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Personal Boundaries: Healthy and Unhealthy Emotional and Physical Boundaries

Personal Boundaries: Healthy and Unhealthy Emotional and Physical Boundaries.

Personal boundaries are how we separate ourselves from others, both physically and emotionally. Boundaries are important for personal growth and development, especially in childhood and during close relationships at any age. Clear,  well-defined, but adaptable and flexible personal boundaries contribute to personal happiness and overall satisfaction with life and relationships.

Boundaries are important to promote :

  • individuality,
  • emotional distinction,
  • identity formation, and
  • safety .

When you have healthy boundaries:

  • you know who you are,
  • your decisions give you what you want,
  • the opinions of other people hurt less,
  • you live your life as you see fit,
  • you feel stronger from within,
  • you cope better with stress,
  • the future becomes clearer,
  • it’s easier to find purpose and meaning in life,
  • you feel safer,
  • you know when someone violates your boundaries,
  • you can  speak up,
  • you feel more settled,
  • and more.

Unhealthy personal boundaries can cause emotional damage in yourself and others, and can even lead to physical harm.  Sometimes the psychological damage is not noticeable until months or years later.

Ask yourself:

  • Are my opinions my own?
  • Do I have my own likes and dislikes?
  • Do I copy what my friends and family do/think/wear?
  • Can I think for myself?
  • Can I decide important decisions without strong influence from friends and family?
  • Do I tell everyone else what to do, and how to live their life?
  • Do I force my opinions or religious beliefs on others?
  • Do I worry about socialising with others who are different to me?
  • Can I talk for myself? Do I speak up?
  • Do I notice if someone comes too close  to me physically?
  • Do I recognise when someone “walks all over me”?
  • Am I a “door mat” or “wall flower”?
  • Can I say “No – I don’t like that!” Or “Please stop!”
  • Does anyone touch me in places I wished they didn’t? (Even a unwanted  hug or kiss on the cheek from a family member are physical boundary violations.)
  • Do I often feel “icky” or uneasy around the some people?
  • Do my partner and I dress similarly? Do we wear the same colours?
  • Do I have hobbies and interests separate to my partner/spouse?
  • (For parents) When I talk about my child/children, do I use the word “we” in sentences instead of “he” , “she” or “they”? For example, “We are doing our homework now”, or “We are getting bullied at school”.
  • Do I justify my behaviour by saying “It’s for their own good!”
  • Do I look through other people’s phones/emails/diaries/private belongings?
  • Do I knock or announce myself before I enter someone else’s bedroom or private space?
  • Do I jokingly tease my child/children about their developing body during their age of puberty?

If you answered Yes to many questions above, you could benefit with some fine tuning of your emotional and physical boundaries. Please seek proper psychological guidance from a professional.

Luckily most harm done is repairable with good psychological care. A good psychologist can even help victims of severe  boundaries violations, such as child sexual abuse, with dedicated and focused long-term psychological care.


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