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  • Dr Maike Neuhaus

Personal boundaries: What they are and how to set them (+ examples)

Personal boundaries are the limits we set in our relationships with others, both in terms of physical space and emotional space. They are the invisible lines that define our personal comfort zone and determine how we allow others to treat us. Setting personal boundaries is important for maintaining our mental and emotional well-being, as well as for building healthy relationships with others.


But what are personal boundaries, exactly? And how do we set them?


In this blog post, we'll explore these questions in depth, and provide some real-world examples to help you understand how to set and maintain your own personal boundaries.


Family conversation about how to set personal boundaries

What are personal boundaries?


Personal boundaries are the limits we set in order to protect our own physical and emotional space. They can be physical, such as the boundaries of our personal space or the boundaries of our own bodies. They can also be emotional, such as the boundaries we set around our thoughts, feelings, and personal beliefs.


Personal boundaries can be either hard or soft. Hard boundaries are those that we will not allow others to cross under any circumstances. For example, a hard boundary might be a refusal to allow someone to touch us without our consent. Soft boundaries are those that we may be willing to allow others to cross, but only under certain circumstances. For example, a soft boundary might be a willingness to hug a close friend, but not a stranger.


Why are personal boundaries important?


Personal boundaries are important for a number of reasons. They help us to maintain our own personal integrity and autonomy and allow us to feel safe and secure in our relationships with others. When we set clear boundaries, we are able to communicate to others what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour, and this helps to prevent misunderstandings and conflicts.


Personal boundaries are also important for our own mental and emotional well-being. By setting boundaries, we are able to protect ourselves from being taken advantage of or being overwhelmed by the needs of others. We are also able to set limits on how much we allow others to influence our thoughts, feelings, and actions.


How to set personal boundaries


Setting personal boundaries can be a challenging process, especially if you are not used to doing it. Here are some steps to help you get started:


1. Identify your own values and needs

The first step in setting personal boundaries is to identify what is important to you and what you need in order to feel safe and respected. This might include things like physical space, emotional space, privacy, or time to yourself.


2. Communicate your boundaries to others

Once you have identified your boundaries, it's important to communicate them to others. This can be done through verbal or nonverbal communication, depending on the situation. It's important to be clear and direct when setting boundaries and to be prepared to enforce them if necessary.


3. Practice saying "no"

Setting boundaries often involves the ability to say "no" to others, even when we feel pressure to do something we don't want to do. It's important to remember that it is okay to say "no," and that we are not responsible for other people's feelings or reactions.


4. Learn to set limits

Setting limits is similar to setting boundaries, but it involves setting limits on how much time or energy we are willing to give to others. For example, we might set a limit on how much time we are willing to spend with a particular friend, or how much we are willing to do for someone else.


5. Be assertive

Assertiveness is the ability to stand up for ourselves and express our needs and boundaries in a respectful way. It's important to be assertive when setting boundaries, rather than being passive or aggressive.


Real-world examples of setting personal boundaries

Here are a few examples of how to set personal boundaries in different situations:


Setting personal boundaries at work

You might set a boundary around your lunch break, telling your coworkers that you need an hour to yourself every day to eat and relax. You might also set a boundary around your office space, making it clear that you do not want to be interrupted while you are working.


Setting personal boundaries in a romantic relationship

You might set a boundary around your need for alone time, telling your partner that you need a few hours to yourself every week to recharge. You might also set a boundary around physical intimacy, telling your partner that you are not comfortable with certain types of touch or physical contact.


Setting personal boundaries with friends

You might set a boundary around the amount of time you are willing to spend with a particular friend, telling them that you are not available to hang out every day or that you need some space. You might also set a boundary around the types of conversations you are willing to have, telling a friend that you are not comfortable discussing certain topics.


It's important to remember that setting personal boundaries is a continuous process, and it may take some time to learn how to set and maintain them effectively. It's also important to be open to learning and adapting as you go and to be willing to revisit and adjust your boundaries as needed.


Personal boundaries are the limits we set in our relationships with others in order to protect our own physical and emotional space. They are important for maintaining our own well-being and for building healthy relationships with others. By learning to set and maintain personal boundaries, we can create relationships that are based on respect, trust, and mutual understanding.

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