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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

9 Ways to Build and Keep Healthy Personal Boundaries

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 January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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