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The Power of Personal Boundaries

The Power of Personal Boundaries By Cathy Bracken

Personal boundaries are the physical and emotional guidelines and rules that we establish to create space and limits for us to feel physically and emotionally safe and in control when interacting with others. Personal boundaries are a separation protocol that defines all permissible behaviors, that of ourselves toward others, and their behaviors towards us.

Personal Boundaries ultimately promote mutual acceptance and respect in every interaction and relationship. It’s a reflection of one’s self-esteem, and a function of self-love. The limits that boundaries create protect us from the intrusions of others that seek to consciously and unconsciously violate, manipulate, use, or control us for their benefit.

Although those adjectives sound nefarious, boundary violators don't always mean to be harmful. Many are just accustomed to getting their needs met at the expense of others and ironically often with permission. Boundaries allow us to prioritize what we think and feel above the opinions, thoughts and even feelings of others.

Our boundaries spell out in advance what we consider acceptable and unacceptable behavior towards us. They ultimately promote mutual acceptance and respect in every interaction and relationship. When healthy boundaries are effective, we feel progressively confident in their ability to protect us. This will mean learning to say no and no thank you to various people places and behaviors that don't serve us without feeling bad or guilty.

Most people fail to create effective working boundaries because they are unaware that they need to and they haven't been taught how to. It's a concept and skill that parents and early childhood caregivers should teach children. Without boundary lessons, children can fail to develop healthy confidence and self-esteem. Learning the concept of healthy boundaries teaches a person to consciously protect themselves from many forms of emotional and physical abuse. Although boundaries should be taught as a child, it’s never too late to learn how to create and enforce them.

How to Tell If You Have Poor or Weak Personal Boundaries

A sign that a person struggles with creating personal boundaries is their inability and or unwillingness to protect themselves for fear of rejection, insecurities, guilt, or shame.

Do you suffer from feelings of manipulation, exploitation (feeling used), coercion? Do you often say yes to things you really don't want to say no to? Do people push back, ignore and/or disrespect your feelings if you disagree with them? Do you feel that certain people just expect you to do what they need you to do because of how they define your relationship? In all of these cases personal boundaries need to be established.

Expect Some Push-back

Once you create and start to enforce your personal boundaries expect some serious push-back from others. Often, your new boundaries will be interpreted to others as an extreme reaction to what was previously permitted behavior. Expect offenders to be shocked and irritated at your new-found perspective. How dare you stand up for yourself! How dare you insist that your space time and feelings be considered! Regardless of any resistance, stand strong and committed to your wants and feelings.

It's okay that you refuse to violate your comfort and space anymore to meet their needs. Allow them to get as upset as they want. You are not responsible for the bad behavior of others. Just focus on enforcing your boundaries and mastering the art of saying no thank you. Don’t apologize for protecting yourself. Remain firm in your position and refrain from getting upset. When you show a resolve to enforce your personal boundaries, others will begin to respect the boundaries or risk losing your engagement. You must be willing to stand your ground, even if it means ending some relationships.

The Consequences of Boundary Violation

With the establishment of boundaries, there must be consequences for violating them. The best consequence is the immediate removal, disengagement, or withdrawal from all interactions. You must insist that your boundaries be respected, or you will limit or cease all contact whenever possible.

Choose Boundaries That Work for You

Create working personal boundaries around your time, property, and relationships. A working boundary protects us in several ways while allowing us the ability to feel comfortable, safe, happy, and empowered. I use the term “working” because these are boundaries that really work for us. These are the boundaries we consciously enforce until they become great habits.

How to Identify A Poor or Rigid Boundary

Poor or weak boundaries are boundaries that we don't stick to. We mentally assent to them, but we do not commit to them. When we don't have working boundaries, people and situations can make us feel uncomfortable, unsafe, resentful, angry, burdened and even exhausted. Essentially, it’s like we have no boundaries at all. The only difference is that we are conscious of the need for them, but lack the self-love, self-esteem, courage or confidence to put them to work.

Rigid boundaries are limits we impose on ourselves that negatively affect us. They cause undue isolation. We feel closed off to interactions and they cause us to feel uncomfortable and resentful.

Three (3) Things to Remember When Creating and Establishing Personal Boundaries

1. Your boundaries are not created to harm others. They are created to protect you.

2. You set boundaries that promote a sense of self control, self-respect, and self-acceptance. Saying no to others means that you get to say yes to yourself, your time, your space, and your desires.

3. There's no one-size-fits-all. Everybody needs to create boundaries that are best for them. Customize them but be certain to consider your beliefs, your opinions, and your past experiences.

Be prepared to strengthen and reinforce some boundaries while loosening others when necessary to maintain your confidence. The sweet spot in setting personal boundaries is creating rules and limits that make a us feel comfortable, supported, in control of our bodies and personal space without being fearful, shut off or emotionally shut down.

*A definition provided by​.

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