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 that 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. Establishing personal boundaries is important for your mental and emotional well-being.
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.
Your boundaries represent your identity, limits, values, principles, and expectations that you have developed to protect yourself physically, mentally and emotionally. Healthy boundaries allow us to be our most authentic selves. It is a form of communication that establishes who we are, what we stand for, and what we will or won’t tolerate.
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 others’ actions and behaviors. Boundaries inform others about how much they can approach you or how they may treat you. It gives you a sense of control over your own volitional actions, emotions, body and physical space. In essence, boundaries communicate our limits.
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 and 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
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.
There 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.
However, these boundaries may be different for each of us as we all have unique childhood experiences, relationships, and personalities. Our boundaries may also change over time as we gain more experience in life, become mature and have changes in our perspectives.