Why setting personal boundaries is important

Setting boundaries is healthy. It teaches you to put yourself ahead of everything else. It helps you to recognise your worth and let others know the rules to follow around you. Learn about setting boundaries in different spheres of your life.

It is common to hear speak of setting boundaries. Experts guide professionals to set boundaries within their working environment. Setting boundaries within a relationship is essential, and you set personal boundaries etc. What are these boundaries and why are boundaries important in every relationship?

When we define boundaries, we set rules of what is acceptable and what isn't. Setting boundaries is the key to every happy relationship. The absence of boundaries creates a situation akin to a bottomless pit, where you allow others to decide how to treat you. No limits are defined, and nothing is off-limits. It can result in a strained, abusive relationship.

We understand boundaries as physical spaces. We see a fence, and we know that it is a protected area. Similarly, in our personal space, we have rules and values. These become our boundaries – we choose what we do and what we won't do or permit.

You must apply boundaries in different aspects of your life. Here is a lowdown of some areas where you can use boundaries –

Material boundaries

Material boundaries relate to money and material goods. It determines whether you will lend stuff to people, be it cash or items, such as your vehicle, clothes, jewellery, sports equipment and the like. It determines to whom you would loan things and for how long or how often.

Some people have a tendency of borrowing stuff and forgetting to return it. Others always borrow things from others. You decide whether you want to fall into the trap of forever lending stuff to others and to lose your peace of mind in the bargain or to refuse and maintain your sanity.

Physical boundaries

Setting physical boundaries is important, and this includes privacy, personal space and your body. Would you allow others to check your messages on your phone or computer? Would you allow people to rummage through your desk or cupboard? Would you allow people to walk into your room without knocking or eve's drop on conversations?

The most important aspect of physical boundaries relates to your body. Do you allow a hug when a handshake would do? Is it okay for someone to put their arms around your waist or shoulder? You set those boundaries.

Psychological boundaries

Whether others can easily influence you depends on your mental strength. Others must not guide your judgements, standards and views. Set your boundaries of what you believe is ethical and follow it, no matter what. Hold on to your beliefs and opinions, while giving space to others to have their say. Don't be influenced by what someone else thinks is right. At the same time, don't become apologetic about your behaviour or confront them about theirs.

Emotional boundaries

Emotional boundaries differentiate between your sentiments and responsibilities from those of another. You create healthy boundaries where you allow yourself and others space. You don't judge or give unsolicited advice or hold others responsible nor allow someone else's negativity to affect you.

Sexual boundaries

Though sex is a taboo subject in our society, people have begun to open up and started talking about it. In an era when MeToo has become such a movement, we need to bring the subject into our conversations.

Sexual harassment is a reality, and we need to set boundaries to protect ourselves. We have to be clear about consent; we have to clear about when, where, what and with whom.

Why people don't set boundaries

The concept of setting boundaries may be new for some, while some others know the rules but find it difficult to set boundaries, for reasons, such as –
  • Giving importance to the wants and feelings of others
  • Not realising the importance of setting boundaries
  • Side-lining their rights
  • Fear that boundaries may jeopardise their career and/or relationship
  • Have no idea of setting healthy boundaries

Most people who don't set boundaries never learnt the art of setting them, when young. It is something that you learn to do. And if as a young person, no one respected your boundaries or you didn't realise that you had rights or boundaries, you grow up being ignorant of them.

All kinds of abuse intrude upon personal boundaries. Children are most vulnerable to the intrusion of their own space. Take the example of my child, who'd return from school with her hair a mess. A few boys from her class used to bully her, tug at her hair and remove the ribbons. She was young and felt powerless until I intervened and taught her to stand up for herself and say 'no'.

Or take the case of a sibling throwing around a younger sibling's toy. And the younger sibling's cry's and requests falling on deaf ears. When the older sibling ignores the younger one's pleas for them to stop, it makes the younger one feels weak and defenceless. They feel like they don't have a right to make someone stop doing something that makes them uncomfortable. It is just teasing, but it leaves an impression. Children must be taught to set boundaries, so it becomes easier for them to continue with the practice into adulthood.

Remember your rights

Rights are something that everyone has. However, sometimes, childhood incidents play truant and make adults believe they don't have those rights.

No one can infringe upon your right to privacy. You have the right to refuse, to say 'no', to reply 'stop'. You have the right to an opinion or to change your mind etc. You have a right to stand up and defend your rights.

Think about all the times where you ignored your rights and let someone take advantage of you because you didn't set boundaries. Take note of how that made you feel. Could you have handled a situation better? Could you have not said 'yes' when you had wanted to say 'no'? Could you have given yourself that power? Would things have been different, had you exercised your power?

Create your list of boundaries

List the boundaries that you would like to set. Write them down on a piece of paper, and then go over them. Analyse what keeps you from being assertive. Are you scared of the repercussion, or is it that you don't know how to express yourself?

Jot down ways to handle situations where you need to assert your boundaries. What are the best ways to say those things? Simple statements can be useful when said with confidence.
  • Please call before you drop in
  • Please don't touch my personal belongings
  • Please knock before you enter
  • Please ask before you use my stuff
  • Please maintain a distance when you are around me, I don't like you touching me
  • Please don't smoke in my house
  • Thank you for the invitation, but I am sorry I won't be able to make it

These are simple requests or call them commands that let the other person aware of the boundaries that you create. Don't be afraid, speak out.

Boundaries for yourself

You need to create internal boundaries, too, to balance your relationship. Think of it as willpower and self-restraint. Setting internal boundaries can help you in several ways. You can regulate your time, reactions, judgements, behaviour and desires. It is an instant stimulant.

Set your life in order, by setting boundaries, and you'll find you have time to do the important stuff. You can stop procrastinating and doing all the right things, such as eating healthily or getting enough sleep and finding time for sports and exercise. Your internal boundaries can make you control negative thoughts and fill you with positive thoughts. You can set goals and targets because the boundaries help you shoulder the right responsibilities. You make yourself accountable for your instincts and accomplishments.

Bitterness and guilt

If you feel bitter or exploited, the chances are that you have someone to blame for how you feel. It also means that you have not established boundaries, and others take advantage of you. It is a clear sign that you need to act.

Don't feel mortified about setting boundaries; it is the right thing to do. You are unhappy without them, and your work suffers. Setting boundaries empower you because you know what to expect, there are no surprises, and you equip yourself to tackle situations.

The right way to set boundaries

Setting boundaries is an art, and you have to learn to do it effectively and smoothly. Set boundaries without displaying irritation. Be calm and poised when you let someone know what is not acceptable to you. Send out a message, but at the same time be confident, firm and civil. If your attempts fail, then be a little more assertive the next time, and convey the repercussions to influence compliance. However, you must never threaten consequences that you don't intend to follow up.


Setting boundaries is simple. Give yourself some time and relearn all that you have been doing. Introspection and a conscious effort to be decisive and assertive will set the wheels in motion. Setting boundaries is about loving yourself and giving yourself the importance you deserve. Make yourself a priority in your life.


Author: Sheo Shankar Jha04 Aug 2019 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 5

The article is itself interesting with an attempt to redefine the boundaries for each area. All we need is to set a boundary for each work being accomplished by us and any overdoing in one of the parameters would affect the other one, which too, is of paramount importance.

The best example of such resetting of the boundaries is seen within the top-notch executives noting down the time allocation for each activity such as devoting time to their kids, wife and interaction with friends apart from the main thrust for expediting the company activities with the sufficient time allocations. Any overdoing in other areas would affect his main target ie his job performance.

The author has stressed out the need to redefine the boundaries in this context and setting up boundaries and it's consistent follow up would enable one to reach a greater height. Hence prudence lies in chalking out each activity with the time settings in order to be a prudent planner.

Author: Anauj08 Aug 2019 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 4

Yes, setting boundaries is essential because respect for self must overshadow everything else. Setting boundaries allows us to be ourselves and to work in harmony with others without any fear. Defining boundaries is vital as it sends out a loud message to others that they should not take you lightly or for granted. It shows people what you will allow and what you will not. It teaches people to respect you, which is essential in any environment.

It is never too late to set boundaries. Start defining them if you have not started yet. You'll find it more manageable to handle people and difficult situations. Go on, try it.

Author: Venkiteswaran18 May 2020 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 4

A well-written article on an ever-relevant subject. The aptest dictum of wisdom in this connection is "Your liberty to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins". That tells what one's physical boundaries very clearly.

When the limited space (real and even virtual) is being occupied by more and more people, there comes the need to have specific personal boundaries to avoid unnecessary and sometimes harmful overlapping and trespassing. One should learn to secure one's own personal territory within acceptable, chosen or prescribed boundaries and also consciously avoid crossing other's boundary or trespass into other's territory.

The present-day of pandemics like COVID19 etc has taught humans the necessity of safe personal physical boundaries. It is beautifully named as 'social distancing'

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