Developing personal boundaries

10 Ways to Build and Preserve Better Boundaries I Psych Central

Understanding how to set personal limits is essential for building and maintaining healthy relationships.

Many people know what the word “boundaries” means, but they have no idea what they are. You might think of boundaries as something like a property line or “brick wall” used to keep people out.

But boundaries are not rigid lines drawn in the sand that are clear for all to see.

Boundaries are a way to take care of ourselves. When you understand how to set and maintain healthy boundaries, you can avoid the feelings of resentment, disappointment, and anger that build up when limits have been pushed.

Boundaries can take many forms. They can range from being rigid and strict to appearing almost nonexistent.

If you have more rigid boundaries, you might:

  • keep others at a distance
  • seem detached, even with intimate partners
  • have few close relationships
  • avoid close relationships

If you have more loose or open boundaries, you might:

  • get too involved with others’ problems
  • find it difficult to say “no” to others’ requests
  • overshare personal information with others
  • seek to please others for fear of rejection

A person with healthy boundaries understands that making their expectations clear helps in two ways: it establishes what behavior you will accept from other people, and it establishes what behavior other people can expect from you. If you have healthy boundaries, you might:

  • share personal information appropriately (not too much or not too little)
  • understand your personal needs and wants and know how to communicate them
  • value your own opinions
  • accept when others tell you “no”

Many of us have a mix of boundaries depending on the situation. For example, you might have strict boundaries at work and more loose ones at home or with family and friends.

There might even be different boundaries based on a person’s culture. For example, some cultures find that sharing personal information is not appropriate at any time, while in other cultures, sharing might be encouraged at all times.

Building healthy boundaries — whether you’re at work, at home, or hanging out with friends — hinges on understanding the types of boundaries.

There are five different types:

  • Physical. This refers to your personal space, your privacy, and your body. You might be someone who is comfortable with public displays of affection (hugs, kisses, and hand-holding), or you might be someone who prefers not to be touched in public.
  • Sexual. These are your expectations concerning intimacy. Sexual comments and touches might be uncomfortable for you.
  • Intellectual. These boundaries concern your thoughts and beliefs. Intellectual boundaries are not respected when someone dismisses another person’s ideas and opinions.
  • Emotional. This refers to a person’s feelings. You might not feel comfortable sharing your feelings about everything with a friend or partner. Instead, you prefer to share gradually over time.
  • Financial. This one, as you guessed, is all about money. If you like to save money — not spend it on trendy fashions — you might not want to loan money to a friend who does.

When you get ready to establish your boundaries, be sure to take each one into account.

“In a nutshell, it’s knowing how to separate your feelings or ‘stuff’ from someone else’s,” says U.K.-based psychologist Dr. Tara Quinn-Cirillo. “As human beings we have our own thoughts, memories, and lived experiences, and sometimes that can become very blurred with someone else’s. Boundaries are healthy for helping you identify and keep that space.”

Whereas security alarms signal when physical boundaries are crossed, you have to rely on your own internal alert systems to determine when your emotional and psychological boundaries are infringed upon.

For example, “If you come away from a meeting or telephone conversation with friends, family, or anyone, feeling depleted, anxious, [or] wound-up, there are probably boundaries being breached,” explains Sally Baker, a senior, licensed, and accredited therapist in London, U.K.

Setting boundaries is beneficial for far more than just defining our identity. Having them in place “limits your exposure to stress and the [body’s] production of adrenaline and cortisol [the stress hormone],” Baker says. “It protects your mental well-being.”

Dr. Quinn-Cirillo agrees that well-being is a key factor, as a lack of boundaries can “lead to emotional and physical fatigue,” especially if you have to deal with the exhausting behaviors of others.

And it doesn’t end there. Boundaries promote a sense of autonomy, says Dr. Quinn-Cirillo, in “that you are in control as far as possible in what you want and don’t want.” They can also “keep you safe in relationships at work, home, and with partners, and that’s really important.”

Research also shows that blurred boundaries, particularly between work and home life, are linked to unhealthier lifestyles and lower levels of happiness, along with a higher risk of family conflict. So, you’ll want to get yours in check.

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Not sure how to go about creating boundaries or effectively uphold existing ones? We’ve rounded up some of the best approaches to try.

Enjoy some self-reflection

To successfully introduce and set boundaries, it’s key to understand why they’re each important to you and how they will benefit your emotional well-being.

“Take some time to be a detective of your own psychology,” suggests Baker. “So often stuff happens to people and they feel uncomfortable, but they’re not sure why. The first step in having healthy boundaries in any situation is spending the time to explore what’s happening to you.”

Start small

If you don’t have many boundaries in place already, the prospect of introducing more might seem overwhelming — so build them up slowly.

Doing so allows you to take things at a more comfortable pace, and it provides time to reflect on whether it’s heading in the right direction or if you need to make some tweaks.

Set them early

“Sometimes it can be really hard to start putting boundaries in, especially in pre-existing relationships,” says Dr. Quinn-Cirillo. “If you can put in boundaries straight away, it’s a lot easier to work with.”

By setting boundaries and expectations from the very beginning, everyone knows where they stand, and feelings of hurt, confusion, and frustration can be lessened.

Be consistent

Letting boundaries slide can lead to confusion and encourage new expectations and demands among those around you.

Try keeping things consistent and steady. This helps to reinforce your original thresholds and beliefs, and it ensures those lines remain clearly established.

Create a framework

Dr. Quinn-Cirillo notes that boundaries “vary depending on the type of relationship.” However, if you find it helpful, there’s no reason not to have a few basics in place that can be adapted accordingly.

Consider getting an hour or two of alone time each weekend. This boundary could apply whether you live with a partner, have a busy social schedule with friends, or are close with your family.

Feel free to add extras

In some aspects of our lives, there are boundaries already in place — such as in the workplace. But consider these the minimum. Colleagues will likely have some of their own in place, and it’s okay for you to add some too.

Doing so may even enhance your performance. Austrian researchers found that employees who introduced personal workplace boundaries felt more empowered.

Be aware of social media

These platforms allow for more communication than ever, but they’ve also encouraged some considerable boundary blurring.

“There’s some incredible oversharing happening,” Baker states, and research shows that over half of us are concerned that family and friends will post personal information or photos that we don’t want shared publicly.

If you deem a particular action as boundary-crossing in real life, your concerns are no less valid when it occurs digitally. “You don’t have to expose yourself to social media that’s distressing you,” she adds.

Talk, talk, talk

Communication is critical in the world of boundaries, especially if someone consistently oversteps yours. While you might need to raise your concerns, these discussions need not be confrontational.

For example, if you have a friend who sends messages nonstop, Dr. Quinn-Cirillo suggests saying something along the lines of, “‘I can see you really wanted to get hold of me, but the best thing to do is drop me a message, and I’ll get back to you when I can.’” This gently highlights their behavior while simultaneously asserting your threshold.

Be your biggest champion

For boundaries to have a strong foundation, you need to show yourself a bit of love, notes Baker. “If you’ve got a narrative in your head that says you’re worthless and undeserving, then you’re going to find it difficult to put boundaries in place that protect you,” she says. “A lot of it comes down to self-worth and self-value.”

It doesn’t take much to start encouraging this mindset either, adds Baker. The more you engage in activities “that release feel-good hormones, like singing, running, or whatever you want to do — things that feed your own heart — then that’s going to help change your internal dialogue and make you feel more deserving.”

Gain some perspective

Not having boundaries can be detrimental to our mental health, but going too far and over-thinking them can also impact our emotional well-being, reveals Dr. Quinn-Cirillo.

“Get a healthy level of thinking about boundaries,” she says. “Have some but don’t be dictated by them. Sometimes you’ve just got to go with your gut instinct. We can forget that we’re actually quite good at navigating most things and are quite intuitive as human beings.”

In addition to setting your own boundaries, it’s important to appreciate those of others, too — even if they’re different from your own. So how can you determine what they are?

Frustratingly, “there’s no magic science,” says Dr. Quinn-Cirillo. “If you’re concerned or unsure, just ask.” Fortunately, the conversation doesn’t have to be awkward or confrontational. “Just general discussion helps,” she continues. “Say something like, ‘Can I message you later?’ or ‘When is it good to message?’ They help start to put a framework in place.”

It’s also about using your common sense. If your partner hates using social media, there’s a good chance they won’t want those coupled-up selfies plastered across your Instagram or Facebook account. Or, if a friend says they don’t want to see a particular movie, don’t pester them until they cave in.

Dr. Quinn-Cirillo reveals that repeatedly violating boundaries “can breed resentment and contempt, and cause people to withdraw.” So there’s no harm in taking a moment to think before you act.

Boundaries are essential for various reasons and look different to everyone. You might be concerned that they will make you seem unfriendly or confrontational, but as this Inside Mental Health podcast from Psych Central reveals, it is possible to maintain them without upsetting those you care about.

Don’t feel guilty about setting boundaries. They’re essentially a form of self-care, and we actively look to incorporate other elements of this into our lives daily — from eating a balanced diet to exercising. This is no different!

It might take some time and consideration to decipher the boundaries most important to you and the best ways to implement them, but your mental well-being will appreciate the effort in the long run.

10 Examples + PDF Worksheets

Setting boundaries is an important part of establishing one’s identity and is a crucial aspect of mental health and wellbeing.

Boundaries can be physical or emotional, and they can range from being loose to rigid, with healthy boundaries often falling somewhere in between.

This article will discuss what healthy boundaries are and how to set them, why healthy boundaries are important for self-care, and how to explain boundaries to adults and children.

Learning to show compassion and kindness to yourself is crucial in setting healthy boundaries.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Positive Relationships Exercises for free. These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients build healthy, life-enriching relationships.

This Article Contains:

  • What Are Healthy Boundaries?
  • Healthy Boundaries and Self-Care
  • 10 Examples Of Healthy Boundaries
  • How To Set Personal and Emotional Boundaries
  • Boundaries In Relationships
  • Healthy Boundaries Worksheets (PDFs)
  • Boundaries Worksheets for Kids and Parents (PDFs)
  • A Take-Home Message
  • References

What Are Healthy Boundaries?

According to IPFW/Parkview Student Assistance Program:

“A boundary is a limit or space between you and the other person; a clear place where you begin and the other person ends . . . The purpose of setting a healthy boundary is, of course, to protect and take good care of you” (n.d.).

In general, “Healthy boundaries are those boundaries that are set to make sure mentally and emotionally you are stable” (Prism Health North Texas, n.d.). Another way to think about it is that “Our boundaries might be rigid, loose, somewhere in between, or even nonexistent. A complete lack of boundaries may indicate that we don’t have a strong identity or are enmeshed with someone else” (Cleantis, 2017).

Healthy boundaries can serve to establish one’s identity. Specifically, healthy boundaries can help people define their individuality and can help people indicate what they will and will not hold themselves responsible for.

While boundaries are often psychological or emotional, boundaries can also be physical. For example, declining physical contact from a coworker is setting an important boundary, one that’s just as crucial as setting an emotional boundary, i. e., asking that same coworker not to make unreasonable demands on your time or emotions.

Healthy Boundaries and Self-Care

Healthy boundaries are a crucial component of self-care. That’s because “in work or in our personal relationships, poor boundaries lead to resentment, anger, and burnout” (Nelson, 2016).

Some teachers say that setting boundaries helps them avoid burnout and stay in the profession longer (Bernstein-Yamashiro & Noam, 2013). This is important because it indicates that healthy boundaries at work help someone find more fulfillment and less stress in their professional life—leaving room for a better personal life.

More generally, the consequences of not setting healthy boundaries often include “stress, financial burdens, wasted time, and relationship issues, which can cause mental distress” (Prism Health North Texas, n.d.). In other words, a lack of healthy boundaries can negatively affect all aspects of someone’s life.

Setting healthy boundaries can have many benefits, including helping people make decisions based on what is best them, not just the people around them. This autonomy is an important part of self-care.

In the context of recovering from substance abuse, self-care can include “meaningful connection with recovery support and children, taking care of physical health, maintaining spirituality, healthy eating, exercise, journaling, continuing education, staying busy, sponsorship, establishing boundaries, self-monitoring, abstinence, and dealing with destructive emotions” (Raynor et al., 2017).

Self-care like this “may serve to support the general health and wellbeing of individuals” (Raynor et al., 2017).

Self-care, which can include setting boundaries, is an important part of leading a mentally healthy life. But unlike more intuitive aspects of self-care like healthy eating and exercise, setting healthy boundaries isn’t something most people understand. For more people to experience greater wellbeing and fulfillment, they must learn about healthy boundaries.

10 Examples Of Healthy Boundaries

This leads to the question, ‘What do healthy boundaries look like?’

The types of boundaries one might set depends on the setting. That is, one person’s healthy boundaries with a romantic partner will be very different from that same person’s healthy boundaries with a boss or coworker.

To start out, we’ll look at professional boundaries.

In a teacher-student relationship, a teacher might set healthy boundaries by choosing to keep their personal lives separate from their professional lives by not telling their students too much about their private lives (Bernstein-Yamashiro & Noam, 2013).

Teachers can also begin each school year by telling students what they are and are not comfortable with. For example, teachers can tell their students they do not want to hear their students talking about illicit activities in the classroom.

Another way teachers can set boundaries is by telling themselves that they will not hold themselves responsible for every aspect of their students’ lives. That way, they won’t be too hard on themselves when a student suffers from something out of the teacher’s control.

Teachers are not the only professionals who can benefit from healthy boundaries. Mental health professionals also need to practice self-care and set healthy boundaries with their clients—they are not immune to stress and mental health disorders and might be even more vulnerable to those issues than the general population (Barnett et al., 2007).

One way that therapists can set clinical boundaries is by not connecting with their clients on social media (and being clear about this rule) so that they do not mix their professional responsibilities with their personal lives.

Of course, professionals are not the only ones who need to practice self-care by setting healthy boundaries. People can also set boundaries with their friends—even well-meaning ones.

For example, a woman in the middle of packing up her house for a move might not let a friend who dropped in unannounced stay too long—that way she can get done what she needs to get done (Katherine, 2000). Similarly, that woman might politely decline the same friend’s request to help her pack if she thinks packing should be a personal process (Katherine, 2000).

Healthy boundaries can help manage demands on people’s time, not just malicious or thoughtless demands on one’s time or emotions.

Another setting in which healthy boundaries are crucial is in a romantic partnership.

One example would be a person asking their partner for one night each week alone, as opposed to seeing each other daily. Another example would be a new mother asking her partner to take on more responsibility with their baby (such as giving baths, going to the park with the baby, and so on) so that she can have more time to herself (Barkin & Wisner, 2013).

Rather than fostering resentment, one can instead try to set and communicate their boundaries.

Finally, boundaries can be important in parent-child relationships. For example, parents might ask their child never to enter their bedroom without knocking first, in order to maintain some privacy. Children might ask their parents to never read their diaries or journals so that they can maintain some privacy of their own.

Parents can choose whether to respect a child’s proposed boundaries (they might reject some boundaries for safety reasons, for example), but it is important to be clear about the boundaries they do intend to respect in order to build trust with their children.

How To Set Personal and Emotional Boundaries

The first part of setting boundaries is examining the boundaries that already exist (or are lacking) in one’s life. For example, a woman might decide that she has healthy boundaries with her romantic partner, but not with her friends and coworkers. From there, she can decide what types of boundaries she wants to set with her friends and coworkers.

As for how to exactly set these boundaries, “Say ‘no’ simply but firmly to something you do not want to do. Do not feel that you need to explain” (Kairns, 1992). Not overexplaining is a crucial aspect of setting boundaries, as everyone has the right to determine what they do and do not want to do.

This brings up another important point: Keep the focus on yourself (IPFW/Parkview Student Assistance Program, n.d.). Instead of setting a boundary by saying something like, “You have to stop bothering me after work”, a person can say, “I need some time to myself when I get back from work.”

Another important thing to remember is: “It is impossible to set boundaries without setting consequences” (IPFW/Parkview Student Assistance Program, n.d.). This means that when setting boundaries, it is important to explicitly state why they are important.

For example, a person in an unhealthy relationship might declare that his partner needs to start respecting his career goals if his partner wants to continue being in a relationship with him. It is also crucial to only declare consequences that one is willing to follow through on, or else the boundaries will not be effective.

In general, the key to setting boundaries is first figuring out what you want from your various relationships, setting boundaries based on those desires, and then being clear with yourself and with other people about your boundaries.

Boundaries In Relationships

Boundaries in relationships can be especially important.

“When one person is in control of another, love cannot grow deeply and fully, as there is no freedom” (Cloud & Townsend, 2002).

In other words, healthy boundaries can be the difference between a healthy, happy relationship and a toxic, dysfunctional relationship.

A lack of boundaries can lead to an unhealthy relationship because one partner may feel that he or she has no privacy anymore (Hall Health Center Health Promotion Staff, 2014). However, too many boundaries can also be an issue, as in the case of people who refuse to spend time with the friends and families of their partners.

In the case of people in relationships who also have children, boundaries can be particularly important. For example, one research paper looking at self-care in new mothers highlighted a “willingness to delegate and the ability to set boundaries” as an important practical application of self-care (Barkin & Wisner, 2013).

A new mother who can set boundaries with her partner in order to respect her needs will likely be better off than one who cannot, and this will help the relationship too.

The fact that boundaries are important in relationships underscores the importance of setting and respecting boundaries. It’s important to understand and respect each other’s boundaries in a long-term partnership, just as it’s important to respect the boundaries of people whom one does not know very well.

One good way to avoid crossing someone’s boundaries (and to avoid having one’s own boundaries crossed) is to have honest conversations about boundaries with people.

Healthy Boundaries Worksheets (PDFs)

For people who want to learn more about boundaries, here are some worksheets that deal with healthy boundaries and how they can affect one’s life.

What are Personal Boundaries?

This worksheet explains the difference between rigid, porous, and healthy boundaries and the different areas in which one might set boundaries (such as physical boundaries, emotional boundaries, and sexual boundaries). After learning from this worksheet, you can explore your own boundaries with the supplementary exercise, also from Therapist Aid.

How to Create Healthy Boundaries

This worksheet also describes different types of boundaries one might set and also offers tips for setting those boundaries.

Setting Internal Boundaries

This worksheet guides the user to consider and agree to personal boundaries. A list is made of behavior the user will commit to, as well as a list of behaviors the user will avoid.

Building Better Boundaries

This is less of a worksheet than it is an entire workbook (it’s more than 60 pages), but it can facilitate a deep dive into the topic of boundaries. It teaches the reader what boundaries are and how to set them in different situations.

Boundaries Worksheets for Kids and Parents (PDFs)

Teaching children the importance of boundaries is a crucial part of parenthood. This can be hard, though, if parents themselves don’t understand the importance of boundaries.

Here are some worksheets and other resources that parents can use to teach their children (and themselves) about the importance of boundaries, both between children and their parents and between children and other people.


This worksheet will help children differentiate between rigid, clear, and fuzzy boundaries, and will also help them think about boundaries in their own lives.

Healthy Boundaries, Healthy Children

This worksheet is not for children, but rather for parents who want to teach their children about boundaries. It explains the importance of setting boundaries for children, then gives tips on how to teach them about boundaries. This is an excellent starting point for parents who are not sure how to set appropriate boundaries for their children.

Boundaries and Expectations Exercises provides helpful information on establishing boundaries that can be accessed here (Scottsdale, 2015). There are tips for parents of children of all ages, from toddlers to high schoolers. The article explains how using the word “no” can establish early boundaries for toddlers, and also explains the importance of extending trust to adolescents when they have earned it.

A Take-Home Message

Setting healthy boundaries is a crucial part of life and an important aspect of any self-care practice. Someone who’s not used to setting boundaries might feel guilty or selfish when they first start out, but setting boundaries is necessary for mental health and wellbeing. Appropriate boundaries can look very different depending on the setting, and it’s important to set them in all aspects of one’s life.

Finally, while setting boundaries is crucial, it is even more crucial to respect the boundaries that others have set for themselves. This goes for parents, children, romantic partners, bosses, coworkers, and anyone who interacts with or has power over anyone else. Respect is a two-way street, and appreciating the boundaries others have set for themselves is as important as setting boundaries for oneself.

How easy is it for you to set healthy boundaries? Do you have any tips for setting and respecting healthy boundaries? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Positive Relationships Exercises for free.

  • Barkin, J.L., & Wisner, K.L. (2013). The role of maternal self-care in new motherhood. Midwifery, 29(9), 1050-1055.
  • Barnett, J.E., Baker, E.K., Elman, N.S., & Schoener, G.R. (2007). In pursuit of wellness: The self-care imperative. Professional Psychology-Research and Practice, 38(6), 603-612.
  • Bernstein-Yamashiro, B., & Noam, G.G. (2013). Establishing and maintaining boundaries in teacher-student relationships. New Directions for Youth Development, 2013(137), 69-84.
  • Cleantis, T. (2017, May 25). Self care skills for relationships. Retrieved from
  • Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. (2002). Boundaries in Marriage. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
  • Hall Health Center Health Promotion staff. (2014, January). Healthy vs unhealthy relationships. Retrieved from
  • IPFW/Parkview Student Assistance Program. (n.d.). Setting boundaries with difficult people. Retrieved from
  • Kairns, D.M. (1992). Protect yourself: Set boundaries. RN, 55(3), 19-22.
  • Katherine, A. (2000). Where to draw the line: How to set healthy boundaries every day. New York: Fireside.
  • Nelson, D. (2016, December 8). Self-Care 101: Setting healthy boundaries. Retrieved from
  • Prism Health North Texas. (n.d.). Establishing healthy boundaries. Retrieved from
  • Raynor, P.A., Pope, C., York, J., Smith, G., & Mueller, M. (2017). Exploring self-care and preferred supports for adult parents in recovery from substance use disorders: Qualitative findings from a feasibility study. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 38(11), 956-963.
  • Sabin, J.E., Harland, J.C. (2017). Professional ethics for digital age psychiatry: Boundaries, privacy, and communication. Current Psychiatry Reports, 19(9), 55-62.
  • Scottsdale, B. (2015, August 22). How to develop age-appropriate boundaries in children. Retrieved from

I'm in the house: how to set boundaries correctly

Personal boundaries are a line that runs between individuals, the people around them and larger social systems. They are needed so that we can clearly feel: where I am, and where I am not; where are my own emotions, actions, beliefs and thoughts, and where are others. And if these emotions and thoughts are mine, then I am responsible for them and control them. Borders also protect our inner world from outside encroachment.

They may look like a five-meter stone fence with barbed wire and machine gunners on the towers. Or they may be absent altogether - all the doors will be wide open. Boundaries can change depending on the context and environment, become solid for some people and completely blurred for others.

Personal boundaries can be opened for "import", when we gladly accept other people's help, resources, time, money, etc., or for "export" - our own resources. We usually import what we especially need, and we export either what we have in abundance, or what we hope to get a good price for.

Borders are needed to mark two important questions:

1. What do I consider my property (and, accordingly, I will protect)?

2. What am I responsible for (and will try to control)?

Boundary checking

How does this manifest itself in specific behavior? There are people for whom property boundaries can be very arbitrary. Such a person does not consider anything his own, inviolable, he "does not become attached to things." He cannot close himself in his room because he considers it impolite. Such people cannot refuse help or money, even realizing that this money will not come back. Their borders are always open for imports, it is important for them that people see them as kind, generous and open. It's a way to build relationships. Sometimes they even think that having nothing of their own is safer.

The opposite type is people whose boundaries are too wide. They consider everything their property - wife, children, employees, office or apartment space, other people's things and time. They do not see other people's boundaries and do not consider it necessary to observe them. Wherever such a person is, there is always “too much” of him, he captures the space around him. And if he was not given something in a good way, he can take it away "in a bad way."

Two "extreme" types also exist in relation to responsibility. There are people who take on too much, trying to control what is beyond their control. Such a wife thinks that her husband yelled at her because she did not have time to set the table on time or did not clean up well enough. People agree with every charge brought against them. The logic is this: if I tried better (guessed other people's desires and did everything right), then this would magically change those around me, make them happy and loving. People with such a strategy of thinking lack recognition and praise, they are ready to do everything to get this simple currency.

The other extreme is characters who are not ready to take responsibility not only for others, but also for themselves. They do not see their contribution to the development of conflict situations, do not accept criticism and try to avoid any obligations. If you entrust them with a project, they will either require a partner or will come running every half hour with questions and clarifications so that the responsibility does not lie with them (or at least not with them alone). Men with a fear of responsibility are almost elusive for marital or paternal obligations. They consider them a violation of their boundaries, because the family will force them to change their usual way of life.

Border Guard Day

How to define your borders and protect them? Unfortunately, you cannot put up pegs and notify others that “this half a meter of land around me is my territory, do not enter without knocking.” Although, in fact, this is exactly what young ladies with long puffy skirts did in the old days.

In my trainings I often do a simple exercise. I ask a person to designate a limit invisible to others, and I begin to slowly approach it - step by step. The task of the participant is to make it clear without words that I am already close to the point that I do not need to cross. The reaction is very different. Someone is very calm at first and only at the last moment begins to frown. Someone, on the contrary, from my first step “gets into a pose” and puts on “boxing gloves”. Very polite people let me close, with a bewildered smile on their face. And only then it turns out that I have long passed the intended border. There was also such an “intelligent” reaction: when a person understands that I am not going to stop and provoke him to more obvious actions, he himself takes a step back, leaving his integrity stable. But in order to stay at a safe distance from me, he has to give up his territory.

I don't know how you would react in this exercise. Think about it.

You can defend your borders in different ways in different situations. The ability to say "no" (without the subsequent sprinkling of ashes on the head!) Is an important personality skill. It is necessary for those who easily succumb to pressure, aggression and other "honest ways of taking money."

The ability to create and protect one's own boundaries, of course, is formed even by parents. But over the course of life (and with different people), boundaries can change many times. Teenagers, for example, protect them militantly, they need this life period in order to separate from their parents and learn to build their own lives on their own, to respect themselves. And couples in love sometimes completely dissolve in each other, and only then they begin to notice that it has become crowded. If you do not revise the rules of interaction in time, do not outline the circle of your interests, then the couple comes to a crisis or even breaks up.

Like any other skill, the ability to see and respect one's own and others' boundaries may well be mastered at a later period of time.

How to defend your territory

How do you react to a yelling boss? Do you get nervous before public speaking? Are you able to refuse requests from loved ones if they are inconvenient for you? Do children have the right to disagree with you, to close in their room? How do you feel when your spouse (or best friend) said something “wrong”? Do you want to suggest, correct, give a cuff, shame, do you think that the actions of loved ones “dishonor your reputation”?

The skill of respecting other people's boundaries is, first of all, allowing other people to be different from you. A good aphorism caught my eye recently: “Selfishness is not when you do what you want. This is when you are sure that others should do what YOU want. When you want to "do good" to someone - that is, to help, give advice, stand up for someone, correct the situation - pause and look around. Does this violate someone's interests, does it plunge your counterpart into a position of helplessness and dependence? Have you been asked for this help? Does the person really need this kind of help?

The main feature of "healthy" boundaries is their flexibility.

If you know how to move away from situations that are dangerous or unpleasant for you (if not physically, then at least emotionally!),

If you can, depending on the situation, open up to "import" and "export" of resources, adequately use the words “yes” and “no”,

if you find it comfortable and safe to get close to the people you choose,

if you are able to consider both your own interests and the interests of others,

then your relationships with people become much more simple, honest and pleasant.

How to set and maintain personal boundaries

When was the last time you said no? Did you feel remorse, guilt, or deep regret that you could upset someone with your rejection? If yes, you are not alone - the vast majority of people experience similar emotions in such situations. To stop feeling guilty at those moments when we make a choice in favor of ourselves, and not others, we re-read the book by Jenny Miller and Victoria Lambert “Personal Boundaries.

How to install and defend them.

Victoria Lambert, Jenny Miller
Mann, Ivanov & Ferber, 2018

Why personal boundaries are needed our actions and words. However, the main purpose of personal boundaries is to defend your interests and prevent unnecessary discomfort. Moreover, this applies not only to annoying people who strive to get into your soul, but also to various limiting beliefs, living conditions or habits. Healthy boundaries are needed in absolutely everything - and first of all, in order to feel good.

However, sometimes in an attempt to protect ourselves, we may overreact to stimuli or get lost when we need to, on the contrary, resist the onslaught

In such situations, instead of protecting ourselves, we think about whether we have offended another whether they reacted correctly, how they formulated the thought, and further down the list ... But any violation of boundaries is not only a conflict between you and the outside world, but also an intrapersonal mini-quarrel. The body gives a signal of danger, and you decide how to respond to it. It happens that the decision comes so quickly that we don’t even have time to realize it, and as a result we get even more discomfort, a quarrel with a loved one and an increase in stress levels.

To get rid of senseless and unconstructive torments of conscience and guilt will help recommendations on how to feel and defend your personal boundaries.

Four exercises for defining personal boundaries

All recommendations for the formation of personal boundaries are based on transactional analysis - one of the directions of modern psychotherapy - therefore, in the description of tasks, the terms "Parent", "Child" and "Adult" may occur: the three states of our egos, which are responsible for various reactions and behavioral motives. By doing these exercises regularly, you will learn to distinguish the voice of each of your states, as well as make decisions based on a reasonable idea of ​​\u200b\u200bpersonal boundaries, which belongs to the Adult. However, this does not mean that the reactions of other states are of no value: everyone's voice is important, but the final decision should always remain with the Adult.

Get to know yourself

Take a diary, notebook or notepad and in a calm atmosphere remember what happened to you during the past week. When did you take time for yourself, take care of yourself, doing what you like? And vice versa: when did you reproach yourself for laziness, unproductiveness, mistakes? Write down your observations, but don't jump to conclusions right away.

The purpose of the exercise is to reflect, not to condemn, to understand when you really do what you want, and when you are too strict, because any work on yourself begins with understanding and acceptance.

Your personal boundaries

This exercise helps you to practice setting specific comfortable limits for your physical personal boundaries. To complete it, you will need an assistant, but this cannot be your friend or family member, because in relationships with loved ones, the boundaries are usually already defined long ago. With unfamiliar people, things are quite different.

Stand opposite each other at a comfortable distance (usually 1-2 meters is enough). When performing the exercise, you need to stay in place, while your friend will slowly reduce the distance. One step towards you every 30 seconds: the interval is needed so that you have time to evaluate your feelings.

Try to fix at what distance you started feeling slight discomfort. And when did you tighten up a little more? When did you want to run away, move away or push a person away? All these sensations are signals from your body, which is trying to warn against danger. Remember what distance is comfortable for you, and next time stop any attempts of people to invade your personal space.

Visualization of the border

The exercise will help you identify the borders, understand your attitude towards them and change it. To begin, close your eyes, imagine a limitless field and yourself, define your place in that space, and then build imaginary boundaries around it. How do they look? What material are they made of, are there doors, windows? Do you feel calm - or, on the contrary, feel anxiety, loneliness? If the borders in your mind are more of a negative connotation, try to think of them differently - for example, in the form of a beautiful hedge instead of barbed wire.

Now imagine your family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances and place them around you. Perhaps someone will be outside the borders, and someone will be right next to you. What do you feel now? Are you comfortable communicating with people outside your borders? Write down or draw what you feel.

Discussion table

Do you know situations when it is impossible to agree with yourself? One part cries capriciously: “I want to go to the sea”, the other says: “Now is not the best time”, and the third is just waiting for all this to stop. The exercise will help you resolve such situations, put everything in its place and come to terms with yourself.

Imagine that your three states—Child, Parent, and Adult—are sitting at a table with a problem to be solved in the center. Each of your ego states reacts to this problem in its own way: the Child expresses emotions, the Parent judges whether he is doing the right thing or not, and the Adult, listening to everyone, makes the final decision. Think of any problem that bothered you last week and try to focus on it. What did you feel? How did they react? Maybe they forbade themselves something? How did you behave? Or how would you behave now, having sorted out the problem?

By answering these questions from different angles, you will let each of your "I" speak out, give them the right to be heard and be able to sensibly assess the situation, which means you will learn to more adequately determine the boundaries of what is permissible.

Defining and defending personal boundaries


In a state of chronic fatigue, people are prone to impulsive and reckless actions, and the voice of the Adult due to lack of sleep sounds as if from afar and cannot always be heard. A person needs a healthy, sound and restful sleep. If already in the morning you feel tired, continue to experience stress, as if you had not rested, and your mood is below average, you need to make every possible effort to improve the situation.

To normalize your sleep, make a plan of actions that you must complete before going to bed and stick to it. For example, at 21:00 - go to the shower, at 21:30 - start the dishwasher, at 22:00 - go to bed, at 22:30 - fall asleep.

Repeated activities will turn the process of falling asleep into a useful ritual, however, in addition to your personal plan, you need to create rules for others. For example, forbid children to enter your bedroom after 21:00. Create comfortable conditions for yourself first of all - at the same time practice in defending the boundaries (especially with loved ones, because, as practice shows, it is they who most often unknowingly violate personal comfort).


Some people tend to exhaust their body during sports, which leads to breakdowns, illnesses and emotional burnout. And all because, in addition to internal personal boundaries, people also have physical boundaries, which you also need to learn to feel in order to better understand when it's time to stop. Of course, regular sports are needed, they will help you better understand your body and feel its capabilities, but everything is good in moderation.

It is not necessary to exhaust yourself in an attempt to set world records - make a habit of light fitness or intense exercise in the morning, and this will be enough. Just remember, whatever you do, it's important to watch what your body is saying and help it. That is, give a rest if you are tired, or, conversely, load more if you feel a lack of activity or you need to relieve stress.

Bad habits

No matter what bad habits you have, you need to learn to set healthy personal boundaries around them. But be gradual, you don't have to give up everything at once. Slowly reduce the number of times you go into the habit until you feel you can do without it. After all, it is you who should manage your habits, and not vice versa.

Remember that every time you give in, you are indulging one of your personalities, whose voice is now especially loud. So she tries to notify you that you are missing something very much. For example, the reason for cravings for alcohol may be the feeling of looseness and relaxation that a glass of wine gives. So wouldn’t it be better to just relax more often, instead of a glass of red wine, to devote time to yourself and your hobbies?

Communicating with people

In dealing with others, the easiest way to defend personal boundaries is when you feel them well and are confident in their benefits. But at first, of course, this is not easy to do. At first, you will have to regularly, time after time, carefully and politely inform (if appropriate) others about what you like and what you don’t. Most people, most likely, will not go where they will not be greeted hospitably - you will make this discovery as soon as you begin to clearly express your position and interests. Just do not forget that in any situation it is important to refrain from aggression and harsh reactions, so take all your ambiguous feelings and problems to the internal discussion table in order to make an informed decision before you start acting or reacting recklessly.

Also, be prepared for the fact that, while defending personal boundaries, you are likely to stumble upon the dissatisfaction of some others. And that's not bad: what's the point of keeping a person nearby if he is not ready to respect your decisions and requests?

Social networks

Previously, communication between people took place mainly in real life, now - in social networks and instant messengers. However, despite this, the same communication norms and rules apply online. An unpleasant “bonus” is that, due to a certain level of understatement in social networks, the likelihood of offending or angering the interlocutor increases significantly. Therefore, it is definitely not worth underestimating the value of virtual communication and talking as if there is not a living person on the other side of the screen, but a faceless text.

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