Updated: Oct 17, 2020
Personal boundaries are the limits and rules we set for ourselves, in relation to others and the world around us.
A person with healthy boundaries is able to say ‘no’ to others when it feels right to do so, but they are also comfortable opening themselves up to intimacy and close relationships. They can connect with their core self and discern what feels okay and what doesn’t.
If you’re the type of person to always keep others and the world at a distance (whether emotionally, physically or otherwise) you probably have rigid boundaries.
Alternatively, if you tend to get too involved with others, or have difficulty saying no to people and commitments, then perhaps your boundaries are overly porous.
Boundaries are not a solid wall, but they are always changing depending on our environment or who we are interacting with. So, you might find that your boundaries change depending on circumstances.
To establish healthy boundaries in all situations, it’s important for you to stay connected with your feelings and needs. This is so you can recognise the felt sense that arises when your boundaries are being violated or to judge whether your boundaries are overly rigid.
There are no set rules as to how to do this! Each situation is unique and what feels okay for some people, might not feel okay to others.
Remember, you can set clear boundaries when you respect, value and listen to the feelings that arise when your needs are met (or not met!)
Highly Sensitive People tend to neglect their needs or think they are not important. They might also:
Take on the pain or emotions of others.
Be inclined to want to ‘fix’ others.
Take on too much at once because of the belief that they need to handle everything on their own!
Highly Sensitive People who have experienced difficult childhoods or other challenging life events might struggle even more with setting healthy boundaries.
This is often because they haven’t had an example of healthy boundaries modelled for them or because their boundaries were violated when they were younger.
A good example of how this might play out in your life is — if you were hurt by a past relationship then you might have a part of you that feels afraid of getting hurt again. So, you put up a strong boundary which stops you getting too close to people too quickly. You are simply trying to protect yourself! This only becomes a problem if you remain overly rigid with your boundaries and stop taking any kind of risk to get close to anyone, ever again!
Other highly sensitive people may have overly porous boundaries — they find themselves saying yes to things all the time. They might over-commit or give too much of their energy or time to others.
There are various reasons why this might be, but it may stem from a desire to feel accepted and belong to a tribe. It can be common for HSP to feel misunderstood or different, so it makes sense that they might fear being rejected by others, and so, overly compensate for this.
The habit of saying yes all the time can become quite overwhelming and may lead to burnout after a short period of time.
Take a moment to reflect on your personal boundaries:
Are you overly rigid, porous or flexible with your boundaries?
Do you listen to your own feelings and needs?
What is something you would like to change about your ability to set boundaries, and in which area of your life would you like this change to take place?
If you’d like to learn more about boundary setting as a Highly Sensitive Person check out the following workshops for helping HSP build resilience, set healthy boundaries and combat stress or emotional overwhelm!