I was thinking about personal boundaries and how much they weight in our formation  and well-being as individuals, so I’ll go straight to the subject and disclose to you what life and internet have taught me about them.

First of all, what are these personal boundaries?

Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits. They are built out of a mix of conclusions, beliefs, opinions, attitudes, past experiences and social learning.

In other words, they are an invisible barrier that separates you from the world around you. Boundaries define who you are, and they keep you safe and secure, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Having well-developed, appropriate boundaries ensures that you’re protected from behaviors and actions that are injurious, disrespectful, or invasive.  Healthy boundaries—well-established limits regarding what you expect and need from others and what you will and will not tolerate from others’— allow you to move forward on a fulfilling and satisfying path, both at work and at home.

There are 3 categories of personal boundaries: physical (personal space), mental (beliefs, opinions etc.) and emotional (feelings).

Physical boundaries include your body, sense of personal space, and sexual orientation. These boundaries are expressed through clothing, shelter, noise tolerance, verbal instruction and body language.

An example of physical boundary violation is a close talker. Your immediate and automatic reaction is to step back in order to reset your personal space. By doing this, you send a non-verbal message that when this person stands so close, you feel an invasion of your personal space. If the person continues to move closer, you might verbally protect your boundary by telling him/her to stop crowding you.

Other examples of physical boundary invasions are:
• Inappropriate touching, such as unwanted sexual advances.
• Looking through others’ email, phone, and journal.

This article will focus more on the emotional boundaries, on why they’re so important for us and how can we build them in order to improve our relationship with other persons, our self esteem and our health.

What happens when our emotional boundaries are weak or, worse, when they barely exist?

  • We’re easily overwhelmed emotionally because we don’t know where to draw the lines of emotional responsibility between self and other.
  • We’re socially anxious
  • We seek approval– we become unable to distinguish our own emotions (that we can control) from the emotions of others (that we cannot control), we seek to win over others by pleasing them or casting ourselves in a favorable light. Both the seeking approval and the socially anxious boundary issues are self-sabotaging behaviors that are derived from a rejection attachment. A rejection attachment gets triggered when we unwittingly seek out rejection from others.
  • Narcissism– If you are not clear where you end and others begin, then you may suffer from narcissism. Narcissists cannot sense their impact of their behaviors on other people because they do not understand that others’ emotions are real to them, as there is no boundary in place that distinguishes self from other.
    Without this understanding, they can’t imagine what other people may be experiencing and a fundamentally narcissistic point of view is the only one available to us.
  • Sharing too much too soon or, at the other end of the spectrum, closing ourselves off and not expressing our need and wants.
  • Feeling responsible for others’ happiness.
  • Weak sense of our own identity. We base how we feel about ourselves on how others treat us.
  • Disempowerment. We allow others to make decisions for us; consequently, we feel powerless and do not take responsibility for our own life.
Tips for Setting Healthy Boundaries

• When you identify the need to set a boundary, do it clearly, calmly, firmly, respectfully, and in as few words as possible. Do not justify, get angry, or apologize for the boundary you are setting.

• You are not responsible for the other person’s reaction to the boundary you are setting. You are only responsible for clearly and respectfully communicating your boundary. If it upsets the other person, be confident knowing it is not your problem. Some people, especially those accustomed to controlling, abusing, or manipulating you, might test you. Plan on it, expect it, but remain firm. Remember, your behavior must match the boundaries you are setting. You cannot successfully establish a clear boundary if you send mixed messages by apologizing.

• At first, you will probably feel selfish, guilty, or embarrassed when you set a boundary. Do it anyway and tell yourself you have a right to protect yourself. Setting boundaries takes practice and determination. Don’t let anxiety or low self-esteem prevent you from taking care of yourself.

• When you feel anger or resentment or find yourself whining or complaining, you probably need to set a boundary. Listen to yourself, determine what you need to do or say, then communicate assertively.

• Learning to set healthy boundaries takes time. It is a process. Set them in your own time frame, not when someone else tells you.

• Develop a support system of people who respect your right to set boundaries. Eliminate toxic people from your life—those who want to manipulate, abuse, and control you.

Emotional boundaries help us have healthy relationships, a better self-esteem and also prevent us from putting ourselves in situations we don’t want to be in. Having the strength to react to toxic behavior and let go of the situations, the things, the habits or the people who are not able to bring out the best in us, is a sign of having healthy and strong emotional boundaries. Setting healthy emotional boundaries is not an overnight process, but the great part is that you can begin to be at least aware of their existence (or nonexistence) at any moment.

The information specified in this article has been collected from various sources.

A.H.

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