Personal boundaries are essential for a happy, healthy, and meaningful life.
You need clear personal boundaries to:
- Make good choices
- Stay aligned with your values, goals, and personal mission
- Keep out of danger
- Avoid unhealthy relationships
- Foster honesty, understanding and respect in all your relationships
- Set limits with yourself so you’re not run by false beliefs and unhappy personality patterns
- Allocate your money and resources wisely
- Take good care of your physical health and emotional well-being
And those are just some of the ways personal boundaries can help you.
A personal boundary is a limit you set that allows in whatever enhances your life, but does not permit whatever detracts from it. That includes people, places, activities, experiences, and internal beliefs. It protects you from being controlled, manipulated, harmed, or abused by others and also by yourself. Personal boundaries safeguard your time and energy so you can focus on your own goals and dreams. They define you and allow you to be you.
11 Signs You Need Better Personal Boundaries
If you have weak personal boundaries, you probably sense that already. But you may not be fully aware of just how permeable your boundaries have become.
Check out these 11 signs that could indicate you need stronger boundaries:
1. You always have too much on your plate.
You’re the one who always works late and takes on extra assignments for others. You say “yes” almost every time you’re asked to volunteer. You rarely say no to event invitations even though you feel tired and overstretched.
2. You take care of others without thinking about your own needs.
You’re so busy taking care of others, you rarely have time left for you and your own self-care. You feel you need to fix everyone’s problems. The world might just fall apart if you weren’t there to hold it together.
3. You feel resentful and complain even though you agree to other people’s requests or expectations.
You say “yes” to requests, invitations, and expectations but then feel resentful inside. You silently complain about the audacity of others as you go about fulfilling their demands.
Resentment is often a sign you’re not respecting your limits or you’re allowing someone to impose their values, opinions, or expectations on you.
4. You feel you must be obedient to a parent, spouse, boss, mentor or a spiritual teacher.
You don’t know who you are or what your want in life. Instead, you almost always try to comply with the expectations of those in superior positions. You might have gone to the school chosen by your parents or pursued the career or trade they selected for you. In your love relationship, you often say, “Whatever you want. It really doesn’t matter to me.” You follow a mentor, spiritual teacher, or religious tradition that requires strict obedience, so you rarely think for yourself.
5. You fail to make clear agreements.
You often end up feeling disappointed or filling in the gaps because another person didn’t fulfill their end of the bargain. But in reality, you didn’t make a clear agreement to begin with, one that stated who would do what, the specifics of what they would do, and when they would do it.
6. You find yourself in unhappy relationships again and again.
You feel you need to suppress your own wishes and desires in your love relationship. In the extreme, you get involved with people who treat you disrespectfully, take advantage of you, treat you like a servant, or abuse you. You excuse behaviors like not showing up on time, verbal abuse, or lack of loving attention instead of standing up for yourself. You allow others to manipulate and control you in the name of love.
Let me be clear, I’m not saying abuse or disrespect is your fault. But only you can remove yourself from a relationship when a partner’s behavior is not acceptable.
7. You often feel distracted from your personal goals or life purpose.
You find it difficult to make your own goals a priority. Instead you’re constantly distracted by social media, pulled into endless socializing, or captivated by unimportant details. At the end of the month, you look back and wonder how you frittered away so much time. You feel further away from achieving your goals than ever.
8. You give your time away for free.
You’re always willing to lend a helping hand, even when it means sharing your professional expertise for free. Maybe you don’t give all your time away for free. But if you never ask for proper compensation for your knowledge, skills, and energy, you are, in effect, giving some of your time away for free.
9. You often criticize yourself.
You suffer at the mercy of a strong inner critic. You don’t set a limit and refuse to listen to your inner judge. You don’t systematically replace her negative comments with positive ones.
10. You make poor choices about money.
You lend money to others even when you know they won’t pay you back. You let your friends talk you into extravagant purchases even though you don’t have the money in the bank. You’re in credit card debt and you’re not sure if you can pay it off. You never have money left at the end of the month. You haven’t taken the time to set up a personal budget and adhere to it so your spending knows no limits.
11. You think you’re responsible for other people’s thoughts, feelings, and actions and vice versa.
You feel guilty when someone else feels bad. You feel responsible if they had a bad day. You wonder if you said or did the wrong thing. If someone loses their wallet or keys, you feel you need to find it for them.
Conversely, you don’t understand why your partner cannot read your mind and feel angry when they don’t fulfill your unexpressed needs.
Take a moment now to go back through these 11 indicators of weak personal boundaries and circle the ones that most apply to you. Be honest with yourself. It might be hard, but self-awareness is the first step toward positive change.
You Can Learn to Set Personal Boundaries
I know it’s not easy to set personal boundaries. I suffered from weak boundaries most of my life. Yes, I was the one who worked evenings and weekends, took calls in the middle of the night, and fulfilled two job descriptions instead of one.
When I worked freelance, I felt I had to give my professional time away for free to friends who asked. I silently complained as I complied with their wishes, all the while stretching myself thin.
I found it extremely uncomfortable to say, “I’m done,” to a health care practitioner when I no longer felt in-sync with them. I would avoid drawing the line for weeks on end, only prolonging my misery.
If you’ve circled several of the signs above, please know you’re not alone. So many of us struggle with setting personal boundaries.
On the positive side, setting boundaries is a skill you can learn. I’ve improved dramatically over the last 5 years. I’m sure you can too.
I’ll be talking more about how to set personal boundaries in a future post. In the meantime, you can start by selecting just one of the areas above to work with. Then follow these steps in the area you’ve chosen:
- Reflect upon or journal about why you find it difficult to set boundaries in this area.
- Imagine what it would feel like to successfully set a boundary in this arena. What would you choose and how would it feel once accomplished?
- Then set a small goal like refusing one invitation this week or this month—whatever is realistic for —and work with it until you achieve it.
- Celebrate your accomplishment and how good it feels to respect yourself by setting a personal boundary, however small it might have been.
Then set a new small goal and work with it, as you did your first goal, until you achieve it.
As you progress, you can move from “small” goals to slightly more challenging ones. Until finally, your boundaries are clear and you’re able to circumvent more challenging boundary violations.
Boundaries are a system of “yeses” and “nos” that define who or what you would like to let into your life and who or what you would like to keep out. Through setting boundaries you can fully own your life, authentically express who you truly are, and actualize your personal potential, the reason you were put on this Earth.
How are you with personal boundaries? After reviewing the list above, did you find areas where you’re boundaries are weak? I would love to hear in the comments.
Thank you for your presence, I know your time is precious! Don’t forget to sign up for my e-letter and get access to all the free self-development resources (e-books, mini-guides + worksheets) in the Always Well Within Library. May you be happy, well, and safe – always. With love, Sandra