Establishing Healthy Personal Boundaries
© Roberto Nickson
As a valuable element of healthy emotional and mental wellbeing, personal boundaries offer you a layer of protection and security from stress and anxiety. Boundary setting can positively impact your personal life, workplace, friendships, and relationships.
Why You Should Set Personal Boundaries
Without clear boundaries, people will – intentionally and unintentionally – take advantage of you. We do not always realize immediately when someone is taking advantage of us or crossing a boundary. It might take a close friend or family member in your life stepping in to share their concerns with you that helps you finally realize what is happening. Without clear boundaries, you may experience recurring situations where you become a dumping ground for other people’s problems or extra workload that you can not possibly manage.
What Are Boundaries?
Personal boundaries can be physical, social, emotional, and spiritual. Everyone’s boundaries are personal to them. There is no wrong or right boundary type. To respect a person’s boundaries is to respect the person.
Physical boundaries can include the space you live in, things you own and also your physical being. Not everyone is a hugger. When sharing a living space it can be beneficial to make boundaries clear such as keeping your bedroom door closed if you prefer others to stay out. Setting examples help too, think of the old adage of treating people how we would like to be treated.
For personal belongings that you like to keep private, put them in a private space. A space that is clearly yours. If you are uncomfortable with people in your personal space, it is ok to say exactly that to people. Nobody wants to feel embarrassed so your friends and family will appreciate your gentle honesty. Remember, boundaries do not have to be black and white, they can be flexible and changing.
Emotional and spiritual boundaries are very personal and you do not have to feel like you must justify them. Have you ever had a friend who every time you met up they did nothing but moan and whine about their problems? This can be emotionally draining. You are not a dumping ground for other peoples’ issues.
How To Set Personal Boundaries
There are two common traits shared by people who have not set boundaries. One is that they have not realized that they need boundaries in certain areas or their life and with particular people. The other is that they are uncomfortable setting boundaries as they do not want to risk seeming rude or aggressive.
Knowing what boundaries we should set can be established by tuning in to how we feel in different situations. Take a moment when speaking to the different people in your life to check in with how you feel. Do you feel anxious or stressed by the way they talk to you or the things they talk about? Perhaps there are colleagues who you feel are a little too nosey about your private life. If these feelings are recurring, this could be somewhere you need to set a boundary. Likewise with any situation in your life. Look out for stressors and work to establish boundaries to avoid them.
Please be reassured that setting boundaries is not a rude or aggressive behavior. It is totally normal. The language that we use when setting boundaries can make a huge difference in how we feel about the process. Using assertive language, like “I would prefer if…” rather than “Don’t do that…” and “I feel uncomfortable when you…” rather than “You are annoying me” lets people know where you are drawing your boundary lines. Leading with an “I feel/would prefer…” statement as opposed to a “you are…x,y,z” prevents the other person from becoming defensive. They will appreciate your openness rather than feeling attacked.
On a final note. If you have set boundaries but find that there is a person or people in your life who refuse to respect them, it may be time to move that person out of your circle. Whatever the boundary type, when you make them clear to others you should expect them to understand and respect them.