When discussing boundaries, I like to break them down into two main categories, External Boundaries and Internal Boundaries. External boundaries exist between us and other people and include things such as our physical bubble (e.g., how comfortable we are when people are close to us), and our privacy bubble (e.g., who is allowed into our room). Internal boundaries include boundaries we have with ourselves and how we interact with the outside world. This might include things like not internalizing someone calling us stupid or not watching the next episode of that TV show so we can go to bed.
I also like to think of boundaries as a house. You wouldn’t want the door to your house to be wide open so anyone could get in (porous boundaries), just like you wouldn’t want a door that never opens so no one can get in (rigid boundaries). We want to be selective as to who and when we allow people into our house, which allows us to get the benefits of social connection while minimizing the risk of damage.
If you feel like you struggle with porous boundaries (e.g., feeling like everyone else’s needs trumps your own, or feeling you need to say “yes” to everyone) I encourage you to begin working on strengthening your use of the word “No.” One suggestion is to work on considering “No” as a full sentence. When someone asks for something you know you can’t give, try to avoid apologizing or rationalizing why you can’t, simply say “No.” Another option would be to focus on pausing before you say “Yes.” Set a time limit such as an hour or a day before acceding to any major requests.
If you feel rigid boundaries are more of a concern for you, then I’d encourage you to practice letting folks in little by little. Often, we have fears that we will be judged or abandoned if people get to know “the real me.” Try sharing a small piece of yourself with someone else and see if your fears play out in the real world like they do in your head.
If any of the above really resonated with you, here are a couple of articles that go a little more in-depth about boundaries and how to improve them.