Personal boundaries - what are they and why are they important?

Within our workplace we have many policies in place to guide and advise us to achieve the best possible outcomes and objectives, boundaries being one of them. What we can often do within our personal life is neglect these boundaries and become 'people-pleasing' people. This can cause us anxiety and lower our self-esteem and self-worth. So, what are personal boundaries and how do we set (and stick) to them? 


What are personal boundaries? 

Personal boundaries are the limits, guidelines and 'rules' that we set ourselves to ensure that we're prioritising our own values and beliefs. These boundaries can be implemented in all aspects of life, including at work and in relationships - whether romantic or amongst friends. 

Boundaries can be physical (based on touch), emotional (What kind of information do you feel comfortable sharing with others?) and time-based (How do you wish to prioritise your time?), amongst other examples. 

Having healthy boundaries means you are able to value your own opinions and you don't compromise on these values. Setting boundaries means we can say "no" to things that make us uncomfortable, or that we disagree with. 

Why might our boundaries become blurred? 

Some feelings such as guilt, anger and resentment might mean we are waiving our personal boundaries for someone else, or the ones we think we have become blurred along the way, leaving us feeling worn out and pre-occupied to the detriment of our own lives and things and people that are important to us.

The importance of setting boundaries 

Setting personal boundaries does not mean we become selfish, it means we become assertive, confident, have self-awareness and encourage our own mental well-being. Strong personal boundaries protect us from being manipulated and taken advantage of.

There are human rights and your own personal rights – you have the right to say "no" and receive respect without feeling guilty. In the same way as you would respect your employer’s policies or your friends and family's boundaries, you have the right for others to respect yours.

How to recognise when your boundaries are blurred

Start to check out your feelings, behaviour and physical symptoms when you are around someone that is crossing your personal boundaries (even if you are sure you have some!). If you are feeling all consumed by that person or situation then your boundaries have probably gone AWOL.

How do I set myself boundaries? 

Write a list of your preferences of how you would like to be treated by others. What is OK and what is not OK. What are you feeling? Why? What would you like to do – why are you feeling guilt or stress maybe? Check this out with your own values and principles.

We change our behaviour when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.

Henry Cloud - Clinical Psychologist

Setting personal boundaries means you accept responsibility for yourself and how others treat you. Your boundaries define you as a person and help you understand what is or isn’t acceptable in your life. Without them you end up going against your values, feeling bad or guilty at saying "no", giving more than you can and letting others give you an identity that's not your own.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Dorset, BH16
Written by Tracy Foster, Dip.Couns, Dip.CBT Registered (MBACP)
Dorset, BH16

I am a fully qualified Integrative Humanistic Counsellor & Cognitive Behaviour Therapist. I also practice mindfulness, life coaching and relaxation techniques. My specialised area is OCD and Relationship OCD.

I adhere to ethical standards and requirements as a registered member of the BACP (British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy).

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