What Are Personal Boundaries?
Boundaries according to Dr. Henry Cloud, are about ownership. They define your soul and they help you to guard your heart and maintain it. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
I feel that personal boundaries are simply limits that we set for ourselves. They’re lines that we’re not willing to cross or allow others to cross and in essence, they’re our “lines in the sand.” Personal boundaries can be emotional, mental, and physical boundaries, and they’re unique to each person.
Consider this: During one of my trips I asked a kind-looking woman to watch my computer at a coffeeshop so that I could go to the restroom. I thought to myself, “What a relief to have someone be kind enough to do that for me.” I took my time away from my table because I needed a breather and didn’t have a concern about being away from my things. I returned to the area and the woman was nowhere to be found.
I looked around and thought, “Maybe I’m in the wrong area?” I backtracked my steps. Then I saw that my empty Starbucks cup with my lipstick smeared on the lid was still there on the table. My feelings turned from gratitude to anger. “How could she do this to me? Why did she leave and abandon my request that she watch my things?”
Don’t get too flustered! This is not a true story, but many of us do the exact thing I used as an example in this story. We place the blame on other people when our expectations aren’t met because either we don’t set good boundaries, communicate them effectively, or uphold them.
In my Starbucks example, it would have been nice for someone to watch my things while I went to the bathroom. But if I stayed longer than they were willing to keep an eye on my things and I didn’t tell them how long I’d be gone, is it really their responsibility to stay indefinitely until I return?
And this is exactly why boundaries are critical to us and the kind of lives we design. Boundaries help us understand what to say “no” to and how to express what we need from others.
God created boundaries to communicate ownership. The first boundary in the Bible ever breached by mankind can be found in Genesis 3:
- The Lord established a line that was not to be crossed (figuratively speaking).
- That line was for Adam and Eve to not eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
- The Lord explained and established that boundary with Adam in Genesis 2:17: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
Because of this, I believe that Eve was the easier target for Satan to persuade between the two, because Adam heard it from the Lord’s lips, and it seems likely that Eve heard it from Adam. Her proximity to the original boundary God created was further away and that space created wiggle room for her to stray, room that led her to cross God’s boundary, leading Adam to follow suit and the rest is history.
As Remarkable Women, we have personal boundaries that are important that we don’t want to be breached. These boundaries allow you to protect yourself, ideas, beliefs, and self-esteem while in relationships with others. Boundaries help you stay true to yourself and your own core values. They also help you ensure that your relationships are mutually respectful.
Four Techniques to Build Better Boundaries
Do you need help setting better personal boundaries? I believe you can learn this skill and continue to perfect it with practice. Here are four techniques to help you grow in establishing and keeping your boundaries:
- Practice really does make perfect. The more you practice setting boundaries, the better you’ll become. If you have difficulty setting boundaries, it may be a manifestation of low self-esteem.
- Grow your confidence. People who are timid or not confident may have trouble standing up for themselves or setting expectations or boundaries. If you struggle with this, keep practicing. If you don’t stand up for yourself, no one else will.
- Be proactive in your reactions. Set boundaries for how you will react to certain situations. If someone loves to yell during arguments, maybe your boundary is that you don’t accept name-calling and heated voices, so you choose to postpone or end the discussion at that point.
- Observe your feelings. Is a parent making you feel unimportant? Is your spouse talking down to you or picking fights? Are your children being disrespectful? If you feel victimized or manipulated in a relationship, you may not be setting clear boundaries. Your well-being is important and it should come before the feelings of others.
Use boundaries in a healthy way to protect yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally. Just like nature has balance, you need balance as well.
Use boundaries to ensure you’re in healthy, respectful relationships with people who genuinely love and respect you.
It may be difficult, but take time this week to identify who you need to set boundaries with among your loved ones, colleagues, and associates. It is worth it for your own well-being.
You are worth it.