How is Life Tree(ting) You?: Trust, Safety, and Respect - The Importance of Boundaries
Boundaries help determine what is and is not okay in a relationship– whether that be with friends, partners, co-workers, bosses, or family members. Ideally, we put them in place to protect our well-being. They help us to build trust, safety, and respect in relationships. Common boundaries include emotional, physical, sexual, intellectual, and financial; they can apply to any aspect of your life where you feel they are needed. Ready to start setting boundaries? It requires a certain amount of self-awareness and reflection.
How to Set Boundaries
First, it's important to be aware of what is impacting you and what your tendencies are. Before setting a boundary, take time to reflect on your needs, struggles, and how it’s impacting your relationships. Say your boss calls you after work hours, which interferes with your time to rest or focus on school assignments. Setting a boundary might look like communicating to your boss that you are offline during certain hours for these reasons. Reflection and self-awareness will give you a clear idea on what boundaries need to be drawn so then you can take the next step of clearly communicating them.
After gaining clarity, the second step is to communicate your boundaries. Communication is extremely important in order to set healthy boundaries. Ideally, boundaries are communicated kindly and assertively. Focus on sharing how you feel and what you need in a respectful way, even if feeling anger and spite. While these are valid feelings, they are not always the most helpful when communicating boundaries.
After boundaries are communicated, you should continue to check-in with yourself about whether or not they are working for you. It may be necessary to have follow-up conversations if boundaries are crossed. For example, if your boss was to continue to call you after work hours after establishing your boundary, you can turn your phone off and have a follow-up conversation. Sometimes, taking that step can be difficult but is necessary to protect your mental health and well-being.
When you find yourself struggling to communicate your boundaries, remind yourself that doing so will support efforts to build and maintain the relationships that are important to you. If you are still finding it difficult to effectively communicate, consider reaching out for additional support. Please note, power dynamics (e.g. between you and your supervisor/boss, partner, family, or friend) can impact navigating boundaries and is a great time to consider reaching out for help.
Written by: Cherrial Ann Odell, Class of 2025
- Need support in establishing boundaries? Struggling to communicate your boundaries to others? A Well-Being Coach can assist you! Book a session today based on your schedule.
- Confidential Support Team: Offers support to Stanford students impacted by sexual assault and relationship violence, stalking, and sexual or gender-based harassment and discrimination.
- SHARE (Sexual Harassment/Assault Response & Education) Title IX Office: The University’s central resource for redressing and preventing sexual harassment and violence issues experienced by all Stanford community members.
- Weiland Health Initiative: Promotes mental health and wellness across the spectrum of gender identities and sexual orientations through education, training and clinical services.
- Building and Maintaining Health Relationships The Flourish, February 2023: In Focus
- 10 Ways to Build and Preserve Better Boundaries Psych Central
- How to Set Healthy Boundaries & Build Positive Relationships Positive Psychology
- How to Set Boundaries: 5 Ways to Draw the Line Politely Science of People