Personal Boundaries

Why Create Personal Boundaries?

Learning to set healthy personal boundaries is necessary for maintaining a positive self-image. It is our way of communicating to others that we have self-respect, self-worth, and will not allow others to define us.

Personal Boundaries are the physical, emotional and mental limits we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated, used, or violated by others. They allow us to separate who we are, and what we think and feel, from the thoughts and feelings of others. Their presence helps us express ourselves as the unique individuals we are, while we acknowledge the same in others.

Personal boundaries allow us to be a truly authentic. Without boundaries it is not possible to enjoy healthy relationships. Personal boundaries open the door to clear and concise communications with other.

Many of us experience problems with self-discipline. People in recovery readily admit they could never muster enough discipline or self will to say “no” to the cravings created by addiction. Once we start down the spiritual path of recovery we need to create tools that will help us deal with or avoid people, places and things that could trigger a relapse.

Personal boundaries allow us to be a truly authentic

By creating and living by a healthy set of personal boundaries you will recognize the need to respect and adhere to other peoples boundaries. If they don’t have any defined boundaries you will intuitively show them the respect that you require – thus, your personal growth will rub off on those around you.

First ask yourself the following questions. This will assist in identifying your need to create personal boundaries:
• Do you go against personal values or rights in order to please others?
• Do you let others define who you are?
• Do you expect others to fill your needs immediately and automatically?
• Do you feel guilty when you say no?
• Do you hesitate to speak up when you disagree or are being treated poorly?
• Do you fall “in love easily with people you barely know?
• Do you ever say “No” without an explanation?

The Basics to Personal Boundaries

The best tool to instill self-discipline is to create a list of personal boundaries and keep them where you will see them daily. This list by itself is meaningless unless you attempt to live within your self-stated personal boundaries.

Your boundaries should be designed to keep you safe. You can add or adjust your personal boundaries at any time. This article provides guideline and reasoning for setting your personal boundaries. Let’s start with your “rights.”

Know Your Rights

If your past is similar to mine, you may have been told, “You Have the Right to Remain Silent” (by a person holding a gun wearing a uniform). I usually failed to exercise that right which resulted in even more problems. If you believe and internalize the following rights, creating your personal boundaries will be cinch.

Right one – I have the right to value myself and to create my own personal belief system.
Right two – I have the right to express to others how I desire to be treated.
Right three – I have the right to set goals, grow and enhance my life any way that I deem valuable.
Right four – I have the right to express my feelings and emotions.
Right five – I have the right to make mistakes and to change my mind.
Right six – I have the right to create, be in or end any relationship I choose.
Right seven – I have the right to love myself even though I am less than perfect.

It’s an Inside Job

Creating healthy boundaries creates a personal sense of direction, ultimately opening the door for discovering purpose and meaning in your life. Overtime you will instill within yourself emotional honesty, which in turn generates emotional responsibility.

As we say in recovery, “we are responsible for our actions and not for the results.”

Start by defining who you are and where do you want to be. Use sentences such as:
I am (or I feel) ____________________ and
I want to be _____________________

Build your personal boundaries based on what it will take for you to arrive at “where you want to be”. Then, check to see if your boundaries align with the five rules for setting boundaries.

Five Rules For Setting Personal Boundaries

1. Boundaries are about you and only you! Understanding this is a must. You cannot impose your
boundaries on other people.
2. They are to be written in a positive tense.
3. They should be clear and concise.
4. They should be flexible; they are not steadfast rules.
5. They should be realistic.

Example of how it works:

I am “an alcoholic” and I want to be “happy in sobriety.”

My stated boundary based on “who I am and where do I want to be is:”


Let’s dissect this: The words “I choose” makes this statement about me and I am not imposing my will on anyone. “To be around sober people in sober environments” is a positive statement, it does not include words like; can’t, won’t, don’t, drunks, addicts, drinking, using or bars. These words now have a negative connotation to me. This boundary statement is clear, concise and achievable.

Is this boundary flexible? Yes, I go to weddings, sporting events and family functions. I am occasionally around drinking, that is why there is a degree of flexibility to most healthy boundaries.

I can mentally prepare myself before attending an event where there is drinking. There are many actions I can take to keep myself safe and still have fun. I can bring another sober friend to the event, I can keep a glass of juice or soda in my hand and most importantly – I will have an exit plan.

If I feel uncomfortable, I can simply go to the restroom and not come back. I’ve pulled this escape dozens of times. I used to think that by leaving I would be missed. Obviously, that was my ego speaking, because rarely did anyone even notice that I had left early.

The point is, I do not need to make excuses to keep myself safe. When I make the decision to leave any situation that makes me uncomfortable, I am simply exercising a personal boundary based on my rights. I practice the above techniques often, especially around the holidays. There is now a sense of satisfaction in leaving an event before the first fistfight breaks outs.

By setting boundaries you quickly become aware that you are now 100% responsible for your actions. You are taking charge of your behavior and you will recognize you can no longer blame others for your actions. You need not debate or defend you position with others. After practice you will also internalize that the word “no” is a complete sentence.

Establishing personal boundaries are very important in recovery. Assessing your personal boundaries is one of the nine areas addressed in my workbook, “Captain Larry Smith’s Daily Life Plan Journal.” The gauge asks you to determine if you have instituted personal boundaries and are you living within your boundaries. Adherence to your personal boundaries will keep you safe and sober.