Personal Boundaries

Boundaries.  There are physical boundaries, such as the walls in your home, or the door to your bedroom.  There are invisible physical boundaries, such as the border between two countries or even two states.  Then, there are our personal boundaries.  Personal boundaries cannot be seen, even on a map.  Personal boundaries vary from person to person, and even from year to year within the same person.  Some people have boundaries that are true with one person, but completely different boundaries for someone else.

First, what is a personal boundary?  Personal boundaries are protections a person has when dealing with others.  A personal boundary is a physical, emotional, and mental limit that one determines for their own protection.  Everyone has personal boundaries of some sort, though some are much stricter with their boundaries than others.

A physical personal boundary is to maintain a polite distance from strangers for the situation.  I do not like having to be close to someone I do not know, unless it is absolutely necessary, such as a crowded train.  Physical touch, even in a non-sexual way is very uncomfortable for me unless I know and care about the person.  This limits it mainly to family.  Luckily, the country I live in has a culture in which I am able to maintain this boundary without appearing rude.

An emotional boundary that I try to enforce is to avoid being around angry, yelling people.  This may seem like an odd one, no one likes to be yelled at, after all, but I don’t mean simply anger at myself.  I try to avoid hearing it if my neighbors are fighting, because the raised voices cause me to feel anxious.  If I do hear, say, a neighbor fighting, then I will either leave the apartment for a while, or put in headphones to avoid hearing the argument.

One of my mental personal boundaries is to limit talk of politics with those I disagree with.  This is an mental boundary, because I get far too emotional when debating the rights afforded or taken from others in a political context.  This personal boundary does not exclude me from exploring all sides of a political issue on my own, simply from having heated discussions that may very well result in a panic attack.

Once you are able to identify what your boundaries are, it is important to understand how to enforce them.  If someone starts to discuss a heated political current event, you can simply say, “I don’t want to talk about politics.”  If the person does not respect your wish, then they are behaving in a rude and inappropriate manner and you should not feel guilty to state your needs again, or simply excuse yourself.

The same can be said with other types of boundaries.  In a perfect world, everyone would be aware of their boundaries and respect the boundaries of others.  We do not live in a perfect world, but through clear communication of your personal boundaries, you should be able to expect those boundaries to be respected.  Remember, others have boundaries as well, so if someone tells you what a boundary of theirs is, make sure you respect it in return.


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