What are personal boundaries?
Personal boundaries are a way of defining what is and is not ok for us. Everybody is different, and what is ok for one person is not necessarily ok for another. They help us separate our needs from the needs of other people.
Most of us are familiar with the concept of setting boundaries, but may not be aware of the different types of boundaries that we are able to set.
We all have different ideas about what physical contact is ok, and who we allow into the space around our body. Some people love hugs and all kinds of physical contact. For other people, touch is something they would like to limit only to partners and loved ones. It is important to work out for yourself what kind of physical contact you are comfortable with for each person in your life.
Personal space doesn’t just apply to the space around your body – your home is also a part of your personal space. It’s important that you feel safe in your home, and to consider who you are and are not ok letting into your home.
We all have different ideas about privacy, and how safe we feel sharing information about ourselves. Some people think nothing of having their photos, journals, addresses and phone numbers online. Other people like to keep their personal information more private.
This does not just apply to places like facebook or twitter – different people feel comfortable sharing different levels of information with their friends, family and partners. It’s important that you know what information you feel comfortable sharing, and with whom.
Boundaries of sensation tell us when we have reached our limit for a particular feeling. We all have different abilities to tolerate certain sensations. Some people love to go bungee jumping for the rush that it gives them. Other people find it difficult to sit through a scary movie. Some people’s idea of a good meal is a spicy laksa, whereas other people can’t tolerate the smallest amount of pepper on their food.
Any physical sensation you can think of like temperature, pain, pleasure, noise etc. has a level at which it will quickly become unbearable. This applies to emotions as well - how long can you tolerate arguing with your partner before you need some time to cool off?
Each of us has only a limited amount of time in any given day. It is important that we set boundaries about the amount of time that we spend with a particular people, or on a particular activity or problem. If you are spending all of your time at work, or all of your time out partying your life will quickly begin to tip out of balance. Similarly, if you are spending all of your time focussing on a particular problem or worrying about “what if”, it ceases to be useful and can become problematic.
Each of us also has a limited amount of activities that we can commit to. It is useful to have some flexibility based about what you do each day, based on how important various activities are to you. You might commit to doing half an hour of walking every day – as long as it’s not raining, as long as it’s not too hot, or as long as there’s nothing good on TV. This can be totally appropriate (if you are already doing other exercise during the week) or not appropriate (if you had told your friend you would meet them at the park for a walk, rain, hail or shine). Either way, it is important to be clear in yourself and with other people how committed you are to the activities you engage in.
Want to know more about setting boundaries?