Not that I’m old right now, but there was a phase during my youth when I had no understanding or sense of personal space. I would barge into uninvited conversations, persistently try reaching out to my friends and the likes. It is only in due time have I understood how terrible I was at the time.

Does it happen to you, that you have set your own boundaries in life? Those whose sanctity you uphold at all times? Can we see some examples?

  • Your girlfriend insists on checking your mobile phone and even offers you hers
  • The store assistant suggests you try something in pastel shades because your complexion is brown or the steward who doesn’t disclose expensive dishes because he feels you would just not afford it. 
  • You come home to find your cousin is wearing your favorite t-shirt
  • Friends who comment on you but insist you should take it sportily because “everything’s is fair in friendships” (their quote)
  • Your boss applies for a conference on your behalf and just informs you that you’re going even without asking if you could
  • The colleague who picks the hand of people sitting besides during intercations

What are Personal Boundaries?

The University of California, Berkeley’s University Health Service defines personal boundaries as those which “are the limits and rules we set for ourselves within relationships.” These differ from person to person, based on their personality types and the culture in which they have been raised. In some cultures, it’s perfectly acceptable behavior to inquire about your wedding, when you’d be having kids (and the second one if you’ve already had one) and your salary. Some find it offensive.  

In this context, there would be people with three distinctive types of personal boundaries-

  1. Rigid: Those who set absolutely rigid personal boundaries and hence have very few close relationships. They do not allow anyone to cross those boundaries ever, even their spouses. When such boundaries are crossed, such people can feel offended and may even distance themselves from such friendships or relationships.
  2. Porous: Those who just want to please others, come what may, and would bend backwards to do so, even at the cost of sacrificing their personal boundaries. They are always eager to let someone trample upon their personal space just so that they don’t appear rude or unfriendly or lose a friendship or relationship. This leaves their personal space open to be trampled upon over and over again. 
  3. Healthy: These people set their own boundaries which are not too rigid but reasonable. They show empathy and reach out to people when needed but also maintain their own personal space at the same time. 

So what constitutes personal boundaries?

Anything that is yours, in a personal sense. The physical distance that you maintain from others, the leeway you give others to behave with you or come in close proximity to you to take personal liberties in many ways.  Read more...