setting health boundaries helps your mental healthDifferentiating Healthy vs. Unhealthy Approaches

By Rhiannon Novelli, MSW Candidate for UNCW

Generally boundaries are designated ‘healthy’ and ‘unhealthy.’ These healthy and unhealthy boundaries can be broken down into three different types: rigid, porous, and healthy/secure.

Nedra Glover Tawwab, LCSW explains the three levels:

1. A rigid boundary is one where an individual builds a wall to protect themselves and keep others out. This may be related to a fear of vulnerability, being taken advantage of, or letting people in.

  • Ex. “I never loan money to people.”

2. A porous boundary is one that is weak or not expressed thoroughly. This may lead to people pleasing, oversharing, and the inability to say no.

  • Ex. “Sure I can do that for you. Let me move my schedule around.”

3. A healthy or secure boundary is clearly communicated, shared appropriately, and involves self-awareness of your emotional, mental, and physical capacities. This often involves not apologizing.

  • Ex. “Thank you for thinking of me for this opportunity. However, I am unable to fit that in my schedule.”

This quiz is a guideline to assess where your boundaries lie at this point in time. It is a measure created by Nedra Glover Tawwab, LCSW.

How to Set Appropriate Boundaries

Establishing and maintaining boundaries can seem intimidating and overwhelming at first. But once you begin fostering these skills and working that boundary muscle, they become much easier to incorporate in your life.

It is important to recognize there may be times where establishing or upholding a boundary may feel unsafe, perhaps because of your surrounding trauma therapy wilmington ncenvironment, or an identity belong to. Setting some boundaries may feel more scary or threatening than stepping outside of your comfort zone. In these cases recognizing the individual control that you have is important. For instance, this may mean remembering and respecting your personal beliefs and values at work when people are trying to change them. For example, pressuring you into getting drinks when you do not drink or making comments about your ability level as a woman.

Here are a few tips to consider and help get you started.

  • Use “I” statements to be assertive and communicate to others how you feel
  • Refrain from apologizing for something you do not actually feel sorry for
  • Practice saying “No” without explaining why
  • Think about your values and what is important to you
  • Consider your needs and wants in your existing relationships
  • Practice speaking the boundary you want to make out loud

Truths to Remember When Setting Healthy Boundaries

  • You are the only one in charge of your boundary decisions. NO ONE else has the power or knowledge of how you feel about different relationships or responsibilities.
  • You can change your boundaries at any time.
  • There are multiple types of boundaries and they can exist with all different groups of people in your life.
  • The more you work on the boundary formation muscle the easier it will be to create and enforce a boundary.

If this blog post is making you think about some of the relationships or boundaries in your life, consider scheduling an appointment with one of our therapists to see how they can help support you and your boundary formation goals. Get Started Now.