Why It Is Important To Have Personal Boundaries

Bonnie Ware, an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives, put her observations into a book ‘The Top Five Regrets of the Dying’. When looking back at their lives, the number one regret people had was: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me… How can we be true to ourselves and live according to our priorities? An intentional life is possible when setting clear personal boundaries!

Limit-setting abilities define our soul and help to guard it. They keep the good things inside and the bad ones outside. They protect our treasures, which are our relationships, time, money, feelings, and beliefs and show how we want others to treat them! 

Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend in their book ‘Boundaries’ explain: “People with immature limit-setting abilities often find themselves involved with boundary-busters. These may be family members, colleagues, spouses, church members, or friends. The boundary confusion seems normal to them – so they aren’t very aware of the destruction it causes for themselves and others.” 

For example,  your colleague hasn’t done his job again and is desperately asking for your help. Based on your experience, this is not the first time it’s happening and definitely won’t be the last one either. It is a pattern you recognize and deeply resent, however, no matter how much you hate it, you comply. 

Be it work, family, friends, sooner or later not establishing and respecting boundaries leads to an empty heart, broken relationships and, in many cases, wrecked health.

Think about your personal experience. Let the following questions help you to evaluate how strong/weak/non-existing your personal boundaries are:

Do you feel as if you are never caught up, or as if your life is not your own?

Do you say “OK”  or say nothing when you would rather not do something for someone because you don’t want a confrontation?

Do you see yourself as the only one who can help, and that you, therefore, should say YES?

Do you feel taken advantage of by those you love?

Do you feel as if your kids (mate, parents, others) run your life?

What reactions do these questions cause in you? Take a hot spot, where you are paying the highest price for violating boundaries or where you don’t have any boundaries at all. It should be something that only you are responsible for, not anyone else to blame. Now imagine, how things would be different if you: 

Took responsibility for admitting and meeting your needs…, 

Adjusted your schedule…, 

Let others know your boundaries and the consequences of not respecting them…,

Sought out professional help…,

Your option…?

How much time and energy would you gain by doing so? How much more authentic your relationships would be? How much better your health would be?

Setting boundaries is a hard work yet it is truly liberating! I challenge you to become a person with healthy boundaries, living a life true to yourself, planning things ahead and actually moving towards your goals, having no regrets later on for not doing so! Let your YES be a wholehearted YES and your NO a loving NO that will empower others to grow by taking responsibility for themselves!

 

For a more in-depth study of the subject, I recommend Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend book ‘Boundaries’.

Resources:

Cloud, H., and Townsend, J. (1992) Boundaries. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Steiner, S. Top Five Regrets of the Dying | Life and style | The Guardian, Feb 2012.