The Importance of Personal Boundaries


Boundaries are a way to take care of yourself by helping you assert what is part of you and what is not. The notion of having a border sets reasonable distances between the person and other people. Without boundaries, it is hard to maintain self-awareness in interpersonal relationships. However, there are several types of boundaries with different implications in life.

Based on the Personal Space Boundary (PSB) theory by Anne Scott Stiles in 1986, personal boundaries can be classified into closed or rigid, open, and flexible boundaries.   

People with rigid boundaries put up a strong wall to avoid interaction with others and people with open boundaries invite others into their personal space. While these two boundaries could result in the isolation of the person, a flexible boundary is the healthiest boundary since it allows an appropriate amount of social interaction.

Why do healthy boundaries matter?

Flexible boundaries are often depicted by the ability to say no to others in case their behavior is overstepping the limit and saying “yes” to build intimacy and close relationships.   

Apart from being essential in interpersonal relationships, healthy boundaries also act as a coping mechanism against stress as demonstrated in a 2019 study by Henrik Lindqvist. As such, it is even more important to understand that setting personal boundaries is important in building your resilience.

Maintain relationships

Clear rules can let other people know what is acceptable, hence reducing the possibility of having a dispute.   

Moreover, different degrees of permeability of the boundaries can highlight different levels of intimacy. The more you open up to someone, the more special that person would feel which would then deepen the meaning of your relationship.   

Flexible boundaries can help you have a healthy balance of independence and interdependence, whether it is in professional or personal relationships.   

In some cases, personal boundaries may seem arrogant to some people since they think that stating what is convenient for yourself is being self-centered. There might be some sort of resistance to your boundaries by arguing, ignoring, manipulating, or threatening you. However, this opposition can become a signal for you to assess your relationship with the person. If you perceive the person as toxic, then you can take appropriate steps to deal with him/her.  

Improve self-esteem

According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you won’t be ready to fulfill your esteem needs if you don’t address love and belonging needs first through healthy relationships (Kenrick et al., 2010).   

Esteem needs encompass self-esteem, confidence, and respect. Having boundaries signifies that you are accepting your individuality and respecting yourself. Hence, you expect others to do the same. Therefore, the more well-defined your boundaries are, the more people will treat you as a worthy individual, and the stronger your self-esteem will become.  

To facilitate the efficacy of your boundaries, you should require assertiveness. Firmly stating your needs and interests even when they are the opposite of others’ needs would help you preserve your self-esteem.   

However, based on the study by Daniel Ames in 2017, being assertive does not mean that you compromise but discussing the point where your and others’ needs might overlap while still not crossing the limits.

Reduce emotional exhaustion

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are many changes in work-lifestyle, one of them being the blurred boundaries between work and home life demands. People are asked to juggle multiple responsibilities resulting in a high level of stress. The accumulated stress could lead to emotional exhaustion, which is one of the signs of burnout  

A 2021 meta-analysis study led by Tariq A. Alsalhe et al. reported that the prevalence rate of high emotional exhaustion is 28.6% on average – ranging from 11.52 to 60.6%. People experiencing emotional exhaustion generally display symptoms like a lack of motivation, trouble sleeping, and irritability. They might even develop mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. As such, it is important to establish good boundaries between professional and personal life.

In conclusion

Boundaries are limits set to express one’s needs and wants. With the right composition of saying yes and no to others, flexible boundaries are the healthiest form of personal boundaries. They are necessary to maintain healthy relationships while improving one’s self-esteem. Setting boundaries are also vital in preventing emotional exhaustion from maladaptive work-lifestyle.

Boundary management are just one of the many aspects that the Personal Resilience Science Labs tackles. Using the research of the Institute for Life Management Science, the lab produces courses, certifications, podcasts, videos, and other learning tools aimed at strengthening your ability to bounce back after a setback. Visit the Personal Resilience Science Labs today.

personal resilience science labs

Photo by Steven Lelham on Unsplash

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.