Personal boundaries are the physical, emotional, and mental limits we establish to protect ourselves. They allow us to separate who we are, and what we think and feel from the thoughts and feelings of others. Setting healthy boundaries is essential if we want to be both physically and emotionally healthy. Creating healthy boundaries is empowering. By recognizing the need to set and enforce limits, you protect your self-esteem, maintain self-respect, and enjoy healthy relationships.
Unhealthy boundaries cause emotional pain that can lead to dependency, depression, anxiety, and even stress-induced physical illness. It is our way of communicating to others that we have self-respect, self-worth, and will not allow others to define us. Learning to set healthy personal boundaries is necessary for maintaining a positive self-concept. To set personal boundaries means to preserve your integrity, take responsibility for who you are, and to take control of your life.
What Are Boundaries?
They can be harder to define because the lines are invisible, can change, and are unique to each individual. Personal boundaries, just like the “No Trespassing” sign, define where you end and others begin. And they are determined by the amount of physical and emotional space you allow between yourself and others. Also, they can help you decide what types of communication, behavior, and interaction are acceptable.
How do we establish healthy personal boundaries?
Know that you have a right to personal boundaries. They act as filters permitting what is acceptable in your life and what is not. If you don’t have boundaries that protect and define you, as in a strong sense of identity, you tend to derive your sense of worth from others. To avoid this situation, set clear and decisive limits so that others will respect them. And 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.
Recognize that other people’s needs and feelings are not more important than your own.
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 yourself, by trying to please others at your own expense.
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. And do not be afraid to tell others when you need emotional and physical space. 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.
Trust and believe in yourself because 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. 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.
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
- Accepting advances, touching and sex that you don’t want
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.
It is never too late to work on establishing healthy personal boundaries. If you struggle in this area, we’re here to help! Give us a call to schedule an appointment and get started on putting healthy boundaries into place in your life!
“An intimate relationship is one in which neither party silences, sacrifices, or betrays the self and each party expresses strength and vulnerability, weakness and competence in a balanced way.” ~Harriet Lerner
~Monretta Vega, LPC