Setting Personal Boundaries – Self-Protection
"The purpose of having boundaries is to protect and take care of ourselves. We need to be able to tell other people when they are acting in ways that are not acceptable to us. A first step is starting to know that we have a right to protect and defend ourselves. That we have not only the right, but the duty to take responsibility for how we allow others to treat us."
Learning to set healthy personal boundaries is necessary for maintaining a positive self-concept, or self-image. It is our way of communicating to others that we have self-respect, self-worth, and will not allow others to define us.
Personal boundaries are the physical, emotional and mental limits we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated, used, or violated by others. They allow us to separate who we are, and what we think and feel, from the thoughts and feelings of others.
To set personal boundaries means to preserve your integrity, take responsibility for who you are, and to take control of your life.
Know that you have a right to personal boundaries:
You not only have the right, but you must take responsibility for how you allow others to treat you. Your boundaries act as filters permitting what is acceptable in your life and what is not. If you don't have boundaries that protect and define you, as in a strong sense of identity, you tend to derive your sense of worth from others. To avoid this situation, set clear and decisive limits so that others will respect them, then be willing to do whatever it takes to enforce them. Interestingly, it's been shown that those who have weak boundaries themselves tend to violate the boundaries of others.
Types of Boundaries
- Material boundaries determine whether you give or lend things, such as your money, car, clothes, books, food, or toothbrush.
- Physical boundaries pertain to your personal space, privacy, and body. Do you give a handshake or a hug – to whom and when? How do you feel about loud music, nudity, and locked doors?
- Mental boundaries apply to your thoughts, values, and opinions. Are you easily suggestible? Do you know what you believe, and can you hold onto your opinions? Can you listen with an open mind to someone else’s opinion without becoming rigid? If you become highly emotional, argumentative, or defensive, you may have weak emotional boundaries.
- Emotional boundaries distinguish separating your emotions and responsibility for them from someone else’s. It’s like an imaginary line or force field that separates you and others. Healthy boundaries prevent you from giving advice, blaming or accepting blame. They protect you from feeling guilty for someone else’s negative feelings or problems and taking others’ comments personally. High reactivity suggests weak emotional boundaries. Healthy emotional boundaries require clear internal boundaries – knowing your feelings and your responsibilities to yourself and others.
- Sexual boundaries protect your comfort level with sexual touch and activity – what, where, when, and with whom.
Barriers to Boundary Setting:
It seems obvious that no one would want his/her boundaries violated. So why do we allow it? Why do we NOT enforce or uphold our boundaries?
- FEAR of rejection and, ultimately, abandonment.
- FEAR of confrontation.
- We were not taught healthy boundaries.
- Safety Concerns
Healthy Boundaries Allow You To:
- Have high self-esteem and self-respect.
- Share personal information gradually, in a mutually sharing and trusting relationship.
- Protect physical and emotional space from intrusion.
- Have an equal partnership where responsibility and power are shared.
- Be assertive. Confidently and truthfully say “yes” or “no” and be okay when others say “no” to you.
- Separate your needs, thoughts, feelings, and desires from others. Recognize that your boundaries and needs are different from others.
- Empower yourself to make healthy choices and take responsibility for yourself.