One of the best ways of enjoying a healthy relationship with other people is by defining your personal boundaries. Having boundaries will safeguard you from being violated or manipulated. Here are some of the areas where boundaries apply:
- Physical boundaries – These involve your body, privacy or personal space. For instance, you might want to decide who you will give a hug or a handshake.
- Material boundaries – This applies to your material possessions such as books, clothes, cars, and money.
- Mental boundaries – This applies to your opinions, values, and thoughts. Such boundaries protect you from being influenced by other people’s opinions.
- Emotional boundaries – Such boundaries protect you from reacting to other people’s behaviors or accepting blame for other people’s problems.
- Sexual boundaries – These boundaries protect you in relation to sexual activity and touch.
Having such boundaries communicates that you are a unique individual with distinct preferences, needs, and emotions. In addition, personal boundaries allow you to take control of your life and preserve your integrity.
Here are some guidelines for creating and maintaining healthy personal boundaries:
1. Realize that you have rights
Many people don’t set boundaries because they don’t believe they have rights. Others don’t think that their feelings and needs are very important. As a result, they allow other people to mistreat and manipulate them. Therefore, the first step to creating boundaries is to realize that you have a right to be addressed with respect and courtesy, to say ‘no’, to have your own privacy, to ask for help, to cancel commitments or change your mind, and to have your own opinion on issues. Take responsibility for how you allow others to treat you.
2. Define what is unacceptable
Before you define the behaviors and actions which are unacceptable, you need to know yourself first. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What are your wants, needs, and values? This self-awareness will help you decide what kind of boundaries to create for yourself. For instance, if you are not comfortable listening to some kind of music, you should have boundaries which will prevent anyone from playing such music in your home or car.
3. Be assertive
Creating a boundary is not enough; it needs to be enforced. Let people know when they have disrespected you, acted inappropriately, or crossed the line. Be courageous enough to tell others when you need physical or emotional space. If you don’t speak up, they are likely to repeat the same behavior in future. Stick to your principles and don’t give in to pressure from others. If your wishes are not respected, decide what further action you need to take. For instance, you could report a troublesome colleague to your supervisor.
4. Seek support
At times, maintaining personal boundaries is can be a very frustrating task. If you are facing difficulties with boundaries, it would be advisable to seek some support. This could be from close friends, family members, counselors, coaches, pastors or support groups. Such people can offer valuable advice, as well as hold you accountable in maintaining your boundaries.
See also: How to Keep Your Boundaries at Work
Setting personal boundaries takes courage and practice. You could consider starting with a small, non-threatening boundary. When you succeed in this, you will have the confidence to create more challenging boundaries.