What Are Personal Boundaries?
Boundaries are the mental, emotional, and physical limits to how others can treat you, behave around you, and what they can expect from you. Not only do boundaries defend us from being violated by others, they help us to clearly distinguish who we are and what we need from other people and their needs.
Boundaries are vital for our healthy self-respect and self-worth. Enforcing healthy boundaries allows us to clearly voice our truth and communicate our needs. It gives use the space we need to show up as your very best.
However, lacking boundaries can result in feeling worthless and low self-esteem. Without healthy boundaries, you will constantly be at the mercy of another person, allowing others to dictate how to think, act, and feel. You’ll find yourself spending all your time and energy doing what others want you to do, instead of making your own choices and completing what’s important to you. The result? Feeling unfulfilled, frustrated, lost, and taken advantage of.
How Do You Know You Lack Boundaries?
- You don’t speak up even when you’re treated badly
- You give away too much of your time and energy
- You feel underappreciated and taken for granted
- You say “yes” when you really want to say “no”
- You agree with others even when you don’t
- You feel guilty for doing something for yourself
- You constantly make sacrifices for others at your own expense
- You repeatedly find yourself in toxic relationships
- You believe you must always put others before you to earn a place in this life
- You over-share details about your life, even with strangers
- You feel responsible for making others happy and feel guilt when they’re not
- You melt into others and become like them so they will accept you
- You don’t even know what YOU want or need anymore
- You attract people who try to boss you around
- You allow others to touch you even when you feel uncomfortable
- You are passive aggressive
- You always feel like the victim
- You have a hard time making decisions
Don’t feel bad. I would’ve been able to check off all 18 items in the past.
Why We Suffer From Weak Boundaries
I’m often asked why some people seem to naturally possess strong boundaries, while others are just realizing later in life that they don’t have boundaries at all? This is because as children, our social learning came from modeling behavior, so if we didn’t have strong role models early on in our life whose behavior we can imitate, we were left in the dark.
Stop and think back. As a child…
- were you only rewarded when you sacrificed your needs and desires for someone else’s?
- were you punished (by scolding, guilt-tripping, or disapproval) for saying “no”, speaking up, or having your own preferences?
- were you obligated to emotionally support your parents and walk on eggshells?
These expectations likely conditioned you to believe that giving in to others and putting others before you = what a good boy/girl you are.
Benefits of Establishing & Defending Strong Boundaries
- You’ll be able to say “no” without guilt
- You’ll have more mental, emotional, and physical energy
- You’ll feel an increased sense of control of your life
- You’ll be able to speak up with conviction
- You’ll feel more appreciated and valued
- You’ll be able to take time for self-care without guilt
- Your self-esteem and self-worth with increase
- You’ll experience emotional and mental balance and fulfillment
- You’ll attract mentally/emotionally healthy & supportive people
- You’ll become compassionate of your own needs
- You’ll gain inner-strength and acceptance, and take back your freedom to be yourself
How to Create Healthy Boundaries
Many of us KNOW what we will or won’t allow to be done to us – and yet find ourselves in damaging situations such as narcissistic relationships. This is because there’s a difference between knowing our boundaries versus setting and enforcing them.
It’s easy to say, “I’m not going to let anyone treat me like trash” without realizing we’ve been making excuses for why we allow an intimate partner or parent to behave horribly.
In order for boundaries to actually do what they’re meant to do, you must clearly define your rules and consistently enforce them. And if you’re not accustomed to defending your boundaries, you will have to consciously and intentionally practice this at first, as it’s a skill that needs to be learned.
Creating boundaries is about how YOU value yourself – not based on what other people expect, think or feel about you. Here are some tips to help you get started.
1. You Have the Right to Have Boundaries
Surprisingly, many adults are not aware that it is a fundamental right of all human beings to have personal boundaries. You don’t have to “earn” it or receive permission. Having boundaries is part of being a normal, healthy person. Also, healthy boundaries contributes not only to your personal well-being, but for the well-being of anyone who comes into contact with you. This makes establishing boundaries an important responsibility.
2. Your Thoughts, Feelings, and Needs Are Just as Important as Anyone Else’s
No one’s thoughts, feelings or needs are above that of anyone else. The truth is, your needs are equally important as the needs of the most socially celebrated people in the country. Don’t let social status fool you – it’s simply an illusion. And in order to step fully into your life and value, you must learn to see yourself as equal to others and honor your authentic self.
3. Examine Your Own Needs
When you’re busy catering to everyone else’s demands, you lose touch with who YOU are and what YOU need. Take this opportunity to begin learning more about yourself by keeping a daily journal to record your thoughts, feelings, and needs. Practice mindfulness to discover the boundaries you need to set throughout your daily interactions.
4. Learn to Say “No” Without Guilt
Saying “No” is key in learning to honor your needs. Many people find it difficult to say “No” at first, but there’s really no reason to feel bad about declining a request or invitation if it negatively affects your well-being. Of course, you don’t have to be obnoxious about delivering a “No” but say it with confidence. People with strong boundaries will be able to respectfully honor and accept yours.
5. Recognize When People Cross the Line
If you lack or have weak boundaries, it will take practice to identify when your boundaries have been overstepped. Take time to review moments when you felt uncomfortable or disrespected by someone during the day. Tune into your body and notice when you feel tense or flustered. This will help develop and increase your self-awareness.
6. Stop Over-Committing
You are not obliged to please others at your own expense. Committing too much to other people creates stress and burnout. When you’re burnt out, you will be unable to show up as your best for what’s most important to you. So make certain to put on your own oxygen mask first.
7. End Toxic Relationships
With strong personal boundaries comes the need for strength and conviction. You’ll find that fake friends and relationships will self-destruct and fizzle away, and at first, this might leave you feeling guilty or like you’ve failed. Stay strong because you are worth it. Allow your boundaries to filter out those who are contaminating your space, and fill those spaces with new friendships that are supportive and uplifting.
Remember, enforcing your boundaries will feel uncomfortable at first. You’ll feel like you’re being mean and unforgiving. But don’t forget that while it’s important to be kind to others, you should never neglect being kind and respectful to yourself.