The Foundation of Mental Wellness
Healthy boundaries are the foundation of mental wellness. Boundaries are your innate, personal alarm system that is necessary for you to properly develop as a unique individual and for you to protect yourself from harm. You are designed to be and share who you truly are, expressing the special gift you were born with. There are many harmful forces in the world and your boundaries defend you against them. As such, healthy boundaries form the line where what you will and will not tolerate meet. Poor boundaries do not facilitate individuality or safety and inhibit mental wellness.
What is Mental Wellness?
How well your thoughts, emotions, and actions align with reality defines how mentally well you are. When what you think, when your emotional responsiveness, and when your behavior (choices) are in one accord with the way the world actually functions, not how you believe it should be, then your level of mental wellness will be high. The more attuned you are to reality, its pleasantries as well as its harshness, then the more healthy and realistic your existence is. You handle life’s ups and downs relatively well…going with the flow, learning as you go.
Mental wellness also involves being able to recognize your strengths and build upon them, to cope with life’s challenges and still experience joy, and to contribute to society via productive and meaningful works.
Healthy Boundaries Meet Mental Wellness
Healthy boundaries are based in reality. What is, not what was nor what if. Those who are stuck in the past or dwell on the future fare less well in the present and experience excessive disappointment, anger, anxiety, depression, and weakened self-confidence. The clarity in healthy boundaries promotes overall health and happiness and is directly linked to mental wellness.
Common Unhealthy Boundaries
Let’s look at examples of common unhealthy boundaries and how they impact mental wellness. Three common poor boundaries are unrealistic expectations, overcommitting, and oversharing.
Perhaps the most underrated boundary is the mental boundary, which is about agreements. An agreement occurs when two or more people decide together how things will go—a business deal, a relationship, an event. This agreement provides a cooperative understanding between the individuals involved. Each person knows what to expect, realistically.
Alternatively, no agreement exists when one person assumes what another person will do, imposing an unrealistic and unspoken expectation on him or her. There is no conversation nor any communication about what the assumer wants. This unrealistic expectation sets the other person up to fail because he or she does not read minds and are therefore unable to give the assumer what s/he wishes for.
Unspoken and unrealistic expectations kill relationships. More than that, they lead the one who silently hopes for a specific outcome and who assumes the other person will deliver it to doubt their own worth. After all if they were important enough, then they would get what they want from the other person automatically. When the assumer does not get their way, then they may get angry or depressed and have unrealistic thoughts like I’m unlovable, Why doesn’t s/he love me?, What’s wrong with me?, I’m not good enough.
Most people believe that boundaries are only about saying no. Though not true in all situations, saying no is definitely required to set healthy limits when appropriate. Life itself naturally imposes challenges and stress. Voluntarily compounding normal stress with overcommitting creates other issues. The unwillingness to decline requests and refuse to add to your already full plate leads to overwhelm, guilt, and low self-esteem.
The overwhelm produced by not communicating no, your line in the sand, when appropriate is ripe with a loss of control, which is laden with anxiety because you stress about getting it all done, knowing that you can’t do it all. And because you can’t do it all, you fail to follow through on promises which triggers guilt, damages your credibility, and wears you out.
Do you or anyone you know think of themselves as “an open book”? Those who do tend to believe that sharing is caring, that by telling all about themselves they are engendering closeness, connection with others. I have met people who disclosed their most intimate secrets and desires within a few minutes of meeting me. Oversharing is off-putting to those with healthy boundaries. To those with poor boundaries, your oversharing is a way in to manipulate, to deceive, to get a way in for the sole purpose of getting what they want from you.
Oversharing is not caring. It communicates vulnerability, gullibility, and personal weakness to some. Those with poor boundaries are attracted to you because you give them all the information they need to take advantage of you. Abusers gain intel on how to worm their way in from your oversharing (telling too much). They use who you are against you to get what they want—sex, money, favors, etc.
The consequences of oversharing and being taken advantage of are hurt, anger, anxiety, stress, low self-esteem, and/or depression.
Poor boundaries are harmful to your mental health. They make you vulnerable to dangerous forces in life and heap unnecessary stress upon you. Unrealistic expectations, overcommitting, and oversharing are a few examples of unhealthy boundaries. Some consequences of unhealthy boundaries include anxiety, depression, anger, and poor self-esteem.
Mental wellness is measured by a person’s connection to reality, to what is. Healthy boundaries are directly connected with mental wellness because they are based in reality. Your clarity about what you will and will not tolerate and making that line clear to others will offer you peace of mind, less stress, and enhance your mental wellness.
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