HomeBlogDown and Dirty about Boundaries and Why you need them

Down and Dirty about Boundaries and Why you need them


Updated: Aug 23, 2022

I’m sure by now you have heard of boundaries, but most of us weren’t ever taught this concept as a child and it feels ambiguous.

In life we all have needs, but many of us can’t name our own needs outside of the basics: food, water, shelter, and safety. I love using the framework that is provided in Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs. In this, it is organized in a pyramid, in order of precedence. The foundation of the pyramid is our Physiological Needs.

Physiological Needs are requirements for survival, like the examples above. Once those are met, then safety can be attended to. This is tricky though because our unconscious mind deems anything that we have previously survived to be safe. The dreaded [UN] comfort zone.

Our need for safety often keeps us in a position of order, predictability, and illusionary control. It’s important to keep moving up the pyramid once safety has been addressed.

The third section of needs is Love and belonging. This governs our social needs and belonging and then moves into Esteem needs. That’s self-worth, accomplishment, respect, etc.

The last section of the pyramid is Self Actualizing needs, which allows us to explore our potential, capacity for growth, and fulfillment.

Why are we talking about needs? Well, our boundaries start there. We have to define what all of our needs are to know what we will allow or not allow into our lives.

If you feel unsafe because of someone’s behavior, or even if they attempt to diminish your value, both are places to build boundaries around.

So as you go through the list of needs, stop and reflect on what things do and do not meet each of those needs, and what specific criteria you hold internally to know that the need has been met.

After you have finished looking at your own needs, it’s time to reflect on your values. The things that are meaningful and valuable in your life. You can start by answering these questions:

  • What is important to you in your career?
  • What is important to you in the family?
  • What is important to you in Relationships?
  • What is important to you in Life?

A lot of these should overlap with your own hierarchy of needs too. That’s totally normal!

Now that we have covered needs and values, which are critical foundational pieces, let’s talk about the categories of boundaries.

They are:

  • Time – the amount of time and energy you are willing to invest or expect to be invested in you.
  • Sexual/Physical Intimacy- hugs, holding hands, rubbing shoulders, grabbing waist, kisses, and other more intimate touches.
  • Material- your belongings, the treatment of them, who touches or borrows them, if permission is needed, etc.
  • Physical/Proximity- how close do you physically allow that person to you? Platonic intimate touches such as forms of greeting, moving past you, etc.
  • Mental- How they impact your thought process, and if they honor your own thoughts and perspectives.
  • Emotional- How they make you feel and if they honor your feelings.
  • Financial- How much money you will invest in them or how much money is acceptable for them to invest in you?
  • Spiritual – Do they honor your spiritual beliefs and practices, or do they push and preach their own perspectives without respecting yours?

Whew! That’s a lot! Once you know your needs and values, look at each of your categories of boundaries, and based off of the level of intimacy you hold with that person or group, outline what it is you are willing to tolerate in your life and what you will not tolerate. Create a list for each category, giving the relationship type its own section for each.

Relationship types based on levels of intimacy:

  • Partners- Romantic involvement, the most intimate relationships both physical and emotional
  • Family- Those you spend time with and have strong bonds with and are open and honest within your interactions.
  • Close Friends- You are fond of them and frequently spend time with them, you share a lot with them, but not everything.
  • Friendly- Co-workers, neighbors, spend time with and friendly to but don’t share deeply with.
  • Acquaintances- Friends of friends, occasional interactions, only share surface level, relevant information with.
  • Strangers- First-time encounters, don’t know them at all.

The greater the level of intimacy you hold with someone the more open and vulnerable you would be, whereas the less intimate, such as the Acquaintance, you wouldn’t share your deepest, innermost thoughts and feelings.

To illustrate this more clearly, think of your house. A stranger would be greeted and handled outside. The acquaintance may be allowed into the entryway or formal gathering place. Those you are friendly with you would take to the living room to chat with, and the close friends would waltz right in and go sit down without you guiding them, they would probably make themselves a bit more comfortable without you having to prompt them and know their way around the more general areas of your home. Family would have a key and walk right in and go sit down, they may even help prepare the drinks and snacks too, and they are able to go into most of the rooms in your home. Your partner would walk in, holding a key, and exist comfortably without prompt, touching all of your things and entering all of your rooms.

If you don’t have a strong foundation in the inner circles, then your outer circles are at greater risk. It is important to define your inner circles first and add to them and adjust them as the level of intimacy decreases in the relationship. Just as illustrated in the example above.

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