Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits. Personal boundaries are essential to healthy relationships!

If you fail to set and adhere to healthy personal boundaries, you are at high risk of allowing others to control how you think, act, and feel.  You are also likely to spend your time and energy doing what others want you to do as opposed to working towards your personal goals and ambitions.  It’s no surprise that a lack of strong personal boundaries can lead to depression, anxiety, anger, and resentment.

Have you created personal boundaries for your family and friends? Have you created personal boundaries for your professional work?  Have you created personal boundaries for the many tasks, errands, activities, and opportunities that pull you in multitudes of directions each day?

  • Do you find yourself worrying often about what other people think?
  • Do you feel guilty telling people “no” to their requests?
  • Do you often agree to do things for other people at the detriment of your wellbeing?
  • Do you often become angry because you feel taken for granted?
  • Do you overly criticize yourself for the things you do or don’t do?

The need to please others can often make it feel difficult to hold firm to the boundaries you set.  However, setting personal boundaries isn’t selfish, it’s necessary to prioritize the most important use of your time for the benefit of yourself and others.  

You can create and sustain personal boundaries by following the following 6 simple steps.                                                                                                                                       

Step 1: Define your desired boundaries.  What areas of your life need the support of strong boundaries?  Where do you find yourself weak or vulnerable? Why is this boundary necessary? Without a strong defined reason for “why,” you are unlikely to succeed.

Step 2: Keep your boundaries simple.  Boundaries are not complicated.  The best boundaries are often simple rules that are easily understood and quickly recognizable when threatened.

Step 3: Communicate and state your boundaries to others.  Share your boundaries to others with kindness and honesty.  Creating expectations for others helps them to understand how you wish to be treated.

Step 4: Share why your boundaries are important to you.  “Why” is perhaps the most asked question in the world. By sharing “why” you’ve created your boundaries will increase the likelihood that people will adhere to them.

Step 5: Define how you will respond when your boundaries are tested.  Your boundaries will constantly be tested.  This is okay. In fact, whether you realize it or not, you are constantly testing other people’s boundaries each day too! How you respond is the key.  Take initiative to plan how will respond during these moments of testing.  This often goes back to your “why.”  Your response should be delivered with kindness, decisiveness, and zero guilt.  Often, your response will be met with frustration and anger from others.  Your response should remain confident and kind.  If they have anger, it belongs to them, not you.

Step 6: Hold yourself accountable for the boundaries you create.  There are many great tools and tactics for learning and maintaining accountability.  Commit to research and learn new habits and skills for growing in your self-accountability.  A simple tool for help is to select an accountability partner.  Share your plan with this individual, schedule time to discuss your progress and setbacks, and establish guidelines for how they are to hold you accountable.  We are stronger together than we are alone.

Creating and sustaining boundaries is a skill that takes practice and commitment.  How can you incorporate the 6 steps above to set your personal boundaries?