Personal boundaries prevent other people from treating you in a way that conflicts with your core values or feelings.
They are guidelines that inform other people of what behaviour is and isn’t acceptable to you.
Additionally, personal boundaries tell people how to interact with you and how you will react if they do not operate within your guidelines.
What happens when you don’t have personal boundaries?
Without personal boundaries, life can be frustrating, overwhelming and often painful.
People disrespect you, abuse your kindness and demand your time and energy, on their terms.
When you lack personal boundaries, some people think it’s acceptable to criticise, offer unsolicited advice or pass judgement on your life choices.
As a result, it’s likely that you’ll doubt yourself and your decisions.
You’ll limit yourself and shrink whenever you’re around certain people.
It will be difficult to operate authentically and in alignment with your own values and beliefs.
And, as a result, achieving your personal goals will be a challenge.
Setting personal boundaries is the same as putting up a “No Trespassers” sign on a property.
You make it clear to others that your life is your own to do with as you please.
It also sends a distinct message that you do not allow people to take advantage of you, demand your time or energy or dictate your choices.
What happens when you enforce your personal boundaries?
It can be challenging when you start to enforce your personal boundaries.
Especially with people close to you and those people from who the boundaries are set up to “protect” you.
These people expect you to respond to them in a particular way.
If it’s a friend that always comes to you to borrow money and suddenly you are no longer willing to do so, they may not take it too well.
If it’s a family member that is used to you answering their every call and suddenly you don’t, they may not be happy about it.
If your manager is accustomed to you working late without pay or time in lieu and suddenly you’re leaving at 5 saying “That’ll have to wait until tomorrow“, they may not respond positively.
People do not like change, especially when it is not for their benefit.
When you enforce personal boundaries, people can become extremely creative in an attempt to make things return to the way they were.
They will try to make you feel guilty and may resort to name-calling.
They may even turn on the “waterworks”.
For a while, you’ll need to keep reinforcing your personal boundaries and challenge people when they attempt to violate them.
You have to remain consistent and true to your own needs even when it feels difficult to do so.
Keep in mind that you are doing this for your own peace of mind and overall well-being.
Eventually, most people will adjust.
However, some may not and there’s a possibility that you may lose a friend or two.
So, you will need to work out if someone’s behaviour upsets you enough to risk losing the relationship.
How do you set personal boundaries?
There are also positive outcomes of setting and enforcing personal boundaries.
You are able to be yourself and your confidence to live authentically and on your terms will strengthen gradually.
You become less concerned with the opinions of others and you trust yourself and your choices more and more.
Also, those relationships that adjust to respect your personal boundaries become healthier.
To set your personal boundaries, you must get clear about what you absolutely will not tolerate, accept or put up with.
This will, of course, vary from person to person.
What really frustrates and annoys you?
What makes you feel used, disrespected and undervalued?
What hurts your feelings?
What makes you feel uneasy or uncomfortable?
Answering these questions will help you to identify what you will and will not accept from others.
Your answers will also highlight the people and relationships in your life where you need to strengthen your personal boundaries.
It is also important to note that you may be one of the people violating your own personal boundaries.
Remember, you teach people how to treat you.
So, if you are not respecting your own personal boundaries, how can you expect other people to?
Setting and maintaining personal boundaries is an act of self-care.
It is not always easy at the start but over time it can reduce frustration and resentment and build stronger more respectful relationships.
Eventually, you’ll have more time, energy (and money if that’s an area of your life that lacks boundaries) to invest in things that you are passionate about and that really matter to you.
Journal prompt: Where in my life do I lack personal boundaries?
Affirmation: I set firm boundaries with others.