Personal Boundaries

by Rosemarie Perla

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

We all can understand the concept of personal space, e.g., someone moving too close to us and then we feel the need to back up to “get our space back.”  We also have “psychological boundaries” that need to be respected.  Sometimes, with some people, those boundaries are violated.

Personal BoundariesBoundaries are imaginary lines that keep other people’s actions and behaviors out.  Anything that causes you to get annoyed or upset is a crossed boundary.

Example:  If you have a swimming pool in your backyard without a fence around it, you might have all kinds of unwelcome guests splashing around in it.  When a sturdy fence is in place, what happens? People have to ask permission to jump in; they have to be invited.  You are the pool, the fence is your boundary.  In simple form a boundary is the word, “No.”

Boundaries need to be put in place to keep any damaging influences out of your way.  Those influences may be circumstances you created or that someone else, through their actions, has created for you.  These negative influences, can seem small at first, but, over time, can build up to cause difficulties in everyday interactions.

Interpersonal boundaries are invisible.  You have to communicate them to be known. If other people can’t comply, you may have to make an effort to avoid them altogether.  For example, co-workers making remarks about your weight or getting personal phone calls from a family member at work…a response, clearly and respectfully setting a boundary may be:  “It’s not O.K. that you comment on my weight.  I’d like you to stop.”  Or, “I have decided to take all personal calls in the evening in order to get my work done.  I will call you later.”

Take away: Put your boundaries in place:

  1. Stop people just as they are doing something that violates your boundary.
  2. Tell them what they are doing.
  3. Request that they stop.
  4. Instruct them about the change that you need to see.
  5. Thank them for making the change.

If they are not cooperative, add 6 or 7:

6. Demand that they stop.

7. Walk away without a fight.

The bottom line is that “they” are not doing anything to you that you are not allowing them to do.


Take Yourself to the Top, Laura Berman Fortgang, 1998, Warner Books.



Leadership and Professional Executive Coaching
In my role as an Executive Coach, I see a lot of very talented business owners and leaders who are cracking under the pressure and responsibilities of extremely demanding jobs. They want to make a big impact but are being pulled in every direction, losing themselves within the large system in which they must operate.
The stress of it weighs them down, feeding negative thinking and making it harder for them to keep a bird’s eye view, mental agility, and balance that true leadership requires.