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Discovering our Personal Boundaries in 5 steps

What are Boundaries?

We all have boundaries but often many of us aren't aware of them .

Here we are talking about personal boundaries, for example:

Our emotional boundaries;

Personal space;

Sexual boundaries;

Thought boundaries;

Possessions boundaries;

Time and energy boundaries and

Culture/religion boundaries.

In these and other areas we can have limits around what is acceptable to us. It's about what is important, what we value and our personal rights.

A boundary is a limit we place on the behaviour of both ourselves and other people. It is the way we communicate what is, and what isn't, acceptable or how others should and shouldn't treat us.

Why do we need personal boundaries?

Personal boundaries are essential for healthy relationships and our self care. They can give us a sense of control over ourselves, our physical space, our body, our feelings and how others treat and react to us. It is us taking charge of our lives and setting clear rules about ourselves and within our family. This helps with self esteem - in fact without self esteem our boundaries are weak. Its also help us with conserving our emotional energy and creating more independence.

So boundaries affect our self esteem and our identity. We need to be there for ourselves as we are the number one main person to support and care for ourselves. Our boundaries are here to help us and to help others know and be clear about us. Its how we make ourselves a priority.

Notice that boundaries can change. Our boundaries can be different for different people or groups of people or in different situations. Sometimes we are brave and break our boundaries - we become vulnerable. This can bring closer connection to someone. and can encourage them to open up too. Shared vulnerability brings people closer together.

How is it we have not yet developed our own boundaries?

Some people can't yet set boundaries. When we lack boundaries we feel scared. We may be someone who has never learned to separate the needs of others from their own needs. This means we prioritise other peoples perceptions of boundaries over anything else. This can happen when we don't yet care enough about ourselves to preserve our own sanity and space.

Defining our boundaries

This is about how we connect to others and communicate our boundaries to others, but with healthy rules. We can communicate self respect by imposing boundaries on others' behaviour. The behaviours we find disrespectful . The ones we find disrespectful towards us. So we are in effect teaching people how to respect us by showing them how we treat ourselves.

The first step is that we need to know them so we can set them up and communicate them.

What is important to us, what are our values, and what are our rights. This is a personal choice often influenced by our culture, our personality (eg introverted vs extroverted), our life experiences, our family dynamics.

Boundaries are a personal choice. I'll repeat that - we get to choose. Sometimes we aren't aware of them and we have had others decide them for us. Once we become aware we can begin to work out for ourselves what our own boundaries really are. We can discover ours :

1. Behaviour: Start to question ourselves so that we become aware. Become in touch with how we feel so that our gut feeling can tell us. To do this, watch for physical reactions - heart rate, stomach, muscle tightness, headache etc. Reflect on our own behaviour. We can also reflect back on past events and consider past feelings. This is all part of self care.

2. Values: We need to check our values (which we can do through this app on Google Play). Once we know and are aware of our top five core values we are in a better position to consider when these are challenged.

3. Rights: Remember our basic rights. For example the right to say no, the right to make mistakes, the right not to have others expectations placed on us, the right to respectful treatment with respect (we need to determine what this one means to us). Decide ours and choose to believe them and honour them. Then, and only then, can we convey them to others. So we need to make sure we can define them - name our limits.

4. Permission give ourselves permission. This means we feel no guilt when we say no. The aim is to keep repeating it until become comfortable with this. This takes practice so start small.

5. Become definite: be aware and assertive and direct. Once we know our boundaries we can be firm about them and not afraid to reinforce them. This can mean saying no. A hint - if you aren't saying 'no' then you may not have boundaries.

Remember - be aware too of others' boundaries - watch for their cues. Also we can ask people - this can clarify their boundaries. Respect them and we can also learn from them. We can just as as easily be direct and speak ours.

Boundaries within relationships

Within relationships we needs to communicate our boundaries. When sharing we try to be honest and we need to be respectful. It isn't good to assume or guess someone else's feelings and thoughts. This is easily done though as when someone is sharing with us we can immediately relate it to our own experiences and how we would feel. They protect relationships from becoming unsafe.


Follow through on what you say

Take responsibility for your actions

Know when its time to move on (showing respect for yourself)

Healthy boundaries in a relationship include:

Be and feel responsible for our own happiness

Have and accept that friendships exist outside our relationship

Ensure open and honest communication

Respect differences in our partner

Ask honestly what is wanted

Accept endings and move on

Unhealthy boundaries in a relationship include:

When we feel incomplete without our partner

When we rely on our partner for our own happiness

When we are playing games and manipulating

When we experience jealousy

When we feel unable to express what we want

When we are unable to let go.

When boundaries are crossed

People often cross our boundaries. When we aren't aware of our boundaries, this can happen very easily and we don't feel comfortable yet have trouble defining it.

Once we are aware of our boundaries it is easier for us to notice when they are crossed which puts us in a better position to do something about it . If they are crossed it can mean that that person has has different boundaries and/or that we haven't communicated ours well


Having clear personal boundaries is the precursor to conveying them to others. Then we can ensure that we are getting respectful treatment. We can establish our boundaries by reflecting on our behaviour, being aware of our values, giving ourselves permission to uphold our boundaries and be firm about them.

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