Recognizing the value of healthy boundaries in all of your relationships is so important for a peaceful life. Knowing what you want in a relationship, and ensuring it is safe and comfortable is essential.
Every relationship requires boundaries. You may be asking yourself, exactly what are boundaries? Personal boundaries are the limits on you set about how others are allowed to behave in your presence and interact with you.
Certainly, your boundaries have been violated at some point in your life. Maybe a friend or partner used language that was unacceptable to you. Perhaps someone invaded your privacy by asking you a personal question you considered inappropriate at the time. Maybe someone just got too close and invaded your personal space. Whatever your boundaries, they are yours, and you have every right to set them.
What are your personal boundaries? Do you know what they are? How do you show others where you draw the line? Once you clearly set your boundaries, and people understand where the line is drawn, those boundaries will benefit not only you, but also those around you.
Consider these areas in determining your personal boundaries:
Physical boundaries include space. There are certain people whom you feel comfortable standing much closer to than others. Your partner can stand closer to you than a friend, and a friend closer than a coworker. Maybe a coworker can stand closer than a stranger.
There are certain people you allow to touch you, and others you do not. Some people can touch in some places, and others not so much. There are more people you’ll bump elbows with, or shake hands with than you’ll allow to hug you or touch your face or another part of your body.
Watch two young friends or siblings playing around and you may see them poking, lightly punching or even grabbing at each other. You may even have a friend or two where that is accepted in some situations. However, it is probably not acceptable with people you don’t know well or in a work situation.
What are you willing to share with a particular person? Financial information? Health issues? Family issues? Your hopes and fears? There’s information that you’re willing to share with some people and not with others.
There are also topics you don’t want to hear about from certain people. For example, you probably don’t want to hear about your mom’s sexual escapades or your boss’s hemorrhoids.
Do you expect your privacy to be respected? If so, be sure to set the example by respecting the privacy of others.
Some settings require a quiet, professional language, and others can be more casual. You need to define what is acceptable to you – especially when it comes to the casual settings. How do you allow others to speak to you and around you? Do you allow disrespect of any kind? Would you allow someone to yell at you? These are all important considerations you should work out ahead of time.
Is timeliness important to you? Do you respect other peoples’ time or are you habitually late for appointments and meetings. Being on time is a way of showing respect for one another. If you are going to be late, or know you won’t be able to make it at a certain time, be considerate and let the person know in advance. Set the bar and set the same expectation for others.
Borrowing and sharing.
How do you feel about loaning items to friends and neighbors? Would you loan someone your lawnmower? Allow them to eat french fries off your plate? Loan them money? These are three distinctly different examples, but all important in their own ways.
For example, don’t borrow something and fail to return it in at least as good of condition as when you borrowed it. You wouldn’t appreciate it if someone borrowed something of yours and then returned it dirty, damaged, or even worse – didn’t return it at all.
Make your boundaries clear to others.
So here is the tough part. Now that you know what your boundaries are, you need to communicate them. Be respectful yet firm, and let people know what you accept and what you don’t.
Be patient with people as you are starting the process. Realize that it’s not fair to expect anyone to read your mind. At the same time, common sense is important – you shouldn’t have to tell anyone that punching you in the face is off limits.
You can state many of your boundaries up front. But some of your boundaries with a specific person won’t be identified until they’re crossed. Be as understanding as you can. It will take time for the other person to discover all of your boundaries, and for you to discover theirs as well.
Be assertive when your boundaries are crossed. It’s okay to stop the action in its tracks. Be careful not to overreact. When someone crosses one of your boundaries, just calmly and clearly as possible explain what you expect from them in that situation. Once again, common sense comes into play here. Don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation just so you can explain. If you feel threatened in any way, get yourself out of the situation as quickly as possible and then explain later if the opportunity is right.
Be willing to say, “no.” Let others know when you don’t have the interest or time to do something. If you don’t feel like giving a reason, that’s alright, too. It’s okay to decline offers. People respect someone who is willing to say “no” once in a while.
Avoid feeling guilty. It’s rare that someone’s boundaries are too strict or are unreasonable. The opposite is usually true. There’s no reason to feel guilty about having whatever boundaries you choose to have. Others will adapt if they are meant to be in your life. Those that choose not to adapt are probably people you are better to have out of your life anyway.
Remember that boundaries go both ways. Be honest about what you need from others. Expect others to let you know the boundaries that have in their lives as well. If they are too insecure to share, or afraid of being vulnerable, let them know it’s okay to have boundaries, and you respect them enough to ask what they are.
All relationships have boundaries, but all relationships and boundaries are unique. While some of your boundaries may apply to all relationships, other boundaries will apply on a case by case basis.
Your relationships fulfill a purpose in your life, which in turn helps you fulfill your purpose in the world. The cost of relationships without boundaries is too great if it means sacrificing the purpose for which you were created to be.
Find your purpose – find your joy!
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Did you find a few more ideas of your own? If so, I’d love to hear about them in the comments, and as always please reach out with your thoughts.
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