Personal boundaries are something that many people can struggle with. Like many aspects of who we are and how we live, personal boundaries are established early in life, with the foundations being laid in childhood. How our parents did or didn’t do boundaries will inevitably impact our own capacity for healthy or unhealthy boundary setting. Either holding our boundaries so tightly that we turn them into barriers, becoming completely rigid and inflexible. Alternatively we might have developed very little sense of any boundaries and therefore allow others to take control leaving us often feeling invaded and resentful.
Boundaries essentially relate to our personal limits. They let others know what is ok and not ok for us. This includes assertively stating and upholding our boundaries when people cross them, which of course is not always easy. Like most things in life, healthy boundaries take practice.
Boundaries create a symbolic fence around us to highlight and protect our personal space. The wonderful thing about a fence/boundary is that it also has a gate in it. So we can choose who we invite in (or escort out!) of our personal space. It also means sometimes we can simply shut the gate with a very clear NO. Whereas a barrier is more like a brick wall! Nothing gets in or out when you have a brick wall protecting you. It can certainly feel safe but then becomes like a prison and feels very lonely.
To establish healthy boundaries if these were not modelled to you in childhood of course takes courage as well as practice. It’s like a muscle that needs strengthening choice by choice and day by day. We need to get very clear in the first place about what our own personal boundaries are, asking ourselves, what is Important to me and what are my limits!? As we do this we come to know and trust ourselves more and can stand up for and honour our own limits. In turn the more we do this, the more we naturally enhance our feelings of self worth and inner resilience.
Boundaries are also about truth. Knowing, speaking and living our truth. Not always easy and can upset a few (unboundaried) people along the way. Don’t be surprised if you’re met with judgement and blame when holding your boundaries with people that have none. Ultimately personal boundaries are an essential part of living authentically and honouring our worth.
Some possible boundary statements to get you started:
• No thank you.
• That doesn’t work for me.
• Let me think about that and get back to you.
• When you raise your voice like that, I stop listening.
• I definitely don’t want to do that.
• I haven’t finished speaking, please let me finish.
• That simply doesn’t feel right for me.
• If you continue to behave that way I will leave.
• I understand you’re upset but it’s not ok for you to speak to me that way.
• I’m not ready to share that with you.
• I’ll let you know.
• I need some time by myself.
• I don’t know the answer to that question.
• You’re crossing my boundaries, step back.
To read more of Donna’s writing, you can follow her on Instagram @donnalancs
Donna’s book ‘The Bridge’, will be released early 2022 with Penguin Life.
Donna’s IGTV also includes some free resources about boundaries, making friends with fear and much more.