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How to Have Healthy Personal Boundaries

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I recently called a woman I’m barely acquainted with to discuss a community event. She was angry and sharp the moment she picked up the phone! Over the course of the call, she screamed at me, called me names, made judgmental and critical comments about my actions and behavior, and personally insulted me. 

What the hell was that? And why?!

I’d only seen this woman in passing at local events, aside from a brief lunch more than a year prior. Why would she be so verbally abusive, and on such a personal level, to someone she barely knows? It all comes down to a lack of healthy boundaries. 

What are personal boundaries and why do we need them?

Something Brene Brown once said in an interview really struck me: 

“The most compassionate people are also the most boundaried.”

I found this idea very interesting. It spurred me to take a good look at how boundaries (or a lack thereof) affect our relationships and self-esteem. My major takeaway was this:

High self esteem = Good Boundaries = Compassionate

Hang on . . . I’m looking for my boundaries . . . I know they’re around here somewhere . . .

So what are boundaries, and why do all the hottest people have them? 

Also, why do we find people like my screaming neighbor so unattractive?

People with high self-esteem know what their boundaries are, and keep them firmly in place. The crazy people we encounter do not – they probably don’t even know how!

Personal Boundaries Definition Types

  • Physical – What are your personal space limits? Who is allowed to be close to you – and how close is okay? Do you like getting hugs, or prefer not to be touched?
  • Emotional – Do you take responsibility for your own emotions – instead of expecting others to work on eggshells to keep you happy? Can you own your feelings without taking on anyone else’s? Healthy boundaries prevent you from giving unsolicited advice, blaming others for how you feel, or accepting blame for why others do or feel what they do.
  • Mental – Are you able to express your thoughts, opinions, and values, and comfortably listen to those of others, accepting that you may not agree – and that’s okay?

What does all of this have to do with hot people, again?

Hot people are attractive because they have high self-esteem, which goes hand-in-hand with healthy boundaries. People with high self-esteem and healthy boundaries go through life feeling confident. And we all find confidence attractive!

How To Know If You Have A Problem With Personal Boundaries?

If you can’t answer all of the questions above with a confident “yes”, here are a few more signs that your boundaries need some work:

  • Are you often angry and resentful because you feel taken advantage of?
  • Do you tend to “blow up” when things get too stressful?
  • Do you often feel like your unhappiness was created by other people, and hold them responsible for fixing it?
  • Do you feel like “saving people” is a full-time job? 
  • Do you find yourself “falling” for people right away, much faster than you probably should?
  • Are your romantic relationships highly charged – either wonderful or disastrous, depending on the day?
  • Do you constantly feel the need to defend yourself?

If one or more of these look familiar, then your boundaries could probably use some maintenance.

People who lack healthy boundaries are often emotionally needy (therapists call this “codependent”). They have a poor sense of self and are desperate for others to give them love and validation. Ironically, these emotionally needy people often turn into abusers. Fed up and emotionally exhausted, they lash out in anger or lay on heavy guilt trips, blaming the very people they so desperately want love from for their own emotional distress. 

Don’t be that person!

How to set personal boundaries 

A good set of boundaries is critical for a balanced life and fulfilling relationships. Having solid, healthy personal limits is an important part of having good self-esteem.

Here’s a motivating fact: those with poor personal boundaries tend to violate the boundaries of others (often unintentionally). 

Practice setting limits for what you will and won’t accept. This will also help you become more mindful of other people’s boundaries. Any time you need a boundary check-up, run through this list of helpful guidelines:

Everyone has a right to their thoughts and feelings (including you!)
You don’t have to change how you feel in order to fit into anyone’s box. But you do need to accept that no one else is required to fit into yours!

Your needs and feelings are just as important as others’
You matter – just as much as every single other person. Putting yourself last isn’t good for anyone. You need to take care of yourself in order to be the best family member, friend, lover – and YOU – that you can be. 

You are responsible for how you allow people to treat you
“Putting up” with bad behavior is a waste of time and bad for your happiness and health. If someone crosses one of your boundaries, be calm, confident, and firm in expressing it.

Trust that Inner Voice
Believe in yourself and your feelings. If you get that uncomfortable feeling in the pit of your stomach, disengage from the situation until you can identify what’s really going on. Don’t let a situation that feels icky escalate. It’s okay to take a break to process and return to the conversation later.

Saying “No” is okay
Doing things you don’t want to isn’t noble self-sacrifice, it’s actually really unhealthy. Time to pull up your adult undies and clearly and calmly stand your ground – without feeling guilty!

Boundaries help you treat others – and yourself – with more love
So what happens if you end up ranting at someone, as my neighbor did? Here’s a good indicator:The person doing the screaming is usually the problem.

Obviously, there are exceptions in emergencies or other desperate situations. But if you find yourself going off on people, resenting them, or blaming them for your feelings, the first place to look is in the mirror. You and your boundaries are probably the problem.

To help you stay focused on how you’re doing on your personal boundary list, here’s a Printable Download  you can slap on your bathroom mirror or fridge for an easy reminder.

A good set of boundaries is critical to a life that works and relationships that are fulfilling. Saying no is a choice you have. Continuing to do things you don’t want to isn’t self sacrifice, it’s actually unhealthy and unfair to those around you. Time to pull up your adult undies and clearly and calmly stand your ground. Here are some tips to help you do a boundary check-up.

We all struggle with boundaries sometimes. But know that creating healthy boundaries is an act of self-love. And a healthy degree of self-love allows you to give more love to others.

Look at how I screwed up and didn’t love myself enough:

I could have told my abusive neighbor that I wasn’t willing to tolerate being screamed at and insulted. instead of trying to reason with her. Who tries to reason with a crazy person, anyway?

Now that I’ve learned that lesson, I can move on, knowing more about myself, and treating myself better than before.

Take a moment to reflect, and ask yourself: What have you learned about boundaries today?

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In An Unguarded Moment

Sunday 10th of July 2016

What a fabulous article, Kimberley. I learned about boundaries, and my problems with them via a very emotionally abusive relationship that ended around 10 years ago. I have much firmer boundaries now, and I feel so much better about who I am and my place in this world! Some pertinent reminders in there. Visiting from #Blog Share Learn Linky!!


Saturday 9th of July 2016

I totally agree Kimberley. We need to take control of our lives, learn to say 'No' without feeling guilty and be more discerning about what is good for us and our life. Sue from Sizzling Towards Sixty.


Friday 8th of July 2016

Very interesting read. I'd never given much thought to the idea of mental and emotional boundaries, but I agree that they are a very important part of being a "strong" person.


Thursday 7th of July 2016

Trusting our instincts and leaning to say no - sounds so easy but they are often so hard to do. I agree with you, Kimberly, we are responsible for how we allow others to treat us and for how we treat ourselves. Great tips for having healthy boundaries

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