2. What Boundaries REALLY Are

Mary Boundaries Coach
Boundaries have become a hot topic on the internet and social media these days. So do you really know what boundaries are? Or are you slipping into the common myths and misinformation surrounding boundaries?

In this episode Mary dives into what exactly boundaries are, and what they are not. She also explains why having healthy boundaries for yourself is so important. So are you ready to change your perspective on boundaries and start setting them for yourself? Let’s go!

Main Episode Takeaways

  • What are boundaries?
  • What boundaries are NOT
  • The three main reasons we need boundaries
  • Some of the myths surrounding boundaries
  • What you have to look forward to in my podcast

Want to learn more about boundaries?

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Episode two, What Boundaries Really Are And Why We Need Them. When we think about the word boundaries, sometimes we think about things like a fence or some physical representation of where one space ends and another space begins. 


In my neighborhood there are some houses with fenced in backyards and some patio homes with shared green belts. I live in the part of the neighborhood with fenced yards, but it’s a four foot fence, so it’s easy to see over and it’s an open fence so we can see through it. To me, my four foot fence seems like a good representation of my boundaries. It’s a safe space for my children and dog to play outside. I know which grass is mine to mow. When I invite friends and family over for a barbecue, we know where to hang out. 


Boundaries are like my fence because they symbolize what is my space, my responsibility, and where I invite people to. I get to choose how I show up in my backyard, who I invite into my backyard, and what I’m willing to do or not do in my yard. Boundaries are like fences, like lane lines and barn doors. They are not like thick walls, moats or locked doors. Boundaries are the limits and guidelines that you set for yourself. That determines what you will and will not participate in, let me say that again. Boundaries are the limits and guidelines that you set for yourself that determine what you will and will not participate in, in your life.


My favorite definition of boundaries is by author and researcher, Brene Brown. If you’re not familiar with Brene Brown’s work, you are missing out. So my favorite cousin, Brene, I mean, I’ve never actually seen her at a family reunion or anything, but we have the same last name, and aren’t we all kind of cousins, eventually? Anyway, I like how she talks about boundaries and Brene Brown defines boundaries as what’s okay for me and what’s not okay for me. I love this definition because it makes it simple to understand and easy to implement. 


Boundaries have become a hot topic on the internet and social media these days. I’m glad to see this shift in awareness about boundaries, and I gotta be honest that I think there’s a lot of misinformation out there about what boundaries are and what boundaries are not.


Let’s talk more about that. Boundaries are first and foremost for ourselves. You choose your boundaries for yourself. Oftentimes, I’ve heard someone talk about setting boundaries on him or for her. This is a misunderstanding. Boundaries are not for or on other people. Boundaries are all about the way that we respect and protect ourselves. Boundaries are not about controlling, manipulating, or punishing people. Boundaries are about our ability to choose what’s okay for ourselves. This is called agency. Boundaries empower us to make our own decisions about what we will, and we will not do. Boundaries are not about taking away the agency of other people.


You get to choose your boundaries and they get to choose their boundaries. My boundaries do not get to decide what you will or will not do. Sometimes this is tricky for people to understand, so I’ll give an example. I have a boundary that I will not participate in conversations with name calling. It’s not okay for me to call people names, and it’s not okay for me to be called names. My boundary is for me. That I will not participate in conversations that include name calling. This is my choice and how I exercise my agency. I do not get to decide what you are allowed to say, what you are not allowed to say. I just get to decide what I’m willing to participate in and not willing to participate in.


So if I’m engaged in a conversation and name calling happens, then it’s my responsibility to respect my boundary and not participate in the conversation. I may choose to change the topic. I may speak up and say something like, Hey, name calling’s not okay for me, please stop. I may choose to call a break or end the conversation. If the name calling is a repeated pattern or particularly shaming. I may choose to hang up or walk away, take care of myself, and then reassess my boundaries in the relationship. These are the ways that I can follow through to protect and respect myself. 


Boundaries are about being authentic. When I’m living within my boundaries, I’m being true to myself. Boundaries are about learning and growing. Sometimes our boundaries will change as we develop and evolve over time. Boundaries are not rigid or irreversible. Boundaries are for teaching and guidance. Boundaries are not for judging, shaming, or shoulding. So why do we need boundaries? Listen up. I’m gonna tell you the three main reasons why we all need boundaries.


First; Boundaries help us feel better. We need boundaries to overcome resentment and start feeling contentment. Like I talked about in the first episode, when I did not have boundaries, I felt resentment. So much resentment, even for good people, even for people I loved. Boundaries are the bridge from resentment to contentment. We need boundaries because having healthy boundaries feels good. 


Second; boundaries build connections. Boundaries connect us to ourselves because we’re being truthful with ourselves about what we like, what we want, what we need. We’re taking responsibility for our own thoughts, our own feelings, and our own emotional needs. We are showing up to protect and respect ourselves. Boundaries are an important part of self care. And boundaries connect us to the people that we love. Sometimes people think that boundaries create distance in our relationships, and that’s a myth. Boundaries are not division and they are not separation. Healthy boundaries, when skillfully implemented, actually increase connection in our relationships. Boundaries do not keep people out. They keep people in. Boundaries enable us to love you and me simultaneously.


And third, boundaries are sustainable. Not having boundaries is exhausting. If we are giving all the time and doing all the things, we are going to burn out. Boundaries empower us to decide what we are able to do and what we’re not able to do so that we can continue creating the life that we want to live, and nothing is sustainable without boundaries. No person is sustainable without boundaries. No relationship is sustainable without boundaries. No business is sustainable without boundaries. No family is sustainable without boundaries, and no community is sustainable without boundaries. Because boundaries can serve our time, our energy, and our resources.


Now that we’re all clear on what boundaries really are and what they’re not and why we need them… keep listening. The next several episodes, I get to talk to people about their boundaries, and you get to listen and learn.