What are personal boundaries, anyway, and why is it important to have healthy ones?
Personal boundaries are both the physical and emotional limits we establish with other people. They allow others to know what's acceptable and what's not OK within your relationships.
Boundaries run on a spectrum — from unclear, defuse, or loose to the opposite end, with some boundaries being too rigid.
With defuse boundaries, you may often feel used or overextended with commitments by others. With rigid boundaries, you feel a sense of isolation or feel misunderstood.
Healthy boundaries fall somewhere in the middle of a spectrum and vary for different relationships.
For example, boundaries with a boss should be very different from boundaries with family members.
It's not uncommon for people to be unclear about how to set or communicate their boundaries with others.
Often, people feel "bad" about setting a limit with others. As a result of this discomfort with boundary setting, you may feel burned out or resentful of others, due to not being able to say "no."
Here's a quiz that can help you identify how comfortable you are setting boundaries and define areas that you may need to work on to set healthier boundaries with others.
Rate the following questions on a scale of 1 to 3, with 1 = Never, 2 = sometimes, 3 = always.
1. I often am unable to say "no" if someone requests something of me that I do not wish to offer or share.
2. I often feel taken advantage of by people, feeling used, or let down by others.
3. I feel bad saying "no" to requests, even if I'm overwhelmed or have commitments that prevent me from assisting another person.
4. People have told me that I am "too nice" and need to say "no" or not allow someone to talk advantage of me.
5. The thought of disappointing others is unbearable or very difficult for me.
6. I would describe myself as a "people pleaser" and will change or agree with others to keep the peace.
7. Others don’t include me or ask me to participate in group activities, assuming I won’t participate.
8. I struggle with maintaining friendships as I feel others ask too much of me or expect too much emotionally.
9. I feel uncomfortable sharing or allowing others to know more personal details about myself, even in a friendship setting or with someone I have known for a while.
10. People or family members have criticized me for being uncaring or inflexible with meeting their needs of the needs of others.
11. I disclose personal, intimate information to people I barely know, such as a store clerk.
12. Family members or your children have been upset with you for sharing details of their lives with others.
13. I feel lonely, isolated, and oftentimes not included in events.
14. I'm easily influenced by others and take the opinion of someone else over what I think.
15. I often wonder why people don’t reach out to me or ask my opinion.
16. Social events make me feel uncomfortable as I may be asked to share details about myself.
17. I've alienated family members or close people in my life.
18. I've been told I'm inflexible or that it is my way or the highway in relationships.
19. People see me as a pushover.
20. I've been taken advantage of either financially or with things that I have done for another person.
21. I agree with things or statements people say because I know it will make another person happy, but it's not truly how I feel and I later change my mind and disappoint people.
22. I'm so overscheduled with the activities of others that I often don’t have time for myself.
Find out what your boundaries quiz score means:
44-66: You struggle with overly rigid boundaries or loose boundaries and often feel confused by how people react to you. You may feel frustrated in your relationships. It's time to look at your boundaries and develop healthier boundaries.
22-44: For the most part, you know how to set boundaries within relationships but there are certain areas you struggle with. It's time to learn how to firm them up.
0-22: Congratulations! You exhibit healthy boundaries in most of your relationships. You know when to say "no" and when to support others. You have a healthy balance with others and a nice "give and take" in your relationships.
Developing healthier boundaries helps you have more rewarding and satisfying relationships with others.
We often learn about boundary-setting from our parents. If our parents struggled with setting boundaries, we struggle as well.
Finding where that happy medium is in our lives can help you have more fulfilling relationships.
Setting personal boundaries helps us understand that we all have distinct needs and emotions within our relationship.
You can communicate your perspective while also valuing the perspective of others.
Monica Ramunda, LPC, LCMHC, RPT-S is a licensed counselor in both North Carolina and Colorado and helps adults learn how to set healthier boundaries to lead a more fulfilling life and find more satisfaction within their relationships. She is the owner of Rocky Mountain Counseling Services and Lighthouse Counseling Services and offers both in-person sessions and teletherapy.