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23 Secrets to Set Personal Boundaries & Guide Others to Respect Them

Personal boundaries are important for a healthy and calm life. But not everyone respects them. Learn how to change that and avoid complicated situations. 

how to set personal boundaries

When it comes to being happy and healthy in life, learning how to set personal boundaries is key. It all comes down to being true to yourself. If you’re going against the things you care about and the things that are important to you, stress is never far behind.

In relationships, boundaries are vitally important. If you don’t learn to set personal boundaries with those around you, you might find that people overstep the mark on a regular basis. They make you feel uncomfortable, perhaps resulting in an unequal relationship.

Of course, you can’t expect people to be at fault for this if you don’t set and communicate your own boundaries. They’re not mind readers, and they don’t automatically know what you’re happy with versus what makes you feel uncomfortable. [Read: How to treat people better and live a much happier life in return]

What are personal boundaries and why do you need them?

Your personal boundaries dictate the lines in which you live your life. For instance, your boundaries might include spending time alone occasionally.

You might be someone who needs alone time to recharge. Then, make one of your personal boundaries your need for space a few times a week in order to focus on your own self-care needs.

Personal boundaries can cover a huge range of different things, but they’re basically rules that you set for yourself and other people around you.

They tell other people what you expect in a relationship of any kind and how you expect to be treated, as well as what you need. These personal boundaries also tell other people what will happen if they overstep these marks.

Learning to set personal boundaries can be difficult at first. Nobody wants to live by a set of rules. However, failing to have your own personal boundaries in place leaves you open to being taken advantage of, and simply living your life for other people and not yourself. [Read: How to be true to yourself and start living your life on your terms]

Put simply:

1. Boundaries improve our relationships and self-esteem

2. Your boundaries can be flexible and change over time

3. Boundaries allow us to conserve our emotional energy

4. Boundaries give us space to grow and be vulnerable [Read: Sense of self – what it is, 36 signs, tips, and steps to raise it and feel great]

Healthy boundaries vs. unhealthy boundaries

Personal boundaries sound like a good idea, right? Well, they are, but there are unhealthy boundaries as well as healthy ones. That’s why it’s so important to spend some time thinking carefully about yours before deciding upon them.

Boundaries have to be about you. That doesn’t mean you don’t listen to the boundaries of others, because you do, but it means that you’re focusing on yourself. Make sure that your boundaries respect self-care and what you need.

Also, make sure that they work toward making you happier, healthier, and calmer in life. That way, your boundaries will always be healthy.

Put simply, unhealthy boundaries mean that you’re not thinking about your feelings or the feelings of others. It’s a total disregard for anything positive and healthy. [Read: 28 self-improvement secrets to improve yourself and transform into your best self]

Types of boundaries

There are several types of personal boundaries.

1. Physical boundaries

You may not be someone who enjoys having people too close to you. You might not want to be touched by people you don’t know so well. In that case, you need to set physical boundaries to ensure your personal space.

2. Sexual boundaries

These are the lines you refuse to cross in a sexual situation. Partners should respect these at all times and you should never feel that you should bend or break your boundaries for the sake of someone else. [Read: Meaning of safe words, best examples, and 27 ways to use them in rough play]

3. Intellectual boundaries

This means respecting the ideas and opinions of other people and not pushing them aside. Of course, it works both ways, and also means that your ideas and opinions are also respected and listened to.

4. Emotional boundaries

Emotional boundaries tend to be set and adhered to internally.

For instance, you may set an emotional boundary that says you refuse to become too involved in another person’s emotions. This is particularly useful if you have empath tendencies.

5. Financial boundaries

Obviously, financial boundaries revolve around money and what you will and won’t spend. [Read: How to talk about money with your partner without fighting about it]

6. Material boundaries

Material boundaries are about material goods, e.g. possessions. You can set material boundaries about what you will and won’t share, for example.

How to set personal boundaries

Learning how to set personal boundaries involves a lot of soul-searching and careful thinking. But it’s worth the effort in the end.

When setting your own personal boundaries, consider these questions and points carefully. [Read: How to be true to yourself and start living your life on your terms]

1. Think about what is important to you and what you need

The first thing to consider is what you need in life and relationships. Decide what is important to you and the things you need to be happy and feel positive.

For instance, a personal boundary within a relationship might be that you won’t tolerate cheating of any kind. It might sound like a no-brainer but if you don’t set these boundaries, there are blurred lines as to what you class as cheating versus what you don’t.

If total faithfulness is important to you, that’s a personal boundary for you. [Read: Boundaries in a relationship – 43 healthy dating rules you MUST set early on]

2. Spend some time thinking about the boundary before you set it

You need to be totally okay with the boundary you’re setting for yourself and others. So, before you decide upon it, spend some time thinking about it carefully. Tune into how it makes you feel. Listen to your gut on this one.

If the boundary makes you feel in control and upbeat, it’s a good choice. If it makes you feel a little rigid and unsure of which way to move, it’s not the right choice for you. Stop and rethink.

You don’t want to set a personal boundary with someone in your life and then change your mind and jump to something else. You’re only going to confuse people by doing that.

While some boundaries can and do change throughout a lifetime, you should stick to your core values. As a result, you need to be sure of how they make you feel. [Read: New relationship boundaries and lines all new couples must draw early on]

3. Communicate your personal boundaries clearly

This one is difficult! You should communicate your personal boundaries clearly and directly with those around you, but how exactly do you do it?

It’s not the best idea to sit them down and give them a list of what you will and won’t accept.

When you talk about your boundaries, make sure you are clear. Clearly outline your personal boundaries directly. Otherwise, you leave them open to interpretation.

Then, if someone crosses one of your boundaries, you’re going to find yourself in strange waters when trying to figure out what to do about it. [Read: How to say no – stop pleasing people and feel awesome instead]

4. Don’t allow yourself to feel bad about any of your personal boundaries

Learning to set personal boundaries also means not feeling bad about something important to you. Never allow someone to make you feel bad or unreasonable about something if it’s truly important to you.

Anyone who makes you feel bad about a personal boundary you have set is someone who is probably a little annoyed that they can’t take you for a ride and get what they want out of you anyway.

Whereas, someone who cares for you will want to work within your limits and make you happy while building a solid relationship together. [Read: 15 signs of disrespect in a relationship that reveal a lack of love]

5. Make sure you’re actually sticking to your boundaries

Self-awareness is key and be sure that you’re actually doing what you say. You can’t set a personal boundary with someone close to you and then go against it by doing that exact same thing to them! Be consistent.

6. Understand the importance of self-care

Every boundary you set is about self-care at the core. Not understanding the importance of spending time on your own, looking after yourself, and generally being kind to yourself means that you’re not actually understanding the true essence of what a personal boundary really is.

Make sure that within every relationship you have *friendship, romantic, or otherwise*, you set aside some time for yourself. You are just as important as anyone else. [Read: Love yourself first – where people go wrong, 36 whys & how to do this right]

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should be selfish. There is a very big difference between the two. Learning how to set personal boundaries shouldn’t mean that you’re being unfair or unreasonable to anyone else, but it does mean that you’re sticking to whatever is important to you.

7. Stick to the consequences of your boundaries

Personal boundaries mean that not only do you set out the guidelines of what you expect, but you also talk about what will happen if those personal boundaries aren’t respected.

That doesn’t mean you walk away at the first hint of someone making a mistake or overstepping the line. It does mean communicating and being clear that going against your boundaries isn’t something you’re willing to accept.

It can be hard to be strong in these situations. While it’s important to remember that everyone makes mistakes, if it’s a regular thing, they are taking advantage and not simply someone making a mistake [Read: How to know if you’re being taken advantage of by the people around you]

8. Learn how to say no

Seriously, if your phone is ringing non-stop and you can’t catch a break, say no. If you don’t want to go out, say no. If you don’t feel like dealing with someone’s never-ending drama, say no. If an ex is not leaving you alone, threatening to ruin your current relationship, say no.

So many situations, all handled with a simple no.

If people know that you can assert your right to not be put through a situation you don’t want to be in, they’ll eventually learn that they can’t just expect you to go along with their desires. [Read: Why you shouldn’t feel guilty about justifying your life choices]

9. Understand how to negotiate

That means negotiating with yourself and with others.

Do you really need that super fun but backstabbing friend? In all honesty, do you really need that emotionally abusive partner? Do you really need to jump through hoops to please a boss who doesn’t even notice your efforts?

What is it that you need to do for yourself to make your life better, and what do you think you need to do in order to have a good life? Reevaluate your priorities and be firm with your decision.

10. Treat others as you’d like to be treated

As cliché as it sounds, lead by example. If you want to be left alone, leave people alone. If you want respect, treat others with respect.

Why? Because people learn how to treat you based on how you treat them. [Read: How to be kind to yourself & others & love life instead of hating it]

11. Being polite doesn’t mean being an open book

Telling people about that time you did questionable things with a questionable someone in a questionable location may not come off as worthy of respect. In other words, as you age, you learn that having a mouth filter is actually a lifesaver.

In adult relationships of any kind, respect must prevail, and conducting yourself like a teenager won’t get you that at all. Just greet people, hang out, crack jokes, and keep your laundry in the hamper. This is vital not only in setting personal boundaries but encouraging others to stick to them too.

12. Threats don’t work, try options and consequences

“If you don’t stop calling me, I’m going to move away.” That doesn’t work, because it’s a threat *a possibly empty threat, at that*, and you should never have to threaten anyone. Instead, try options and consequences.

When encouraging others to listen to your boundaries, go for something like, “If you want to keep calling, go ahead, but know that I can change my number too.” This is a consequence and a warning of the consequence, but you’re letting them decide whether you need to do it. [Read: Ways to calmly deal with difficult people]

13. Explore what makes you feel good

Believe it or not, some people are so busy giving, giving, and giving to other people that they don’t even know what they like or who they are.

So, if this sounds like you, then think about what you like. Then start doing it, or asking other people to give it to you too.

14. Determine what doesn’t make you feel good too

You need to explore what you don’t like. And then stop doing it. And tell other people “no” if they ask you to do something you don’t like. [Read: 44 stress-free ways to ignore someone & stop people from hurting you]

15. Think about what causes you to stress

If you are too stressed because you are doing things you don’t want to do, or maybe you think you should do them to please other people, then stop doing them. Or at least plan better so you aren’t so crazed all the time.

16. Disconnect from people who don’t treat you well

Whether it’s chronically late people or just people who use you or say horrible things to you, you need to cut them out of your life.

Well, first we would talk to them and ask them to change their behavior, but if they don’t, then life would be better without them. Life is too short to be treated like crap by other people! [Read: 21 ways to stop being manipulated and used by someone you love and trust]

17. Don’t strive for perfection

Perfection is a myth. In other words, what’s perfect to us is not perfect to you. And vice versa. So, if you are trying to be perfect, and as a result, you have no boundaries, well, stop trying to be perfect. Because you never will be. No one will ever be perfect. And so just be the best version of you that you can be.

How to deal with boundary violations

There will always be someone who doesn’t want to listen and wants to push on with their wants and needs instead. These are boundary violators who don’t deserve your time.

If it’s someone close to you, explain your boundary and that you would like them to respect it. If they care about you, they’ll do as you say.

If they don’t, they will carry on with their will alone. In that case, follow through with the consequences you have decided upon if someone doesn’t listen to your boundary.

That could be walking away from the situation, refusing to spend time with them, or simply not listening to them. Whatever it is, do it. There is no point in setting a boundary and consequence if you don’t stick to it.

In the end, personal boundaries will help you to lead a calmer and happier life. All you need to do is work out what is important to you and then stick to it with all your might.

[Read: Are you a people pleaser? 20 common signs most people don’t see]

Learning how to set personal boundaries means turning your attention inward and really thinking carefully about the things you’re happy to accept in life versus the things you’re not.

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Preeti Tewari Serai
Preeti Serai
Preeti, the founder of LovePanky, is an eternal optimist and believer in the beauty of love and life. With an exhaustive experience in love, relationships, and ...