Five Types of Personal Boundaries (and How to Set Them)
It’s easy to think of “personal boundaries” as a subjective set of preferences. But while this is true in a limited sense, a more meaningful study of our own boundaries helps us understand how to more effectively apply them in our lives, especially when they are violated.
What are personal boundaries?
According to the University of California, Berkeley Health Service, personal boundaries “are the limits and rules we set for ourselves in relationships.” This straightforward definition is more varied by delving into the details of personal boundaries and different personality types.
The university explains how personal boundaries are manifested in a spectrum of personality types, from tough, porous and healthy.
- People with tight personal boundaries are more likely to have no close relationships. They will likely keep most people at a safe distance, even if they are romantically involved.
- Someone with permeable personal boundaries may feel like they want to please others, or they may compromise their comfort in order to satisfy others. They may “be afraid of rejection if they don’t obey others,” and may find it difficult to say no.
- A person with healthy personal boundaries often understands their preferences and does not compromise. They do not tend to overly disseminate personal information or meet the needs of others in any way that undermines their own integrity.
These are the ways that people can demonstrate personal boundaries, but there is also a concept related to how we recognize when to apply personal boundaries in everyday life.
Five types of personal boundaries
Life will push your personal boundaries into action, and psychologists have divided the different types of personal boundaries into physical, emotional, sexual, material, and temporal.
- Physical boundaries mean your willingness to have physical contact, whether it’s just someone sitting next to you on the bus or bullying with friends, for example. The sooner you set the boundary, the better — so if, for example, you don’t like hugging, confidently say to someone, “I’m not hugging,” and offer a handshake.
- Emotional boundaries are limitations, or lack thereof, that you place in order to share intimate feelings with others. It also includes the emotional energy and work you can put into specific relationships. For example, say something like, “I just don’t have the opportunity to discuss this, but maybe another time.”
- Sexual boundaries encompass your comfort and consent to sexual intercourse. This is due not only to unwanted sexual encounters, but also to your relationships with regular monogamous partners. Making a confident statement “this is not mine” or “I don’t do that” can help send a clear message, especially early on.
- Time frames include how you want to spend your time and how much time you will spend on various activities, such as attending a friend’s birthday party. Saying something like “I can come, but only for a couple of hours” is an effective way to mark time boundaries.
- According to CBT Psychology Associates, material boundaries include “setting limits on what you share and with whom.” This could mean that you are not lending a car to someone in your family for fear that they will not respect your property. Depending on your relationship with someone, you may decide whether to offer you an explanation as to why, say, you are not lending your belongings, but be careful not to get into an argument.
How to implement personal boundaries
As psychotherapist F. Diane Barth explained in her book Psychology Today , boundaries are associated with knowing oneself and effectively expressing preferences.
Boundaries are not about pushing people away or trying to control them. They clarify what you value, including your own space, your own beliefs, and your own self-worth. Explaining and communicating these values can not only make you feel better, but also, sometimes in unexpected ways, improve your relationships with others.
If you can effectively communicate your personal boundaries to others, you will find that interpersonal relationships will improve in addition to your own self-confidence and awareness.