“Your personal boundaries protect the inner core of your identity and your right to choices” – Gerard Manley Hopkins

Boundaries are important in life to help us feel safe and to define ourselves and what we feel comfortable with. Just like with self-care, it’s something that can seem easy but can be really hard to do, especially if you are dealing with stresses or difficulties in life.

line in the sand

But what exactly are boundaries? Boundaries are limits or edges that we apply to ourselves, they define us as separate from others (so no two people will have identical boundaries). Boundaries are shaped by your experiences in life including what culture you grew up in – because of this, everyone’s boundaries are different and it’s important to respect that as you would want your boundaries to be respected as well.

Boundaries can be physical (like your personal space), emotional (what you expect from a partner) or more.

A really easy way to understand examples of boundaries can be seen in romantic relationships. When you enter into relationships, it’s important to set and understand each other’s boundaries – if you aren’t ready for something physically, that’s a boundary. If your partner smokes cigarettes but you don’t want them smoking around you, that’s a boundary. If one of your friends likes making jokes about you but you find them offensive, that’s another boundary.

Boundaries are important to set and be maintained in order to keep up your self-esteem. It’s OK to not want to do something or try something, and these boundaries make you who you are. Remember that everyone is different and has different experiences in life, so boundaries for everyone will be different.

Some ways to enforce and set up boundaries are:

  • Understand your boundaries yourself: One suggestion I’ve seen is making lists about what you are comfortable and not comfortable with. This will help you set boundaries in the future.
  • Set up boundaries at the start of relationships and communicate with the other person if you feel your boundaries are being challenged – for example if you are joking with a friend and one of them goes too far, then tell them; be honest and clear with them.
  • Put yourself in the shoes of others. If someone tells you their boundaries are being challenged, it might be hard to understand at first, and you might not feel like you’ve done anything wrong. Try thinking from their point of view and it might become clearer.

Remember that boundaries are important so that we feel safe. What we feel comfortable with might not be the same as others, but that’s OK! Remember that everyone is different.

Written by Will Anderson | Edited by Lin Ren