Personal Boundaries Build Healthy Relationships

Woman with green hair on balcony hugging herself represents personal boundaries.

Personal Boundaries

Building Healthy Relationships

Written by Randi Fine

Narcissistic Abuse Awareness and Guidance with Randi Fine

How healthy are your personal boundaries? If that question is difficult for you to answer, you are not alone. Many people suffer from emotional pain and toxic relationships, symptoms of undefined personal boundaries, but do not recognize the connection.

Personal boundaries are the limits we set in all our relationships to protect us from emotional abuse, manipulation, or enmeshment with others. Those who develop healthy personal boundaries are not needy, overly empathetic, controlling, or overly pleasing.

Are you someone with a generous nature who freely gives of yourself to others but often feel taken for granted? If so, you may be having trouble differentiating between the concepts of kindness and over-pleasing.

Perhaps you have asked yourself the following questions:

  • Why am I so giving to others yet I’m always getting stepped on and/or rejected?
  • Why don’t others ever appreciate what I do for them?
  • Why do I always find myself being taken advantage of?

If you are always giving and it seems like others are ungraciously taking, you have probably attributed their behavior to thoughtlessness or rudeness. Maybe you’ve thought about finding new friends, distancing yourself from your family, changing jobs, or relocating. In some cases that is necessary, but it is important to distinguish the toxic behavior of others from your lack of healthy personal boundaries.

You may have suspected that you are doing something wrong, but keep coming back to the belief that generosity is a virtue—that it is a beautiful thing to give of oneself. Generosity is a virtue but when unbridled may be a symptom of poorly structured emotional boundaries.

Are people taking advantage of you because you allow them to?  Do you blame others for letting you down when in actuality you have given your personal power over to them?

Do you believe that you have the right and responsibility to get your needs met? You cannot set limits with others until you identify, acknowledge, understand, and honor your own needs. To be clear on what treatment you will and will not tolerate from others you must first treat yourself the way you wish to be treated.

Not all people who use you set out to hurt you. Your feelings are probably not considered at all. If you don’t matter to you, you probably don’t matter to them either. Most people who take advantage of others are not calculatingly evil—they are just opportunists. They see an in and take it.

Opportunists are not as strong willed as they may appear. If you pay attention to their other relationships you will notice that they do not take advantage of everyone. They are no match for those with clear and enforced boundaries. The only ones they take advantage of are those who allow it. They do it simply because they know they can.

The only way to stop others from walking all over you is through the establishment and maintenance of healthy personal boundaries. Once those limits are set you must enforce them in order for them to be effective.

The only person you have control over is you. You cannot force others to change. All you can do is decide what you will and will not tolerate. Do not feel bad about setting limits. Decent people will have no problem with them. Users and those with nefarious agendas, such as narcissists, will.

The first step in regaining your power is recognizing that you lack clear boundaries and acknowledging that they are impeding your ability to be happy and/or successful. The next step is building them. Start by identifying one behavior or action of others that you find intolerable. It doesn’t matter why you find it intolerable–just honor the fact that you do. Then make a pact with yourself not to allow that into your life any more.

Boundary setting is a process that builds on itself. Your feeling of personal power will increase every time you actively reinforce a boundary. It will get easier and easier to do.

There will always be people who try to take advantage of you. It is your responsibility to show others how to treat you and it is your prerogative to allow or disallow disrespect.

Podcast Shows about this topic:

Randi Fine is the author of the groundbreaking book Close Encounters of the Worst Kind: The Narcissistic Abuse Survivor’s Guide to Healing, the most comprehensive, most well researched, and most up-to-date book on this subject. In addition to helping survivors recognize their abuse and heal from it, this book teaches mental health professionals how to recognize and properly treat the associated abuse syndrome. She is also the author of Cliffedge Road: A Memoir, the first and only book to characterize the life-long progression of complications caused by narcissistic child abuse

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