What are Healthy Personal Boundaries?

Personal boundaries are the limits we create for ourselves within relationships or situations. They are lines we set that should not be crossed by others and that are important to uphold for ourselves. Healthy personal boundaries enable positive relationships in which you are unafraid to say “no” when you want, but you are also comfortable opening up and growing close. There are many types of boundaries. Physical boundaries, emotional boundaries, sexual boundaries, and time boundaries are a few examples. Healthy personal boundaries can really be seen as personal rights. Oftentimes, we feel pressure to adhere to the needs of the people and things around us. We are taught to treat others the way we want to be treated, but we skip over a step. We never really contemplate and establish the way we want to be treated. There is an unspoken gold standard for appeasing others and meeting their needs, but we forget to focus on our own!

Healthy Personal Boundaries: Your Personal Bill of Rights

Dr. Edmund Bourne, Ph.D. created a list of boundaries that constitute your “Personal Bill of Rights.” It lists some rights that we all have as human beings. These might seem basic or intuitive, but they are so easy to forget. Sometimes, they seem so basic that it is assumed they are implied. As a result, they are never even taught. However, it is crucial to reinforce and reassert these healthy personal boundaries for yourself. The list may be found in The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook by Edmund Bourne, Ph.D. and is as follows:

  1. IhavetherighttoaskforwhatIwant.
  2. I have the right to express all of my feelings ,positive or negative.
  3. I have the right to change my mind.
  4. I have the right to make mistakes and not have to be perfect.
  5. I have the right to follow my values and standards.
  6. I have the right to say no to anything when I feel I am not ready, or it feels unsafe, or it violates my values.
  7. I have the right to determine my own priorities
  8. I have the right not to be responsible for others’ behavior, actions, feelings, or problems.
  9. I have the right to be angry at someone I love.
  10. I have the right to be uniquely myself.
  11. I have the right to feel scared and say “I’m scared.”
  12. I have the right to say “I don’t know.”
  13. I have the right not to give excuses or reasons for my behavior. 16.I have the right to make decisions based on my feelings.
  14. I have the right to my own needs for personal space and time.
  15. I have the right to be playful and frivolous.
  16. I have the right to be healthier than those around me.
  17. I have the right to be in a non abusive environment.
  18. I have the right to make friends and be comfortable around people.
  19. I have the right to change and grow.
  20. I have the right to have my needs and wants respected by others.
  21. I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
  22. I have the right to be happy.
  23. I have the right to ask for what.
  24. I have the right to say no to requests or demands I can’t meet.
  25. I have the right to be happy.

Why are Personal Boundaries Important?

Dr. Bourne’s “Personal Bill of Rights” is a great starting point for establishing healthy personal boundaries. It is a foundation for determining the standard of respect that you deserve from others and that is required from people you choose to have around in your life. It is also important that you respect them for yourself as we can be the biggest violators of our own rights. Strong personal boundaries can create a sense of psychological safety. This can make it easier to relax; people with strong personal boundaries are generally happier and healthier.

Healthy personal boundaries also help us build our self-respect and self-esteem. When we uphold and respect our boundaries, we are reinforcing that we have earned all of these rights. We are taking care of ourselves by protecting these rights. It also builds confidence to remind ourselves that we are deserving of safety and value, which are protected by boundaries. You are strong enough to establish and uphold them. This is beneficial for you as an individual and for your relationships. They also inform us when something is not right. If a boundary is crossed by others or ourselves, we may feel anxious or irritated. Those feelings indicate that it is time to check in and assess if any of our rights are being violated.

Strong relationships rely on mutual respect. This goes for friendships, working relationships, romantic relationships, and more. It is sometimes tempting to give relentlessly to others. You want to support those around you. However, you are supposed to receive respect and benefit from your relationships as well! Healthy personal boundaries help you understand how much you can give before crossing beyond what is healthy for you. They also elucidate what people in your life respect your boundaries and help you maintain them. Sometimes, this might be a topic to revisit with others. That reflection is positive though and can serve to better the relationship and its outcome for yourself and others involved.


Reframing Personal Boundaries

One common obstacle in establishing boundaries is the perception that boundaries make you needy or overly demanding. There is a misconception that establishing boundaries is setting unrealistic standards for your relationships. This is a really intimidating concept; sometimes making and upholding boundaries in relationships is daunting. Because we crave approval, we sometimes accept relationships without really asking what it is that we want and whether or not they are respecting our boundaries. It is really tempting to settle. Beggars can’t be choosers right? However, this often leads to unhealthy and unsatisfying friendships, working relationships, romantic relationships, and more. You deserve better! You deserve quality relationships in your life.

Healthy personal boundaries are not always modeled well in social media, popular culture, and beyond. Examples of healthy relationships with clear boundaries and respect are not always what sells. Thus, the behaviors we expect in relationships are skewed. We think it is normal to overextend ourselves beyond our limits or we perceive it as ambitious, or even impossible, to find others who will respect our boundaries. This is not reality! In a relationship, we can choose the boundaries we assert. That assertion gives us control over our well being and who we let into our lives. While we cannot control others, boundaries are central to establishing positive, reciprocal relationships. Boundaries help us understand red flags whether from others or from ourselves. Hence, why boundaries are so important!

Fostering relationships that are mutually respectful and beneficial requires boundaries. You can set boundaries, but you cannot control someone else’s actions and behaviors. It is not needy or demanding to set boundaries. It is not being “high maintenance” or selfish. It is part of taking care of yourself, protecting your peace, and growing through your interactions and relationships with others. Boundaries are part of self-preservation and self-care. They should be empowering. You deserve to know and own your worth. Healthy personal boundaries are a critical part of doing so.


Thank you to Dr. Laura Riss, licensed clinical psychologist, and Mia Pearce, Best Within You intern, for this blog post. If you would like to set up an appointment to focus on boundaries with Dr. Riss or any of the Best Within You team please do not hesitate to reach out.