6 Strategies for Developing Strong Personal Boundaries


Do you regularly say yes when you really want to say no?

Do you feel guilty if you say no?

Do you tolerate rude comments or pushy people because you can’t handle conflict?

If you’ve answered yes to one or more of these questions you may have a bad case of the ‘disease to please’. The good news is, it’s totally treatable!

Most of us are clear when it comes to protecting ourselves with regard to physical boundaries. We build fences between properties, we place signage on roads and buildings, communities provide ‘safe places’ to meet and go about business, and most of us learn about acceptable physical boundaries from a young age. But what about internal boundaries, the ones that cannot be seen or easily recognised by others?

The physical world could not function without boundaries, and neither can we humans function effectively without strong personal boundaries.


“If you don’t know your own personal boundaries you are likely to allow others to define you.”

Earlier this year I was co-facilitating professional development workshops ‘Setting Robust Personal Boundaries’ with groups of teachers and I was surprised by how many of them said they struggled when it came to saying no. Many had such loose personal boundaries that they would take phone calls or texts from parents late at night or on the weekends. Others said yes to additional out of hours work as if they were on auto pilot. One woman shared that she was so used to saying yes to every request and demand she felt exhausted and on the verge of a nervous breakdown (her words).


Weak personal boundaries show up in a variety of circumstances. If you are struggling with establishing or maintaining your own personal boundaries you might find the following strategies helpful.


1. Mind Shift

The first step is awareness. Begin with the mind shift that having strong personal boundaries is OK. This doesn’t mean you are selfish or uncaring. It is completely acceptable and absolutely necessary to establish robust and clear personal boundaries to engage in healthy, fulfilling relationships.

“Always trying to please another person does not equate to a healthy relationship.”


2. Define

Sit down and think about how you have been allowing others to take advantage of you and how you might be accepting situations that are unacceptable to you. Make a list of things that people may no longer expect of you, say to you, or do to you. Define your values, belief systems, and outlook on life so you have a clear picture of who you are and how you want to live.

“It may be helpful to ask yourself, ‘What is this ‘people pleasing’ on behalf of?’”


3. Communicate

If you are in the habit of having weak personal boundaries it’s time to communicate what you want and need. If you do not speak up people will not know the impact of a request they make of you. If you automatically say yes when you want to say no simply stop, breathe and think about what you really want to do or say. If you are not sure of what you want in the moment, instead of saying your automatic response of yes, tell them you would like to think about the situation and get back to them later. This gives you time… and it begins to break the habit of pleasing others at the expense of your own wants and needs.


4. Expect

Expect that any conversation where you begin to assert yourself may feel uncomfortable or difficult, especially if you are a people pleaser. There may be some defensiveness and push-back from those involved. That’s OK. They’ll get used to your new boundaries over time. If not, it may be time to move on from those people. As you grow into your authentic Self you will find you will attract supportive and healthy-minded people into your life.

“Whatever you do, don’t compromise your values, integrity, and self-respect simply to please someone else.”


5. Be Patient

If you’ve had weak personal boundaries for years, it will take time to change un resourceful habits. Be aware that that change doesn’t happen overnight. Disengaging from the emotions and beliefs that led you to weak boundaries requires practice, and sometimes it requires the support of a counsellor or a coach.

“Begin to recognise and challenge the limiting beliefs that undermine your practice of setting your personal boundaries.”

Be patient with yourself. Speaking your truth may feel uncomfortable at first.


6. Believe

Believe in yourself and your value as a unique individual who is worthy of love and respect. Trust your instincts and feelings about what you do and don’t want in your life. No one knows better than you about who you are and what you desire. Don’t allow others to define that for you. Practice self confidence and self-love until it feels natural.


A few final words…

When you define and implement personal boundaries in your life, you will find that fear diminishes significantly. You will feel more empowered and self-confident because you are beginning to communicate as your authentic Self. The more you practice holding fast to your boundaries, the more love, respect, and support you will experience in your life.

If you struggle with personal boundary issues and would like to talk about how coaching can help you gain clarity and confidence feel free to send me an email at monica@creativeedgecoaching.com.au. Let’s set up a time to explore strategies so you can be in control of your life.


Monica O’Brien is a professionally trained and accredited Coach and founder of Creative Edge Coaching www.creativeedgecoaching.com.au. She blogs on issues about creativity and small business development for conscious artists and business entrepreneurs. 


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