Personal boundaries (and why they’re important)

personal boundaries

It’s so important to establish and communicate your personal boundaries.

There are all sorts of people in life:  givers, takers, helpers, fixers.  The list goes on and on.  But how do these different personalities affect us?  The famous statement that communication is 93% non-verbal is partly true. The finding was in fact that communication is 55% body language and 38% tone of voice, leaving just 7% to the actual words we use (Mehrabian, 1972). This shows the importance of the messages we give to others about ourselves. This is why our boundaries are crucial.

Our body language is the first clue. We’ve all seen the upright, confident- looking person that walk into a room. Without uttering a word they command the attention of others.  Chances are that when this person speaks, they speak in an assertive manner. They give out the message ‘don’t mess with me’, or ‘I know my stuff’. Everyone knows they are not going to be a pushover.

But this is just the beginning. Yes it’s true that we can instantly convert ourselves outwardly into the person described above at work or formal settings or even when in a social gathering, simply by pushing back our shoulders, holding our heads up and speaking loud and clear – step one.  But what about the messages we give about how much we are prepared to take on from others?

Are you even aware of yours?

Are you aware of your own personal boundaries?  Because I’m pretty sure others are.  Are you the person that never says no?  If you want a quiet night in alone because you’ve had a tough week, and someone asks you to do something for them or with them – do you say so or do you worry about upsetting them?  Are you the one that says ‘yes’ to that extra job because you don’t want to let anyone down when the truth is, you’re already behind?  Do you ever say no?

Most of us have met someone who we believe ‘knows themselves’.  Not the arrogant, unpleasant one, but the one who’s kind and likeable and ‘sorted’.  Many of us dream of being that assertive and the irony is that we like that – we admire it in others so long as the balance is right, and yet we often go about it all the wrong way for ourselves.

We become ‘yes-people’ in the misguided view that the more we do for people, the more they will like us.  The more we put others before ourselves, the more respected we are.  Wrong. There are plenty of people that have homed in on us because even though there has never been a conversation about it – they know who to go to to get their needs met!

The more we do, the more we are asked to do.  And we sink lower and lower and feel more and more overwhelmed and fed up!  We are not talking about insensitivity and arrogance here. There’s a big difference between being rude and being assertive.  Caring for ourselves may also mean needing to find the balance between what we will and will not do.  I often say to clients – ‘treat yourself as if though you were someone you love.’

Would you keep on overloading someone you love?

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