“That woman can speak in eighteen languages and can’t say no in any of them”. – Dorothy Parker

In Wikipedia you may find a very clear definition of Personal boundaries – they are “guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify for themselves what are reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave around him or her and how they will respond when someone steps outside those limits. They are built out of a mix of beliefs, opinions, attitudes, past experiences and social learning.”

It is also very important for you to understand whether you have problems with setting the boundaries so look at the list below and if you find some of the things in the way how you behave sometimes it may mean that your personal boundaries require enhancement:

You say no when you mean yes
You say yes when you mean no
When you dare to say no, you feel guilty
You don’t speak up when you have something to say
You usually interrupt your work/activity to help others even if they don’t ask
You feel you give too much and it doesn’t come back to you
You pretend nothing happened when someone mistreated you
You don’t react when people say things to you or in front of you that make you uncomfortable
You violate your values in order to please others
You feel you have not communicated your emotional needs in your closest relationships
You accept physical touch or sex when you don’t want it.

Personal boundaries operate in two directions, affecting both the incoming and outgoing interactions between people. This means you have them to protect yourself against not being respected by others, and you create them to maintain your respect to other people.

Without healthy boundaries or with very weak boundaries, you simply cannot have healthy relationships. If your personal boundaries are weak this probably mean that you lack self-esteem and self-respect. So you believe that through your accommodating other people needs’ behavior you will win the esteem, the respect, the love of others. But the other people very soon begin to take advantage of your giving nature, sometimes even unconsciously and unintentionally. You simply teach them to take advantage of you because you so easily put other people’s needs first and this way you allow yourself to be used. Because of that you may also invite controlling, disrespectful, or needy people into your life.

That’s why setting healthy boundaries is very important. How do you begin to establish them? In fact technically you just need two steps to do this:

Step 1 – Identifying them.

This step is crucial and not so easy as it seems. You may find it difficult if you are not used to thinking about your life from the perspective of what you need – and this is all about what your needs are, it is not about the other people. This is all about YOU! Get used to that. If you don’t know where to start, think about the times when you feel compromised, resentful or uncomfortable at work or home – this will be a good sign of where your boundaries may have been crossed. Make a list of people’s behaviors that you will no longer tolerate – whether it will be done to you or around you. Define your values, and what you want from life. Create a clear picture of it in all possible aspects. How do you want your intimate relationship to be? What do you want your job to look like? What else is important here?

Step 2 – Communicating them

This is the time when you can prove you treat yourself seriously. You identified your boundaries so you need now to sit down with the people involved in crossing them and kindly communicate how life is going to change now and what you expect from them in this matter. This may be your boss, your co-worker, your partner, maybe your child? Let them know you have spent some time thinking about what is important and acceptable to you and what isn’t. The way how others will see you since the moment will change and they may not like it but as a person who respects others you owe them the explanation so they could understand and get used to this NEW YOU.

So as you see, technically it is not a complex process but of course easier said than done! According to Anne Katherine, the author of “Boundaries: Where You End and I Begin”, at first, you will probably feel selfish, guilty, or embarrassed when you set a boundary. Do it anyway, and tell yourself you have a right to take care of yourself.

The truth is that you can’t set a boundary and take care of someone else’s feelings at the same time. You are not responsible for the other person’s reaction to your decision on what is acceptable for you and what isn’t. You are only responsible for communicating the boundary in a respectful manner. If others get upset with you, that is their problem. Do you really need “friends” who disrespect your personal values?

Setting boundaries takes practice and determination. It is a process. Also remember that your boundaries should be healthy and that the fact that you should stick to them doesn’t mean they should be rigid. Over time you will feel more and more self-confident and trustful in this process.

And first of all, don’t let your fears prevent you from taking care of yourself. Do it step by step. Set your boundaries when you are ready. The more you will practice holding to them, the more love, respect, and true support you will get from others. Finally it will allow your true self to emerge – and this will only be a beginning of an even more exciting adventure!

If you are interested in details about how you can thrive in your career and life, please contact me on: monika@monikaschwertner.com

All the best for you!

And what’s your experience in this matter? Share your insights with us below.