This article is not about kidnapping or car-jacking or burglars, although these are relevant topics in our world today.
This post is about emotional and intellectual safety. In other words, personal boundaries – the invisible lines you set around yourself that people are not allowed to cross. These lines define us as individuals and are important for healthy relationships. Many people are not consciously aware of their boundaries and sometimes need coaching to help them identify them. When boundaries are strong, events, situations, your environment, time, and other people’s desires lose their impact and their power over you.
In the words of Kathy Wilson, boundaries are “part of living your life from the inside out, and this begins with what’s most important to you – your life values”. When you honour your life values by enforcing your boundaries, you are centred, balanced, and in the place of power – the place where you choose what you want to do, think, and feel.
It is important to let others know what your boundaries are, and when they have violated them. Parents are generally mindful of the importance of setting boundaries for their children, but many adults fail to exercise the same care with their peers.
Boundaries should be robust, but not necessarily permanent. If, for example, you have a boundary around being called about work when you are at home, you may accept such calls if you had to stay home suddenly and had no time to complete a hand over.
Here are some observations about boundaries:
1. Money – you fail to indicate to relatives and friends what your values and principles about making and using money are. You feel constrained to give or lend them money, then you are upset about the way they use it.
2. Lateness – someone turns up late for pre-arranged appointments. You are seething inside, and other plans get messed, but you say nothing because you do not want to appear rude.
3.Personal space – a colleague at work stands too close, and touches you inappropriately (even if not sexually) , you say nothing because you do not want to cause a scene.
4. Friendship – a ‘friend’ calls only when she wants something from you. You complain about this to other people and say nothing to her. In fact, you continue to take her calls and give her whatever she asks for despite your resentment.
5. Disrespect – a family member shouts at you whenever something isn’t going right. It leaves you feeling resentful and disrespected.
Hair salon – your hairdresser starts a long procedure on someone a few minutes before your appointment. You wait and do not complain, but feel angry.
How Strong Are Your Personal Boundaries?
Take this quick quiz from An Inner Journey: Living your life Purpose by Kathy Wilson, to discern if your personal boundaries need to be stronger. In front of the number for each question, write “Y” for yes and “N” for no.Do other people such as your spouse, co-workers, friends, and family, always seem to be telling you how to live your life?
-Do people often tell you how easy you are to get along with?
-Do you suffer from stress related diseases such as high blood pressure, ulcers, or eating disorders?
-Are you often made to feel small by other people?
-Does everybody like you?
-Do you often find yourself telling other people what they need to do to fix a situation in their lives?
-Do people sometimes seem to be put off by questions you ask them?
-Do you often feel that other people take advantage of your kind and generous nature?
-Are you the one at work who always gets the least desirable assignments?
-Do you often feel angry after an encounter with another person and aren’t exactly sure why?
Now give yourself 1 point for every YES answer and add them up.
1-3 points: Fairly strong boundaries, although they could use further strengthening.
4-6 points: Your boundaries are a little flabby and need work to get them muscled up.
7-10 points: Your boundaries are easy ‘kama-mboga!’ Start now to strengthen them!
Healthy vs. Unhealthy personal boundaries
In medieval days people built moats around castles to make it harder for the enemy to invade. Today people install electric fences. A friend once remarked that the grill door that keep invaders out will also keep the good neighbour out when you have a fall and need someone help.
This is also true of personal boundaries. Tighter boundaries may make you feel safer, but they can also isolate you. And so in life coaching we speak of healthy and unhealthy boundaries.
Here are some Characteristics of Healthy Boundaries
- You say “yes “ or “no” without fear or guilt/acknowledges “free choice” in decision-making.
- You accepts “no” from others.
- You share personal information gradually in a mutually trusting relationship.
- You expect reciprocity in relationships and share personal responsibility.
- You identify when the problem is “yours” and when it is not.
- You do not rescue others from taking responsibility.
- You do not tolerate abuse or disrespect.
- Gives a “no” response if the request involves close interaction.
- Avoids intimacy at all costs and may even sabotage a relationship to do so.
- Does not share any personal information in a relationship.
- Has difficulty identifying wants, needs, or feelings.
- Has few or no close relationships.
Having the right level of personal boundaries is a key step to harnessing your energy positively.