The Importance of Setting Firm Boundaries

As survivors, some of us suffer with the inability to recognize and enforce firm boundaries in our interpersonal lives. Yet, setting clear personal boundaries is vital to ensure that relationships are equally supportive, respectful, and caring.

This article will explore personal boundaries and how to set them plus enforce them.

What are Personal Boundaries?

Personal boundaries are the physical, emotional, and mental barriers we erect to protect us from being manipulated, violated, or used by others.

In other words, personal boundaries are guidelines, limits, or rules that people create to identify ways that other people create. Personal boundaries help others to understand what is expected of them and the things their friend or family member will not endure.

Personal boundaries also are vital to gauging how you will respond should someone cross a boundary line. This includes how close in proximity one wishes someone else to sit or stand next to them.

Weak or Non-Existent Personal Boundaries

Having weak or non-existent personal boundaries makes life a living hell as one attempts to fit into the world by giving up personal interests. These interests include physical health, mental health, and a sense of well-being.

Weak boundaries leave one open to and vulnerable to being taken for granted of or having their self-esteem damaged by others.

There are at least ten signs that your boundaries are weak or non-existent with others:

  1. You feel guilty for thinking of yourself above others. This includes times when the other person has made an error in judgement. Somehow their pain must be your fault.
  • You agree with a person even when you do not agree. Agreeing when you do not come from a low self-esteem or a deep-seated fear of being wrong. Either way, the result is misery.
  • You feel guilty taking time out for your needs. Instead of taking time to collect your thoughts and to rest, some survivors find they spend a huge amount of time catering to the needs of others.
  • You say yes when you want to say no. Predators are always looking for folks who will say yes when they want to say no. Think of someone who you have gone on a date with and they become pushy for sex. Are you able to say a definitive no and stick with that?
  • You fail to speak up if you are mistreated or let down. All too often survivors do not speak up when someone hurts them or lets them down. This is due to many survivors being afraid of abandonment, or again, low self-esteem.
  • You often feel taken for granted by others. Allowing others to take run your life and then feel they are taking you for granted is not fair to them or to you. If you feel your needs are not being met and speak out to tell the other person so, that feeling of being taken for granted will disappear.
  • You give and give to others who only take from you. If you are in a relationship where the other is always taking and you giving, it is time to consider ending and disconnecting from that person. You are worth more than just being someone else’s meal ticket.  
  • You feel responsible for someone else’s happiness. Point blank, you are not responsible for the happiness of any adult other than yourself.  
  • You are a chameleon always being what other people want you to be. Explore who you are inside and do not bend yourself into the mold of others. You are enough and special just as you are. If someone else does not like what they see and leaves they were not worth your time in the first place.
  1. You are attracted to and attract people who want to control and dominate you. All too often survivors find themselves attracting or being attracted to others who want to dominate them. This could be a reenactment of childhood trauma. Try looking for people and only allowing into your life people who allow you to shine as yourself without them telling you how you should be.

Knowing or Learning to Know Your Personal Boundaries

In order to know your personal boundaries one first recognize and acknowledge a healthy sense of self-worth (valuing yourself). Since many survivors find this difficult to manage, it is vital to learn how to respect who you are and to find your own value not dependent on what others think of you.

Self-worth is finding the fundamental truths about who you are in all of the following:

  • Understanding that you are entitled to your own thoughts and opinions
  • Believing that you are entitled to your own feelings and emotional worth
  • Coming to understand that you are entitled to your personal space
  • Understanding that you are completely entitled to your own friends
  • Recognizing you are entitled to your own social activities
  • Acknowledging you are entitled to your own spiritual beliefs

Bottom line, you are entitled to be your own person and to travel your own road in life regardless of what others believe for you. Once you understand your self-worth deep down where it counts, you can set healthy boundaries to reflect your needs, wants, and aspirations.   

Setting Healthy Personal Boundaries

Setting healthy boundaries takes practice and patience with oneself when you fail. However, after you have done it a few times you will feel empowered, and setting the next boundary becomes easier.

The first step to setting a healthy personal boundary is to check inside and see what it is you can and cannot tolerate. Do not think about what others may feel or how they might respond, rather think of the different times you felt taken advantage of and did not act.

After recognizing your sore spots, pick a relatively safe person to set your first healthy boundary with. This choice will allow you to not feel too frightened or confused. Do not worry about them abandoning you. If they do leave they were not true friends at all but rather someone who only wants to use you.

With practice you will soon find that others respect you more and you will feel less a victim and more proactive in your life.

Closing

No one should be left feeling like they are a doormat that others wipe their feet upon. Setting healthy personal boundaries for yourself will enable you to stand firm on issues you feel strongly about and protect you from harm by predators.

Sometimes you must reset boundaries because the current ones are not relevant to a new relationship where they make you feel uncomfortable. But, since you have done it before you know you can do it again in any new situation.

If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life. ~ Abraham Maslow

Joy, feeling one’s own value, being appreciated and loved by others, feeling useful and capable of production are all factors of enormous value for the human soul. ~Maria Montessori

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