What are Personal Boundaries?
Personal boundaries are the physical, emotional and mental limits we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated, used, or violated by others. They allow us to separate who we are, and what we think and feel, from the thoughts and feelings of others. Their presence helps us express ourselves as the unique individuals we are, while we acknowledge the same in others.
It would not be possible to enjoy healthy relationships without the existence of personal boundaries, or without our willingness to communicate them directly and honestly with others. We must recognize that each of us is a unique individual with distinct emotions, needs and preferences. This is equally true for our spouses, children and friends.
When we set personal boundaries, we defend our integrity, take responsibility for who we are, and take control of our lives.
Why it is important to set Personal Boundaries?
Establishing your personal boundaries are important for several reasons. Most importantly, they serve as barriers to protect your self-esteem, plus they are also tools for establishing limits with others and communicating that you won’t tolerate certain behaviors.
Those without personal boundaries commonly end up in less than ideal situations and relationships. Without limits, you become a victim to the whims of those around you.
Personal boundaries are about respecting yourself and demanding respect from others.
How do we establish healthy personal boundaries?
Here are 8 tips to help you to establish healthy personal boundaries:
1. Value yourself
Know that you have the right to your personal boundaries. You not only have the right, but you must take responsibility for how you allow others to treat you. Few people will treat you better than you demand, so you need to take responsibility for taking care of yourself, as no one else is going to take responsibility for your well-being. When you set your boundaries, they act as filters, permitting what is acceptable in your life and what is not.
2. Define yourself
Decide who you are, what you want to be, and how you deserve to be treated. You must also decide what are you willing to accept from others and what are you no longer willing to accept? Unfortunately, if you don’t define yourself, the rest of the world will do it for you – and you probably won’t like it. When you don’t have boundaries that protect and define you (which creates in you a strong sense of identity) you tend to derive your sense of worth from others. To avoid being put in this position, set clear and decisive limits so that others will respect them, then be willing to do whatever it takes to enforce them. Interestingly, it’s been shown that those who have weak boundaries themselves tend to violate the boundaries of others.
3. Place a priority on yourself
Others are important, but they’re not any more important than you. If you take care of yourself first, you are in a better position to take care of others. Running yourself ragged for others really isn’t helping anyone. You will be a better parent, spouse, and employee if you take good care of yourself. Recognize that other people’s needs and feelings are not more important than your own. Often, many women have thought that the needs of their husbands and children are more important than their own. This is not only untrue, but it can undermine the healthy functioning of the family dynamic. If a woman is worn out mentally and physically from putting everyone else first, she not only destroys her own health, she in turn deprives her family of being fully engaged in their lives. Instead, she should encourage every family member to contribute to the whole as well as take care of himself or herself.
4. Consider where you need to set limits in your life
Maybe you need to put an end to volunteering to work Saturdays or stop accepting emotional abuse from your husband. Maybe you’re just too willing to loan money to people that never pay you back. Sadly, you get in life what you’re willing to tolerate. What are you no longer willing to tolerate? Allow yourself to be who you really are without pressure from others to be anything else. Know what actions you may need to take if your wishes aren’t respected.
Personal boundaries are about respecting yourself and demanding respect from others.
5. Make your boundaries firm and clear
Make your boundaries reasonable, but clear to others. If others know where you stand on certain issues, there’s less chance for confusion or miscommunication. It’s possible to have boundaries that are too strict. For example, if you are alone and overly self-sufficient, you’re probably suffering from overly strict personal boundaries. Healthy boundaries make it possible for you to respect your strengths, abilities and individuality as well as those of others. An unhealthy imbalance occurs when you encourage neediness, or are needy; want to be rescued, or are the rescuer, or when you choose to play the victim.
6. Be flexible
You don’t have to follow a rule 100% of the time. Decide who and what you want to let in and what’s best to keep out. Studies have shown that people with some flexibility in their personal boundaries tend to have to best combination of happiness and success. Being too rigid can be just as problematic as being too lax. Trust and believe in yourself. You are the highest authority on you. You know yourself best. You know what you need, want, and value. Don’t let anyone else make the decisions for you.
7. Learn to say no when needed
Boundaries are limits on what you’ll accept from others. Avoid falling victim to the tendency to make everyone else happy. Healthy boundaries and being a little selfish go hand-in-hand. Learn to say no. Many of us are people-pleasers and often put ourselves at a disadvantage by trying to accommodate everyone. We don’t want to be selfish, so we put our personal needs on the back burner and agree to do things that may not be beneficial to our well-being. Actually, a certain amount of “selfishness” is necessary for having healthy personal boundaries. You do not do anyone any favors, least of all our-self, by trying to please others at your own expense. Try saying “no” to someone today. The world won’t come to an end.
8. Communicate openly
When people cross your boundaries, it’s up to you to inform them. Many times, this is as simple as refusing a request. You may be required to provide more explanation in other instances. Identify the actions and behaviors that you find unacceptable. Let others know when they’ve crossed the line, acted inappropriately, or disrespected you in any way. Do not be afraid to tell others when you need emotional and physical space. Others are unable to give you what you want if you don’t provide feedback.
Studies have shown that people with some flexibility in their personal boundaries tend to have to best combination of happiness and success.
Signs of Unhealthy Boundaries
- Going against personal values or rights in order to please others.
- Giving as much as you can for the sake of giving.
- Taking as much as you can for the sake of taking.
- Letting others define you.
- Expecting others to fill your needs automatically.
- Feeling bad or guilty when you say no.
- Not speaking up when you are treated poorly.
- Falling apart so someone can take care of you.
- Falling “in love” with someone you barely know or who reaches out to you.
- Accepting advances, touching and sex that you don’t want.
- Touching a person without asking.
When we possess healthy personal boundaries:
- We have improved self-confidence and a healthy self-concept.
- We are more in touch with reality.
- Are better able to communicate with others.
- Have better more fulfilling relationships.
- Have more stability and control over our lives.
Having boundaries is an exercise in caring for and respecting yourself. You have the right to expect a certain level of respect and consideration from others.
If your lack of personal boundaries is creating challenges for you, now is the time to start taking better care of yourself. Adequate boundaries are not only good for your self-esteem and general mental health, but for all other aspects of your life. You also put yourself in a better position to care for your friends and family.
How are you at setting personal boundaries? Are there areas and/or people with whom you think you could improve setting your boundaries with?
Share your thoughts in the comments box below or join the conversation on social media channels. Also, share this article with anyone whom you think would benefit from it.
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