When we can set clear personal boundaries we are assured of having mutually respectful, supportive and caring relationships. When we have good boundaries our self-esteem is intact and we are generally happier. Good boundaries help us set limits on acceptable behaviour from the people around us. Our boundaries show others whether they can put us down, make fun of us, or take advantage of our good nature.
If you feel resentful, uncomfortable or hurt by the way others treat you then it may be time to think about your personal boundaries and how you might be able to make them stronger. Weak boundaries are one of the reasons you may feel vulnerable and taken for granted, or even abused by others. Healthy boundaries foster self respect and will show others you deserve to be treated well…..because that’s how you treat yourself. They will protect you from relationships that are harmful and they will help you avoid people who don’t have your best interests at heart.
A personal boundary is a rule that you say cannot be broken without consequence.
Happy, mentally healthy people have all sorts of personal boundaries (rules) that help protect them from other people’s negative words and actions. Research shows that people with healthy boundaries have less anxiety, are happier, healthier and generally make better decisions. That’s a good reason to learn about them and to start setting them.
Some personal boundaries are:
If you call me names and abuse me then I will not stay in your company
- I will not sit and listen to someone gossiping about others
- I will respect others personal space and I will protect my own
- I will take responsibility for my belongings and if I lend them to you and you abuse them I will not lend them to you again
- I will not lend people money who clearly cannot look after their own
- I will say no when I feel it is appropriate
Our boundaries are a guide to our behaviour. So, that means that when someone begins to gossip we may say, “I’m going to be leaving now, I don’t talk about others behind their back”……this doesn’t stop the other person doing it if they want to, it just makes it clear that you won’t partake of this activity.
It’s important to remember that at no point is setting a personal boundary an attempt to change someone else’s behaviour, instead, we set boundaries to show what our responsibility is, what we will and won’t do, and to protect ourselves and our belongings.
When we set good boundaries, we feel stronger emotionally because we know we can rely on ourselves to stand up for what we believe in and that’s very important to our self respect and self-esteem.
If you don’t have good boundaries and don’t know how to set them it’s a good idea to get some help because it can be scary at first……we are taught that it’s not nice to say no and we feel guilty when we do. Also, other people, that have been taking advantage of us for a long time, will put up resistance to our boundaries and if we don’t have support it’s easy to cave in and give up.
So, get support, learn the skills and you will never look back.
Dr Henry Cloud & Dr John Townsend Boundaries: When to Say Yes, When to Say No, To Take Control of Your Life