harm (even subconsciously). Needless to say, these standards are incredibly complicated and if you are struggling to set them up, figure them out for yourself, or maintain them a licensed therapist is your best support for more objective processing.
Here are the six types:
Time, as it sounds, refers to how a person uses and spends their time. This looks like how you might divide the time between your personal relationships and work, or time being spent on investing in yourself.
Physical boundaries refer to the expectations and limits we have with relation to physical sensation and touch. This can differ widely depending on the context or relationship. For example, you may be perfectly comfortable hugging a good friend, but may only want to shakes hands with colleagues at work. What physical boundaries are you most comfortable with?
This refers to the the sharing and use of our resources, like finances. Having healthy boundaries in this area can mean different things to different people. However, the foundation should be set on making sure that you have enough for you to sustain yourself and how you might recoup your materials (like lending someone your car, or money) if damaged or unreturned.
These standards refer to the expectations we have of ourselves, and others, when engaging with thoughts and ideas. When you share your thoughts with others how often do you get the respect you deserve? Is there someone in your life who always questions you or minimizes your ideas and knowledge?
Sexual boundaries refer to our sense of safety with respect to sexuality and consent. Does your partner respect and honor your limitations around sex? Do you feel comfortable speaking up about your needs and desires? Do your intimate encounters include any type of manipulation or coercion? If so, boundaries are being crossed.
Emotional boundaries are about the sharing of our internal emotional lives and feelings with others. When we are at our most vulnerable we need to feel protected and safe to share our feelings. Are there some people who always affirm and validate your feelings? Do others gaslight you and minimize your perspectives?
Thoughts for further reflection…
Where are your boundaries in these areas right now? Do you have any? Do you want any of them to change?
Take some time to reflect with yourself to assess where your energy and resources are going before making any adjustments. Having healthy limits is one way to practice self-care. They will enable you live a daily life that feels more satisfactory and restorative to you, which we all really want and need.
Jor-El is Co-founder of Viva Wellness and a foodie and film buff. He most often writes about mental health, relationships, food and mindfulness. When he’s not busy working, he typically can be found lounging or walking around NYC with his pup Nomi.