Student Support Services: Establishing Healthy Personal Boundaries

By Fred Standil
Student Services Advisor at Herzing College

Unless we opt to live on an isolated island, we will experience many relationships throughout our lifetimes. These include family, significant others, friends, classmates, colleagues, and a host of other acquaintances. Navigating these relationships can pose challenges.

It’s imperative that we work at improving our relationships and managing them through rough patches.

Healthy personal boundaries reflect how we feel about ourselves. They are the physical, emotional, and mental limits that we establish to shield us from manipulation and disrespect at the hands of others. These boundaries allow us to establish ourselves as unique individuals who are distinct from the thoughts, feelings, and attitudes of those with whom we interact.

We are all influenced to varying degrees by those in our social circles. This is natural. If we make conscious and deliberate decisions about how we allow ourselves to be influenced by others, it can enhance the quality of our lives.

How do we put this approach into action? While there are many components to establishing healthy boundaries, here are some tips to enrich your relationships and help you to develop a strong sense of self-esteem.

  • Work on becoming aware of your own feelings, attitudes, and beliefs. This allows you to avoid indecision and helps to cement your personal set of values.
  • Take responsibility for your own words and actions. In a world where finger pointing has become second nature, hold yourself accountable for your own conduct. This will involve using “I” statements to demonstrate your sincerity.
  • Know that you are the only one who can truly shape the type of person you aspire to be.
  • Understand that it’s okay to ask others for what you want and need (within reason). Too many people avoid the discomfort of being perceived as needy or aggressive. This is a concept known as assertiveness, and it develops with the strengthening of our self-concept.
  • Know when and how to address others if/when they violate your personal boundaries. Conflict should not be the default result when people have differing perceptions or beliefs. We need others to know where we stand when their actions clash with our sense of civility.
  • Keep in mind the fact that conflict is inevitable. This will occur in all areas of life. No one is immune from this experience. That being said, there are healthy ways to deal with disagreements. Learn how to agree to disagree. You will not regret it.
  • Know that you are the only one who can fully shape the type of person you aspire to be.

Your sense of healthy personal boundaries will create a comfort zone. This is not something that magically occurs without thought and intention. In many ways, we create a template for what we see as acceptable ways of interacting with the world.

Healthy boundaries are very personal. They reflect who we have chosen to become as we better understand our relationship to others both personally and professionally. While these limits will evolve over time, they serve as a type of guide that becomes natural and meaningful as we develop throughout the stages of life.

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