Our boundaries are built from a mixture of our thoughts, attitudes, experiences, opinions and beliefs. They define who we are as individuals and what we like or don’t like. They set the foundation of how you want to be treated and how you treat others; people learn what is acceptable behavior and what is not.

Boundaries ensure that relationships involve mutual respect and care. Despite this, not everyone understands boundaries. I’m sure you’ve experienced someone overstepping your boundary at one point or other in your life. It might be someone asking personal questions you don’t want to answer or someone standing too close to you leaving you with no personal space. The problem arises when we don’t know how to set and maintain our boundaries. This is a skill that not everyone manages to learn to do well. For this reason, here are 3 helpful tips to ensure you manage to set appropriate boundaries;

  1. Identify your limits in a relationship – What do you believe is acceptable behavior within your relationships? Imagine a friend of yours calls you to meet up tonight but you’re tired after a long day at work. You tell them this but they refuse to accept it as an answer. This person is then violating your boundaries. Thus, you need to make sure to be firm and stick to your boundaries. They won’t stop messaging you to meet? Then let them know that you’re not going to continue replying. Be assertive.
  2. Say NO – This is the most important way we can take care of ourselves. Yet, the one we find the most difficult to say. Being able to say ‘no’ will draw a clear line of what is allowed and what isn’t allowed for you. If someone crosses our boundary line, we need to make them aware of it to be able to take better care of ourselves.
  3. Allow yourself to set boundaries – Saying ‘no’ or being direct with others can lead to feelings of guilt, doubt, and fear. We feel guilty to say no and not help others. We might doubt whether we did the right choice to say no. We feel fear of the other person’s response to our assertiveness. People assume that they’re always supposed to say yes to people or things they don’t want to do. This then leaves them feeling drained and resentful for having to do something they didn’t want to do. Thus, allow yourself to set healthy boundaries and work on preserving them.

Boundaries will help us lead a healthier life with healthier relationships; they are essential for our self-care. We become confident on how we respond to others and to different situations. We even become better communicators with others; we know what we want or don’t want. Without boundaries, we tend to feel taken advantage of, we lose energy and feel underappreciated by others. Whether at work or in our personal life, unhealthy boundaries will lead to anger, hurt and a burnout. Thus, it’s important to keep these tips in mind when meeting new people or needing to change your boundaries with the current people close to you. Just remember that by being assertive, it doesn’t mean you’re being harsh but you’re being true to yourself and to your own needs.

Mandy is a Gestalt psychotherapist who enjoys working therapeutically with adults on various issues. These include general mental health and wellbeing. She also has experience working with anxiety, victims of domestic violence and eating disorders.

Hutchinson, D. (2021). Why are Personal Boundaries Important? Your Rights in a Relationship. Retrieved from https://www.drtracyhutchinson.com/what-are-personal-boundaries-and-why-are-they-important/#:~:text=Personal%20Boundaries%20are%20important%20because,able%20to%20behave%20around%20them.&text=Setting%20boundaries%20can%20ensure%20that,respectful%2C%20appropriate%2C%20and%20caring.

Kozlowski, T. (2019). Why Personal Boundaries are Important and How to Set Them. Retrieved from https://medium.com/@TerriMKozlowski/why-personal-boundaries-are-important-and-how-to-set-them-e0e9563f30b8

Soghomonian, I. (2019). Boundaries – Why are they important? Part 1 – The Resilience Centre. Retrieved from https://www.theresiliencecentre.com.au/boundaries-why-are-they-important/