As an introvert, setting personal boundaries comes naturally to me as I set them early enough around people. But that can’t be said for others. What are personal boundaries?
Personal boundaries protect us from unwanted encroachment into our privacies.
It’s necessary for sound mental health and harmonious coexistence in our day-to-day interaction with society.
But how much boundary is too rigid or porous?
In this article, we will examine what boundaries are, and the roles they play in our everyday interaction with society.
What are personal boundaries?
Personal boundaries are the rules or limits of access we set around us to control how people get access to us.
You have boundaries around you in your daily life, they are everywhere, but are so common you don’t take cognizance.
Related: How To Establish Boundaries In Your Relationships With Your Partner
Such boundaries help preserve our comfort and respect, and also to avoid misunderstandings with people around us.
These boundaries are important because they help us protect our privacy and know our limits with people so we don’t upset or offend just as others won’t offend us when they know our boundaries.
A lot can go wrong over a poor or weak boundary giving rise to a lot of misunderstandings and misinterpretation.
Examples of whom and places you can set boundaries
Boundaries are set anywhere you find yourself including in the bush. You have to maintain a safe distance from wild animals when you see them.
You are not alone in your environment and so should always look out for other people’s boundaries to respect including animals and nature.
However, boundaries are not limited to the above examples, denying someone you hardly know a hug, not comfortable giving out your contact to people you don’t trust, and not having someone in your home when you are not there are other examples.
Boundaries can be set with:
Having boundaries eliminates a lot of avoidable close-range misunderstandings while keeping one emotionally and physically safe.
Boundaries make it possible for someone to say ‘no’ comfortably considering the circumstance.
A person who is not capable of setting boundaries or setting poor boundaries will be in constant conflict with people who don’t know where he or she draws the line.
On the other hand, being too strict or rigid with boundaries would keep people too far away and one might lose out on the benefits that accrue with having people around.
Related: The Importance Of Physical Boundaries
The key is knowing when to open up for close interaction and when to activate the boundaries.
There are three basic types of personal boundaries that hinge on how willing a person is ready to open himself to others.
See all articles about boundaries on this website.
There are other boundaries also that depend on circumstances and situations:
Types of personal boundaries based on willingness to open up
- Rigid boundaries
- Porous boundaries and
- Flexible/Healthy boundaries
Rigid personal boundaries
Rigid boundaries are when a person is strict with accessing them. They keep others at a distance either emotionally, physically, or in other ways that keep them at a distance that inhibits close interaction.
More on rigid boundaries.
Diffuse or porous personal boundaries
A person is said to have porous personal boundaries when they can be penetrated without restrictions.
This can be emotional, physical, or otherwise. For instance, someone whose privacy can be invaded at will.
More on porous boundaries.
Healthy/flexible personal boundaries
Healthy personal boundaries are self-aware, they know exactly where they draw the line for their own safety and good.
They know when to open up themselves for close interaction and when to close it up entirely.
Healthy personal boundaries are in between rigid and porous boundaries.
Combination of the three personal boundaries types
It’s possible to have a mix of the different boundary types depending on the situation.
Someone can display healthy personal boundaries at home, porous boundaries in a romantic relationship and rigid boundaries at work, or a mix of all in these environments as the situation demands.
One should always be deliberate about what he wants with whom and how close people can be to him.
Types of personal boundaries based on circumstances and situations
There are, however, other types of boundaries depending on how your life is going around people.
You have different boundaries in romantic relationships, workplace, family, religious places, towards your finances, and other areas of your life that is capable of triggering negative feelings when the boundaries are not set or violated.
Here are some other boundaries you might want to know:
Setting physical boundaries makes it possible to stop people from getting close enough to you for whatever thing you are avoiding. It could be to avoid handshakes.
I know people who are averse to handshakes. It could be to avoid hugs or unwanted conversations.
Example: Maintaining a few yards away from people. I feel uncomfortable when people sitting close to me cough or sneeze. I try to avoid that ahead of time.
More on physical boundaries.
Fortifying oneself emotionally is one way to avoid being dragged into unnecessary emotional manipulation or blackmail.
Setting emotional personal boundaries can come in the form of detaching emotionally from situations that one knows would box them into a corner.
Example: Removing emotions when disciplining a child or ignoring the tears of a partner meant to emotionally blackmail one. More on emotional boundaries.
Time boundaries protect you from time wastage and make you have judicious use of your time.
People are mostly bound by time because of how they partition their time to be able to attend to all issues as scheduled.
When you let people know this ahead of time, it will do well to forestall unnecessary misunderstands.
Example: We hear people say “I only have one hour to spend here.”
People set sexual boundaries because of one reason or another. People could be in a relationship but decide not to engage in an intimate love affair.
It’s either they are not ready for such or their interest is not ripe enough. Declaring this ahead of time saves future bickering and misunderstandings.
Example: Some people have it as a boundary not to have sex on the first date. They know their reasons and can’t violate them.
Read about how to establish healthy sexual boundaries with your spouse.
Religious boundaries protect you as you believe what you want. I for one do not discuss religion with strangers.
The reason is that people are easily offended when it comes to religious matters. You don’t want to immerse yourself in bickering that is not worth it.
Example: Emotions fly off the handle when there is an argument and you never can tell what would happen. I draw a very conspicuous line on religious matters.
People set financial boundaries so they don’t spend more than what is necessary to sustain them.
You don’t want to go buying everything you can because the money is available. You want to have a strict policy on how you make your money and spend it.
Example: Preparing your own food and not eating out because you are on a budget as it is less expensive.
Factors affecting setting personal boundaries
There are factors that affect the establishment of personal boundaries, making it difficult or even unappealing.
- Setting: Setting is a big factor in determining the appropriateness of boundaries. For example, you might be very free with friends and banter away, but you might not be that free at work where everything is official.
- Cultures: Culture also is a major factor in setting personal boundaries. Some cultures have varied boundary expectations. Some cultures frown at the public expression of love, while it is common in some cultures. Some cultures have strict opinions about half-nude women on the streets, while it’s not a problem in other cultures.
- Age: Individuals’ age also plays a big part in determining if they need boundaries or not. Some teenagers don’t even understand boundaries or why they need them, but as they age, personal boundaries become naturally necessary for them.
- Gender: Women seem to establish more boundaries than men, which may be because of their vulnerability. This helps them to stay out of danger and wade off unscrupulous people, especially men.
- Personalities type: Personality type is an obvious factor that determines how strict or loose a person’s boundary is. An introvert is stricter in their personal boundaries than an extroverted personality. Introvert seldom needs other people around them, especially strangers and people who do not promise any benefit to them.
How do you know you have personal boundary issues?
Sometimes we don’t know if we need personal boundaries or not, and other times we are totally oblivious to what it is. These indicate boundary issues.
You have boundary issues when:
- You hardly can say ‘no’, decline an offer or voice out your discomfort.
- People take advantage of you or play mind games with your emotions to have their way.
- You constantly bear people’s burdens, cleaning up their messes while feeling used.
- You constantly find yourself in avoidable useless arguments that leave you drained and in regrets afterward.
- You are offended every other time by either your partner, a friend, or a co-worker over the same matter.
- Seeing yourself engaged in things you detest.
- Spending too much time defending yourself over situations that are not your fault.
Relationship between personal boundaries, self-esteem, and identity
Personal boundaries are a direct influence of self-esteem. It’s only someone with healthy self-esteem would set boundaries for their own good.
You must be self-aware, emotionally intelligent, and have healthy self-worth to know who, and what you don’t need in your space.
Being high in self-esteem helps one block unwanted interactions, arguments, emotions, and touches that could arise when people are close enough.
In the same vein, having an established conspicuous identity which is a combination of a set of characters that identifies you will help to maintain your personal boundaries.
Your sense of self, meaning, and how you view yourself will determine the value and response you elicit from others around you.
Related: How To Set Family Boundaries
I noticed that whenever I am dressed in dress shoes, a pair of trousers and a shirt tucked in, I elicit a different kind of respect and approach from people.
This alone sets a kind of boundary that determines how people address you and their opinion about you.
When you don’t care about your identity, you will attract low-quality people around you because they don’t see any boundary which serves as a guideline as to how they behave around you.
Importance of personal boundaries
Setting your personal boundaries has many benefits that stretch over the years as you dismantle and create new boundaries as situations demand.
Here are some of the importance of personal boundaries:
- It keeps your identity and individuality intact
- Not letting others define you or give you an identity as it suits them
- Giving you the right to your emotions and feelings
- Helps keep maintain your self-respect and self-worth
- Personal boundaries help keep your space less cluttered and organized whether mental or physical
- Improves mutual respect in relationships and everyone knows when they are trespassing
- Hinders manipulative moves by people who encroach into your space without restriction
- You cut off fixing other people’s problems or being blamed for them
- You avoid useless situations or being dragged into them
Boundaries and sacrifice
Notwithstanding personal boundaries are essential for people’s sanity and total control of their spaces, it should not be too rigid to be a problem or insensitive.
Boundaries should be flexible enough to accommodate sacrifices in crucial situations.
For example, people who don’t like carrying strangers in their cars could out of goodwill assist a wounded victim to the hospital in his car.
Though this kind of scenario does not arise all the time, one can consider some situations where lowering the boundary bar is necessary.
Sacrifice is human nature and we cannot deny it. What is important is to be able to identify the situation that requires such preference, especially when it involves our loved ones.
However, this sacrifice should happen because you want to make it and not because someone is trying to make it an obligation.
This boils down to the fact that being affectionate to people is genuine when it is performed out of goodwill and not out of expectation.
For example, if you call your girlfriend on a daily basis because you are coerced to do so, and it impedes your happiness, you have boundary issues – porous boundaries.
Everyone has the right to be happy in a relationship no matter what it is. There are no set rituals for a relationship to work if they make any party unhappy.
How to know if you are being coerced or doing things voluntarily
It can actually be tricky to understand whether you are being coerced or not to do some of the things you do.
To know this, ask yourself if the relationship would seize to exist if you stopped doing those.
If you are scared of the changes that would likely happen, then that’s a red flag.
However, if the changes don’t send you into panic mode, then you are good.
You have a boundary problem when you are terrified of the change that might happen when you stop doing the things you do.
A person with strong boundaries is not afraid of the bickering that comes after withdrawing from an activity.
People should not determine how others feel by instigating them to do things they are not happy with. It’s manipulation and possessiveness and defies freedom and happiness.
How much boundary is enough?
It is difficult to say how many boundaries you would need in each situation. However, your need would help you determine if you would go all out and have a rigid boundary or loosen up.
If the situation poses a serious threat to your well-being, locking up entirely is preferable, giving no space for any eventuality.
For instance, if you are always locked in a draining argument with a fellow when you open up, it’s in good taste to tighten the boundary so there is no starting a situation in the first place.
However, there are situations that require a relaxed boundary because no serious threat is detected.
My friends usually know when I am neck-deep in my study room, however, some stubborn ones would want a tete-a-tete with me and won’t give heed to my boundary.
I open up so we can throw banters for some minutes which would also lighten me before burying my life again into the business of the day.
So, how much boundary depends on the situation. The key is to know when to loosen up and when to tighten your personal boundaries.
Setting personal boundaries
There comes a time when the need arises to filter out a lot of toxicities that clutter your life, the huge step to take is creating boundaries.
It is one of those changes that come with maturity and growth to reclaim the entitlement to your time, energy, and everything good that comes with setting personal boundaries.
Setting personal boundaries comes with identifying that you need your space to be respected by having boundaries.
That’s being self-aware of your needs and taking steps to establish them.
Because this post is already close to 2500 words, we are dedicating another post to setting healthy boundaries.
How To Set Healthy Boundaries.
How To Establish Boundaries In Your Relationships With Your Partner
Personal boundaries are essential in family, the workplace, romantic relationships, friendships, and even religious settings.
Letting people around you in whatever setting know your boundaries is a potent step in looking out for yourself and also avoiding misunderstandings and confusion that come with trespassing on people’s privacy.
However, one should be careful with boundaries as there is a thin line between looking out for yourself and being toxic towards people.
Types of boundaries and why you need them
Relationship And Personal Boundaries
What Kind Of Boundary Do You Need To Set?
Rigid, Diffuse and Flexible Boundaries
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A Personal Development Content Creator and an author. I write about life ethics and love to document and share life hacks and experiences of people to help others make good life decisions.
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