Personal boundaries are like an invisible “no trespassing” sign that helps to create your personal, emotional and mental space. Healthy boundaries are crucial for our safety, health and wellbeing.
What is a personal boundary?
A boundary is a personal and practical limit which defines you and protects you. It also determines how much you allow others to enter your life and how much you expand your sense of self when it comes to relationships. “Setting boundaries is an important part of establishing one’s identity and is a crucial aspect of mental health and well-being.” explains psychologist Joaquín Selva, Bc.S.
Every relationship needs some personal space that allows you to be yourself and protect your integrity. However, often certain people can invade our personal space and push us to our limits. These people believe that they are entitled to do so and their needs are far more important than ours. “Boundaries are your values, expectations, principles, or limits that you establish to keep yourself feeling safe physically, emotionally, and mentally. Setting healthy boundaries is permitting yourself to be you. It communicates to everyone what you stand for, what you are willing to do, and what you will never do,” writes leadership expert Luay Rahil.
Healthy boundaries help us to define our personal beliefs, values, and limits. It is an invincible border where others are not allowed to enter without our permission. This border protects our mental and emotional well-being and ensures that we are not personally affected by other’s actions and behaviors. Boundaries inform others about how much they can approach you or how they may treat you. “Boundaries give a sense of agency over one’s physical space, body, and feelings. We all have limits, and boundaries communicate that line,” licensed marriage and family therapist Jenn Kennedy.
Setting healthy boundaries
“Healthy boundaries are a crucial component of self-care,” adds Joaquín Selva, Bc.S. Respecting the boundaries of others and setting boundaries for yourself is very important for healthy relationships and stable mental & emotional wellbeing. However, it can often be easier said than done. Whether you want to be more assertive at work or establish healthy boundaries with your spouse or family members, you must set healthy rules and communicate your boundaries to navigate through relationships.
In life, we can choose to set boundaries for the following:
- Our personal space
- Our thoughts
- Our emotions
- Our sexuality
- Our material possessions
- Our time, effort and energy
- Our ethical, cultural, political and religious beliefs
Read also: Setting Healthy Boundaries Keep You Safe
Before you set your personal boundaries, you need to determine exactly what you want to protect the most and set your priorities. Although you should set healthy boundaries for every aspect of your life, prioritizing them will help you determine where you want to be strict and where you can be flexible.
The are 3 major kinds of personal boundaries:
1. Mental Boundaries
These include your knowledge, wisdom, thoughts, principles and values. These are usually difficult to explain or clarify to others as they are intangible.
2. Emotional Boundaries
These include your emotions, feelings, sentiments, reactions, responses and spirit. These are also intangible and need to be felt instead of being defined.
3. Physical Boundaries
These include your physical body and how much others are permitted to physically contact you through handshake, touch, caress, hugs, kisses etc. These are the rules that establish your personal space.
When you are setting boundaries, you need to understand that they are often greatly influenced by our family, culture, background, environment, region, personality, family dynamics and life experiences. There are a lot of factors at play here and you need to consider and honor all of them if you wish to set healthy personal boundaries. Jenn Kennedy says “We have all come from unique families of origin. We each make different meanings of situations. And we may change our own boundaries over the years as we mature and our perspective shifts.”