What Healthy Personal Boundaries Are + Tips on How to Build Them

NO. Two letters, one syllable. The hardest word to say in the lexicon of man.

We make commitments to people all the time.  

“Yes, I’ll do it.”

“Of course I’ll be there!” 

“You can count on me.”

Commitments don’t come for free; we know that. We either promise our time, skills, or energy. 

Now, I have just one question—have you ever found yourself saying “yes” when you’d rather say NO?

If you have, you know how it is to feel overwhelmingly frustrated at yourself for not standing your ground.

A little backstory, I wasn’t always the I-can-stand-up-for-myself gal either. I’m a recovering people-pleaser. Not many people know this; even I had trouble admitting it to myself. I would constantly be adjusting my needs to meet other people’s needs. 

Little by little, we give ourselves away.

I’m not saying you should isolate yourself from the world; that isn’t an example of healthy boundaries either. We can give our time, skills, and energy should we choose to do so, but we should never do it at the expense of our well-being.

How can we be there for ourselves the same way we are for others?

Whenever we fail to assert our boundaries, they weaken. As a result, intruders come and go into our personal space as they please and as we allow them. This makes us angry, tired, disrespected, hurt, and disappointed. It is an ugly give-and-take where we do too much of the giving while others who surround us keep on taking and taking and taking.

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the strength of your personal boundaries?

Be honest.

If you’re not quite sure, here are [some] guide questions you can ask yourself: 

  1. Do you give away too much of your time?
  2. Do you find yourself agreeing even when you know you don’t?
  3. Do you feel guilty when you put yourself first?
  4. Do [some of] your relationships drain you?
  5. Do you help people because it genuinely makes you happy, or are you afraid you might lose them if you don’t do what they asked? 

At some point, we might have convinced ourselves that personal boundaries are overrated. 

“I like helping people. I like being there for them.”

And there’s nothing wrong with helping as long as it isn’t painful or taxing on our end. 

We don’t have to be consumed in the fire for others to stay warm.

Why Personal Boundaries Are a Thing

We set personal boundaries to communicate to others that we value and respect ourselves and that they should value and respect us. 

I believe how we treat ourselves is how we teach other people to treat us.

How we treat ourselves is how we teach other people to treat us.

But it’s not a guarantee. Some a******s will choose not to treat you right, and when that happens, you must know when to walk away. 

Personal boundaries come into play, yet again. 

How do we build them?

Here’s how I did it, and these tips might help you, too.

1. Define your boundaries. 

Be specific, but I wouldn’t suggest being too rigid. I found that defining my boundaries helped me get a clear view of what I will or won’t allow into my life. 

Try asking: What do I want to achieve? What aspects of my life or beliefs can’t I compromise?

2. Pay attention to how you feel.

Master your emotions, don’t let your emotions master you. Feelings aren’t facts, and they’re not always accurate. But they can reveal parts of us we may not have noticed before.

Try asking: How do I feel when I do or say this? What does that reveal about me?

3. Establish and respect your standards.

Determine a standard of care, love, and understanding that you would want to receive and give it to yourself. Award-winning author Frank Sonnenberg writes,

“At the end of the day, if you’re not proud of who you are and the way you choose to live your life, little else matters.” 

Who we’ll become and what we’ll achieve rides on how we choose to live every day, the choices we make, and the standards we follow. No matter how challenging, having God’s standards as a guide has helped me shape my own standards.

4. Get rid of anger. 

Personal boundaries are built from a foundation of love, gentleness, and discipline. They are not built on aggravation or self-loathing words. While discipline is needed to enforce your boundaries, patience is required for them to take root.

Instead of getting frustrated and saying, “I can’t believe I agreed to that favor when I still have a million things to do!” Sort out your feelings first and then reach out to that person. Let them know you’re busy and will not be able to give your full attention. Let yourself be heard.

5. Be self-aware.

It sounds like a piece of cake, but it isn’t. True self-awareness is rare, no kidding. Author, researcher, and psychologist Tasha Eurich and her team found that 95% of people think they’re self-aware, but only 10-15% actually are. Through Dr. Tasha’s book Insights, I have learned a lot about self-awareness. Dr. Tasha helps bridge the gap between people like you and me and the journey to self-awareness.

6. Don’t be afraid to start small. 

In the physical world, boundaries can be established using walls. We can think of building our personal boundaries the same way—brick by brick, layer by layer until they are firm and strong. 

Healthy personal boundaries are building blocks that make up much of who we are as a person, how we present ourselves to the world, and the healthy relationships we forge as a result. 

I hope this article has shed some light on what obscurity there was surrounding the subject of personal boundaries and why they are so important. 

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