Boundaries - What are yours?

Boundaries, get to know yours.


We all have different personal boundaries. What is OK for you may not be OK for somebody else. Personal boundaries are the rules and limitations we set within our relationships. They define where we stop and another begins and if they are healthy they protect us from becoming resentful, used and exhausted and enable us to let others in.


A person with healthy boundaries can feel comfortable saying  “No” to others when they want to but equally they feel comfortable being intimate and close in relationships.


Sometimes our boundaries need a little bit of strengthening or loosening, if you find yourself agreeing to do lots of things for others when deep down you really know you don’t have the time to follow through or perhaps you are easily manipulated by another’s demands, your boundaries might need strengthening or perhaps you may have rigid boundaries,  putting up walls and being very closed off finding it difficult to let others in, in which case your boundaries might need softening.


Working out your personal boundaries


1 What’s important to you?


What’s acceptable to us is often determined by our own personal values for example if  you value your health more than a promotion at work you may find it easier to finish work on time. Likewise if spending time with your family takes priority it will be much easier to say no to that extra project at work. Work out what is most important to you, these are your core values and knowing what they are makes it easier to stick to your boundaries.


2 Get to know your limitations


Are you guilty of always being sucked in to giving just a little bit more all of the time? All these little bits of giving easily snowball until you are doing far too much and finding  it hard to cope. Try to really get to know your limitations and practise what it feels like to have a comfortable amount of time to get everything done.


3 Show yourself some respect


If you are constantly giving your time to others your boundaries might be too weak. Perhaps you are ”people pleasing” and trying subconsciously to gain their approval. Show yourself the same respect you show others.


4 Listen to your feelings


If you start to resent others or feel uncomfortable in certain situations, use these feelings as your guide. Listen to the message they are trying to tell you. If you start to feel resentful ask yourself  why? Do I feel like I am being taken for granted? Is that too much to ask?


5 Be assertive


You’ve done all of the hard work. You’ve worked out your values, limitations and feelings now don’t be shy to say “No” and to mean it assertively and respectfully.


Know and respect your boundaries as much as you respect others, practise looking after yourself and strengthening or softening your boundaries as required and enjoy the comfortable feeling of knowing you are worth that self-care and deeper connection with others.


Knowing where to begin?

If you've experienced any developmental trauma it will take courage, patience and work to navigate your way through the healing process. But it's likely you have had to be incredibly strong and resilient to make it this far carrying around a really heavy burden over all these years. Perhaps you’re not ready yet to delve deep into that trauma be it caused through incest, abuse or perhaps an emotionally unavailable parent, but can you risk taking a few first important steps?

Finding a warm and empathic counsellor could be the first step towards this goal. Someone who has perhaps set out on that journey themselves and can attune themselves to where you are, pacing your route with what you are ready to deal with in this stage of your unfolding insight.

It's OK to take your time over this work taking out memories and examining them but putting them away until later if need be. Later might be when your circumstances are better, or when you have more knowledge about yourself or even just after that important interview or party you've been looking forward to. The next time you get those memories out you are likely to have more insight to bestow upon them, giving you a different perspective which might help you to re-frame them.

The point is, whatever you have been through, has touched you deeply and may have made you look at the world in a different way. You might feel like you don’t belong, that you’re not good enough, perhaps that you can only be loved if you are flawless, that you must always put others before yourself, maybe you struggle to deal with relationships because you fear you may be rejected, hurt or abandoned.

That’s a lot of stuff and the journey to healing is going to be long and sometimes hard, but you don’t have to do it all at once. You might have thought long and hard about taking a chance in seeking help and once you’ve finally decided to jump in and share how you’re feeling with another human being, it might be tempting to rush through it all and get better quickly.

Be kind to yourself, this might be the first time you’ve shown your vulnerability and that can feel very frightening. This might be the first time you’ve admitted to yourself, let alone someone else how hurt and wounded you are. Pace yourself. Be kind. You, as much as anyone else deserves to be happy.

Trust that there is a way through. You’ll know you’re on your way when you start taking better care of yourself and your needs, when you stop looking outside of yourself for reassurance or affirmation, when you are able to feel confident in your decisions and act upon them, when you are able to challenge those that upset you and you feel more trust and connection with others.

Be brave enough to take those first steps, but kind enough to yourself to pace your journey.

How could living authentically be the key to your happiness?


It can be very easy to slip into an inauthentic way of living over the years. Perhaps you have noticed that you say yes when really you mean no or perhaps you do a job that you hate because you feel it carries more status than the job we would really love to do. Maybe you are constantly striving to earn more money to buy a bigger house or a shinier car when actually all we would like to do is to work less and enjoy your life a little bit more. Before you know it your own needs, values and and desires have become forgotten and life has slowly moulded you into someone that doesn’t feel quite right.

If you’re lucky something might crop up that shakes up your life a little bit and causes enough of a disturbance for you to look around and question if you life is shaped the way you would like it to be. Sometimes this disturbance can be a loss, redundancy, depression or stress but embrace this as an opportunity to take a long hard look at your life and work out what you want to let go of, fight for, or change?

Deep down we all know what is and isn't working for us but we do ourselves a disservice by choosing to ignore that knowledge whilst pursuing the things we feel we need to achieve and do to feel accepted. It’s much easier for us to risk being ourselves and to start tapping into our authenticity and creativity if we are provided with the right environment, an environment in which we feel safe enough to truly be ourselves without fear of judgement, criticism or reprisals and this is the environment I hope to provide in my practice.

Carl Rogers was an American psychologist and one of the founders of the humanistic approach to psychology, he said

“ the curious paradox is that when I accept myself as I am, then I change.”  (Rogers, 2012)

So what if you were to stop using up all that energy focussing on what you are not, where you are not and how far you have to travel to get to that imagined “good enough” you? What if you were to accept yourself as you were? Perhaps if you were to shift the focus away from non-acceptance and conforming you would be free to listen to your own needs and desires and perhaps that burden of conforming and pleasing others is the very thing that is blocking your path to growth and change?

Perhaps counselling could help uncover all that suffocated potential, empowering you to do what it is you need to do to live a more rewarding and authentic life.

Michelle Brown MBACP Registered Counsellor and Psychotherapist and Associate Counsellor for West Kent Mind.

Quote taken from

Rogers, C. (2012). On becoming a person. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt