Updated: Oct 21, 2021
TLDR: A healthy personal boundary leads to more fulfilling relationships, better stability and control over our own lives and an improved self-confidence. The six types of boundaries are: physical, emotional, time, intellectual, sexual and material and it is important for you to define and what you are comfortable with. It is equally important to lay down these boundaries with your family, friends and colleagues in a respectful manner to take care of your mental well-being.
“It is necessary, and even vital, to set standards for your life and the people you allow in it”
- Mandy Hale
Ever felt guilty for saying ‘no’? Ever feel like you can’t seem to defend or protect yourself?
We might not realize it, but these are signs that we lack a healthy personal boundary. Let us explore what this means:
What are Personal Boundaries
Personal boundaries are guidelines, limits and rules we set for ourselves within relationships by outlining likes and dislikes, and setting the distances one allows others to approach.
In hierarchical and collective environments - where the group is given priority over the individual - we are sometimes given minimal space to develop opinions of our own and to stand up for what we believe in. It’s tough when others are constantly invading our comfort zones, telling us what we should do or how we should feel. It may not be easy to voice out how we feel at first, but it is absolutely important to draw lines, build healthy personal boundaries and care for our mental well-being.
We have to remind ourselves that it is OK - and perfectly healthy - to have such boundaries.
Here are more examples of what having healthy boundaries could sound like:
“I prefer handshakes over hugs”
"I am experiencing a tough season in my life right now. Are you in the right space to listen and journey with me?”
"I would love to volunteer, however, I would be overcommitting myself. Can I join the next session?"
“I would like to talk about this more, but I don't think talking about it during a birthday celebration is the best time."
Redefining Personal Boundaries
Developing a healthy personal boundary requires a lot of self-reflection - we need to reflect on our experiences and decide for ourselves our likes, dislikes, what we are comfortable or uncomfortable with. As we grow older, we also acquire new commitments that would reshape our boundaries. As such, it is normal to have to retract, reflect, and redefine what we want for ourselves.
For example, as we start working and have 9am-5pm commitments, we might prefer having the week nights to ourselves, to relax and recuperate. We might experience a shift from what we used to prefer - midnight movies or late-night hangouts. In fact, our peers might point out that we have been too “boring” or that we have changed. However, we are simply going through a huge transition in life and need time readjusting our personal boundaries and resetting what we are comfortable with, what we can commit to and what we enjoy. There should be no shame in having to take time to cope with new environments or situations!
Respecting the Boundaries of Others
Now that we have defined what healthy boundaries are and understood the types of boundaries, it is also important to understand what it means to respect the boundaries of others.
Have we unknowingly invaded the comfort zones of others?
We need to extend this grace, kindness and understanding to our friends, family and colleagues. Although we have good intentions, sometimes our words or actions might have made others feel uncomfortable. As much as we expect others to respect the personal boundaries we have set, we also need to honor the ones our peers have established for themselves.
When a friend rejects our requests to hang out, we need not take it personally.
When a friend calls and asks for a listening ear and we are at the right mental space to care, we should.
When a friend says ‘no’, we ought to respect that.
You can start by listing down how you feel and what kind of responses you prefer:
Remember that your list is not fixed because as you go through different phases of life, your preferences would also change. As you meditate on your list, observe what is happening around you and reflect on how these events make you feel. If you catch yourself in a situation which you do not enjoy, you can either kindly mention to your friends or family about how you feel, or extract yourself from the environment.
Setting personal boundaries is never selfish, it is actually a method of self-care. Together, we can create #athoughtfullworld, where mental health is as aspirational as physical health.