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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

9 Ways to Build and Keep Healthy Personal Boundaries

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9 Ways to Build and Keep Healthy Personal Boundaries

How would your life change if you were able to maintain personal boundaries? This includes stopping people from overstepping into your personal space, as well as sticking to the personal boundaries that you set for yourself later.

This ideal world is possible. All it takes is a little know-how and practice. Self-awareness, values, and assertiveness are qualities that play a part in maintaining strong boundaries that we will explore further in this article.

What you will find here is an explanation of personal boundaries, why you need them in your life, and 9 expert tips to get you started.

Let’s dive in…

What Are Personal Boundaries?

Personal boundaries are the limits that you set when it comes to what you expect from a person and how they behave towards you. They indicate what you find acceptable and unacceptable in someone else’s behavior, particularly with someone that you are close to, such as family, friends, or a partner.

Personal boundaries can be set in almost any area of your life. You can be quite strict about what hours during the day you will answer phone calls, but quite flexible in terms of your text responses. You might not appreciate anyone raising their voice at you in any circumstance, but you may not mind people telling you what to do all the time — as long as it is in a quieter tone.

Personal boundaries can be restrictive or free depending on your own personality and preferences. Other common domains of personal boundaries include personal space, sexuality, time, energy, interaction, communication, religion, and ethics. However, personal boundaries are by no means limited to these things.

Why Are Personal Boundaries Important?

The fundamental reason why people set boundaries is to try and create stronger relationships with themselves and other people. Personal boundaries are an essential part of any thriving relationship and should never be overlooked.

Just like fences and walls in the physical world are used to determine where you can and can’t go, what is yours and what isn’t yours, personal boundaries determine how far others can go before crossing the line.

They stop people from walking all over you. They stop people from manipulating you. They stop people from getting too far into your personal business.

Why is this important? Because what is yours is yours. You are unique, and just like every other human on this earth, you have things that you are comfortable with and things that make you really uncomfortable. You have preferences, you have hang-ups, and you have challenges that are unique to you. They are for you to deal with, no-one else.

That’s why personal boundaries are important. They let other people know where they can step and where they can’t. Boundaries open and close, expand and contract all the time — you just need to let people know.

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All of this is also a reminder to be accepting and conscious of other people’s personal boundaries, too. This is especially important in couples as partners inhabit each other’s most intimate spaces, including physical, emotional, and sexual areas[1].

The result? Healthy relationships that thrive on mutual respect, trust, and happiness.

Now that’s something worth striving for, isn’t it?

How to Set Personal Boundaries

Just like anything else in life, in order to become an expert at setting and being comfortable with personal boundaries, you have to practice. Luckily, we have 9 amazing ways for you to get started and to start reclaiming your own life.

Are you ready?

1. Identify Your Boundaries

It is impossible to begin setting personal boundaries when you don’t even know what they are or where they lie. This is why the starting point for anyone who feels like they may need more/fewer boundaries is to identify where they currently stand.

Are you getting pushed around too often? Or are you completely resistant to any change?

Do you find yourself arguing with people a lot? Or do you find it difficult to speak up when you know you should?

Everybody has different starting points when it comes to their personal boundaries, and those boundaries will inevitably change with time. The first thing you should do, though, is to find your starting point.

2. Determine Your Values

One of the best ways to identify what your boundaries are and how you want them to change is to determine what your values in life are.

If you value creative freedom and thinking time, consider placing a strong boundary around your personal space and your free time.

If you value the small things in life over the big, extravagant things, maybe consider loosening your boundaries a little to let more serendipity in.

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If you value yourself or you want to start valuing yourself more highly, start placing firmer boundaries around how people speak to you and treat you.

Whatever your unique personal values are, your personal boundaries that you set are going to be what helps you to maintain them.

3. Start Simple

As touched upon already, any skill in life requires not only practice to reach a desired level, but also regular reviews and maintenance to make sure that skill doesn’t disappear. Setting personal boundaries is no different.

Rather than completely pushing back on people that are overstepping, turning your back on every single aspect of your old beliefs, or selling all of your stuff to live in a remote forest, there are small steps that you can and should take first.

If you have a friend that always calls you to make plans, and you feel pressured into doing so, politely tell them that you don’t want to this week. What will happen? Not much, probably. This small step will give you the confidence to say no again in future weeks when you don’t feel like going out.

If you feel like you are getting too much input and overwhelming information from your phone, my favorite hack is to delete the troublesome apps for a day. Missing them? Download them again tomorrow. Didn’t miss them as much as you thought? See what another day without them is like[2].

It is just as important to set boundaries with yourself and your own routines as it is to set boundaries with other people. The only way to begin in both respects is to start simple.

4. Listen to Your Feelings

If you aren’t sure about where your personal boundaries should be, it might be a good idea to check in with your feelings and the sensations in your body every now and then[3]. These will usually give you an excellent indication.

Signs to look out for include an increased heart rate, sweating, tightness in your chest or stomach, and other general feelings of discomfort. Of course, just because you feel these sensations does not mean that you should close yourself up to the world — that won’t help you in any way.

Your feelings are like directions on the side of the road. They will let you know what areas that you should probably investigate a little further.

5. Learn to Say No

Possibly the biggest stumbling block that people who struggle with setting personal boundaries have is that they find it extremely difficult to say no.

This comes in all sorts of packages. You might find it impossible to say no to social gatherings for Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). You might find yourself doing loads of favors for people who asked you even though they could have probably done those things themselves.

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You might even have a friend or spouse who encroaches too far into your personal stuff, but you struggle to tell them no because they are your friend or partner. The problem is with you and not them, right?

Probably not. The reason most people face resistance to saying no is that they are worried about how it will make the other person feel. Maybe it’s time to stop and think about how you are feeling for once.

You are allowed to say no without an explanation[4]. It likely won’t affect the other person nearly as much as you think it will. As an article on Healthline

In most instances, people will be fine with you saying no. Perhaps even more surprisingly, you might find that people actually respect you more because you have personal boundaries.

On the flip side, if the person reacts poorly to your personal boundaries, it’s their problem, not yours. In fact, they’ve just made it even easier for you to realize that you probably don’t need them in your life.

6. Be Assertive

This ties in very closely with the previous point about saying no. The importance of being assertive when setting your personal boundaries cannot be emphasized enough — whether with yourself or with other people.

Remember, this doesn’t mean being cruel or insensitive. Being assertive simply means stating what you want or need in a clear manner without beating around the bush.

If you aren’t assertive with people when trying to set boundaries — especially if you have had issues setting them in the past — expect them to not to take you seriously and life to go on as it did before.

7. Set Consequences

Setting consequences is one of the most important actions that you can take to ensure that your personal boundaries don’t get overstepped.

What stops people from breaking the law? Consequences. What stops children from misbehaving? Consequences. What is going to stop people from violating your personal boundaries? Consequences.

People will try and get away with whatever they can. If you don’t put your foot down, your boundaries won’t be taken seriously. The consequences don’t have to be drastic, just a stern rebuke will usually do the trick.

Make sure that you not only set consequences but also stick to them, otherwise they won’t be taken seriously.

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8. Practice Self-Awareness

You have probably been recommended some sort self-awareness or mindfulness practice at some stage for a certain part of your life, and setting boundaries is no different. The benefits of self-awareness touch every single aspect of your being and your life.

When you are aware of your thoughts and feelings and what they are doing for you (or to you), you can start to work out where specific boundaries need to be set.

For example, if you are an overthinker, and your thoughts begin to race whenever you are in a situation, be aware of this. Set a boundary with yourself that whenever a negative thought pops into your mind, you will let it go. No matter what. It won’t have anything useful to say, so don’t fall for it.

Of course, this can apply to other people, too. However, self-awareness and boundaries with yourself not only go hand-in-hand, but are essential to a life of peace and joy.

9. Seek Support

A common mistake to make when trying to set personal boundaries is that you have to do it alone. You have to plan everything yourself, enforce everything yourself, and work out what is and what isn’t working for yourself. That simply isn’t true.

If you find yourself struggling or simply want an easier ride, talk to your friends, family, or spouse about the boundaries that you will set and explain why. You might think that opening up will create arguments and resistance, but more often than not, people appreciate you letting them know.

Setting boundaries can be extremely difficult though, whether that be setting them with other people or setting them with yourself. Don’t ever have any shame about seeking professional help. If you feel like your life will greatly benefit from help, then it is something that you absolutely should consider getting.

Final Thoughts

There you have it. Hopefully, this article has done its job and illuminated what a life with excellent personal boundaries can look like and created a roadmap on how you can get there.

As with anything in this life, practice makes perfect. Don’t sweat it if you mess up on the path. Just get back up and keep going!

More Tips on Creating Personal Boundaries

Featured photo credit: Anika Huizinga via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Daniel Riley

Daniel is a writer who specialises in personal development and helping others become the best version of themselves.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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