We teach others how to treat us.

Personal Boundaries: What they are and why they are important.

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt you were taken advantage of? Or where you felt a deep sense of resentment or hurt due to behavior from another, be it a client, friend or work colleague. If you dig deeper into the issue, you will realize that it was because boundaries were either never set or communicated in that relationship.

In the literal sense, a boundary speaks of a dividing line. What are personal boundaries?  Personal boundaries are the LIMITS we set with other people which indicate what we find acceptable and unacceptable in their behavior towards us. They are the GUIDELINES and RULES you create for others to behave towards you and how you will respond when others pass those limits.

Personal boundaries matter and are of utmost importance. When you identify and set personal boundaries, you are saying I matter. My peace of mind matters, and this is how I expected to be treated by others.

Types of personal Boundaries:

As part of your personal boundaries, you may have relational boundaries; marital boundaries, work boundaries, boundaries with your clients, moral boundaries and the list goes on. The bottom line here is YOU get to decide what is acceptable behavior from others towards you and what is not.

Identifying and setting personal boundaries require some thought and time. You know yourself better than anyone else. So, sitting down to identify behaviors from that have ticked you off in the past can be a good starting point to setting personal boundaries.

Setting healthy personal boundaries should come from a place of a healthy sense of self-worth. When we set personal boundaries, we are in essence saying to ourselves – I matter, I respect myself, my worth and feelings.

Examples of Boundaries:

An example of a boundary that I have with my client is  – they cannot call me at any and every time of the day. I welcome messages via email or even via text, which I will reply to as soon as I’m able to. If it can wait till our next coaching session, we will deal with it then.

This type of personal boundary is necessary because it allows me to manage and use my time effectively. May I also add….. keep my sanity. Without that boundary, I will be pulled in 1000 different directions.

Another work boundary for me look something like this:

It is not ok for a client to cancel a session at the very last minute. I require a 24- hour notice for all cancelations. Enforcing this boundary requires verbally informing my clients of policy and also including it in our signed agreement.

Here is another good example of a boundary:  If you have ever rented from Airbnb or being an Airbnb host, you know that boundaries are a must to ensure hosts and guests have a great experience. House rules are a list of boundaries that the host provide to the guests.

The house rules may include things like: No parties allowed; Use of illicit drugs prohibited; Outside guests other than confirmed guests are not allowed in the rental. Then the consequence for violating the house rules are usually detailed at the end of those house rules. It can be something along the lines of… guests that violate our house rules face the possibility of having their reservation terminated.

Those rules exist to inform guests of the boundaries of the homeowners.

The truth about setting boundaries is this: If you fail to sit down and identify your personal boundaries when those boundaries are crossed, you cannot go crying a river of tears because you have yourself to blame.

What of workplace boundaries? Why are they important?  Workplace boundaries are important because they allow you and your boss/ colleagues to be on the same page. It is usually best to have conversations about boundaries at the beginning of your employment. It can take the form of a conversation with your boss or colleagues over a business lunch or coffee. This will allow you to know what the guidelines of the new work environment are; it also give you an opportunity to communicate yours.

Do not wait till you feel boundary lines have been crossed before you choose to address the issue of boundaries in the workplace. Usually by then it may be too late. After all, you chose not speak up earlier. Now your emotions are all over the place and tempers running high at this point.

Another reason why you want to address the issue of boundaries in the workplace early is because you do not want to depart on ugly terms… if it eventually comes to that. So even after you discussed your boundaries with your colleagues or bosses and they still repeatedly choose not to respect them. Then at that point, if you decide to move on ( as a last resort), you did your best and you had no other choice but to do so. I’m a strong believer in not burning bridges in relationships. I understand this is not always possible. I love what Romans 12: 18 says about this.

Romans 12:18 – Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody.

Romans 12:18 - Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody.

I know a lot of people shy away from confronting issues. But in life, there at times when issues just have to be confronted. It does require wisdom and discernment to know when to confront issues but it is always best to do so when necessary.

I had this happen to me recently with a client. Our signed agreement stated that this client will have 3 coaching sessions weekly for a period of time. The client wanted to add one more session to make it 4, which I agreed to. But I forgot to update the contract. All was fine until a few weeks in, the client randomly decided to pick and choose when she wanted to have her 4th session. I found this very exasperating because I plan out my schedule way ahead of time. So informing me of a cancelation at the very last minute after I have prepared for the session was just not kosher at all. Plus, because I had blocked out the time well in advance, other clients who wanted that slot could not have it.

The client meant no harm. It was not her fault for the most past, boundaries were just never set. I professionally and graciously confronted her about the issue. We had a very productive discussion, boundaries were reinforced and we moved on from there. By having that conversation about what the boundaries in our relationship entailed, I was able to keep my client and our relationship intact.

In summary, Personal Boundaries are important because they will help to:

  1. Protect your peace of mind
  2. Keep your sanity
  3. Protect you from being disrespected or violated.
  4. Ensure mutual respect and agreement in your relationships.
  5. Greatly improves communication.
  6. To thrive and be in healthy relationships.
  7. Ensure we are not taken advantage us.

So how do you go about setting personal boundaries? Personal boundaries can set as follows:

Categorize and identify what counts as boundaries in your various relationships and circles and then inform.

In informal relationships such as friendships, family relations and so forth, – those boundaries should be discussed either over lunch or any other appropriate setting. With family, tough conversations maybe required and in rare occasions, an objective outsider maybe required to help enforce those boundaries (a religious leader, another trusted and well respected member of the family or even a therapist or counselor) A family meeting may even be necessary to highlight what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior.

In more formal relationships, if with a client, like in the examples I gave above, it should be in writing and discussed with client.

Bottom line is that your boundaries should be communicated clearly in all of your relationships. Don’t just assume it is common sense, they should know. No! they are not mind readers.

When communicating your boundaries to others, your words should be gracious, clear and firm.

If you find that one of your boundaries have been crossed before you got the chance to voice it to the other party, let them know as soon as possible.  “I was hurt by your comment”; “I felt disrespected by those words”; “I would appreciate it if we don’t discuss other people’s business during our conversations”

If boundaries lines are crossed, address the issue as soon as possible. Don’t let it linger for too long otherwise it will lead to the buildup of resentment.

If you find that a person continues to violate your boundaries even after you have had several conversation with them, then you have the right not to continue to in relationship with that person, or simply love them from afar. Your peace of mind is important and matters greatly; because you matter and deserve respect. Do all you can to protect your peace of mind always.

One last word on personal boundaries. Whatever personal boundaries you set for others; be sure you can abide by those standards yourself. Do not tell your friend you do not like it when she arrives late for your lunch dates when you also do the same: even if it is occasionally.

Do not put in a clause about cancelations in your client’s agreement if you are not going to be able to abide by those same terms yourself.

When we fail to set boundaries, we feel used and mistreated. The quicker you identify your personal boundaries and start to communicate them, the better it will be for you and all of those you are in relationship with. Personal boundaries are for our own personal well being and protection.  Identify them and enforce them.