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  • Writer's pictureSusan Stubbings


Updated: Jan 19

What are boundaries?

Boundaries are borders which have edges separating something from something else for example our garden fence separates us from the street and our neighbours’ property, our front door separates us from the outside world, our bathroom door once shut allows a private space.

Boundaries can be personal, professional, organisational, community, regional, National or International.


Personal boundaries are Internal and External, Spiritual, Sexual, Physical, Emotional, Relational, Psychological, Feelings, Space, Time, Material for example it is your choice to let someone lend your car, clothes or books others do not have the right to just come and take what belongs to you without your permission.

Why are boundaries important?

  • Boundaries are put in place for protection.

  • For a psychological sense of and actual personal security.

  • Boundaries structure and provide order, ethics and principles

  • Boundaries define and let everyone know what will and won't be tolerated.

  • They let everyone know what behaviour is acceptable and therefore what’s not acceptable.

  • Boundaries define who we are as individuals, a family, a team member or a member of an organisation, county, country, Union, Nation.

  • They assist us to decide how we will be treated by others.

  • Boundaries empower us to be clear on who we are in respect of other individuals, families, community, country, nation and gives us as individuals a sense of who we are in relation to others who we are close with and those from other cultures, creeds, nationalities, ethnic origin etc.

  • Boundaries have survival value and are very important for this fact alone.

The focus of this post

Is personal boundaries, how we get them and how we may define what our boundaries are. As a Human Being we are all born equal but we don’t all have equality of opportunity, we all live our lives from the foundation of our ‘taught’ family values and the counties values we are born into, this is natural and normal.

Not one of us choose which parents we are born to or which country we are born into.

Our boundaries are taught in our family of origin, in school, social clubs we belong to, peer groups and society as a whole and reinforced by most people we come into contact within our social interactions, in our community these are the societal mores customs and traditions etc.

How do our personal boundaries get built?

Our boundaries start building from the moment we are born for example some babies are woken up to be fed and some babies are left to wake themselves and then fed! ‘You can play after you’ve had your bath’, or 'eat all your dinner before you have your pudding’, most often than not the child is to full once they’ve eaten all their main meal, but eat the pudding anyway for its sweet sugar rush. ‘It’s time to sit quiet now’, or ‘fun time lets go to the park’.

These are all boundaries decided by our parents and caregivers who have the overall say on what we will do and what we won’t do in the beginning of our lives and indeed we follow them as children because without our parents or caregivers we as human beings would not survive long and we would die.

If our parents have been brought up in a family who had strict boundaries, then chances are you will either have the same strict parenting your parents had or the opposite and parents may have loose boundaries because they knew how it felt to have strict parents.

Some parents were bought up without any boundaries in place and you may have no boundaries in place or sketchy boundaries which are not well defined. Some may have been raised somewhere in between the two positions or had inconstant boundaries, sometimes loose and sometimes strict and boundaries may be altogether confusing. We learn our boundaries by the way we were treated as we grew up and if we don’t ever look at our personal boundaries again this is how we will subconsciously live our lives.

In healthy families

Children are helped to build their self-worth, self-esteem and self-confidence and in this day and age children learn what body safety is in school from a young age. These children grow into a healthy unique individuals with a strong sense of self which is separate from others. Whilst at the same time able to fit in comfortably with others able to connect, offer their personal views and opinions be heard knowing they will be respected for having them. Whilst others may not agree with what they say or believe, they can have their own beliefs, values and worth and allow others to have theirs. Without feeling diminished themselves or have strong emotions evoked due to someone else’s outlook. It’s OK to disagree, it’s OK to agree and it’s OK to agree to disagree to and all are happy with who they are.

In dysfunctional families

Children learn they are perhaps of little or no value, they are not listened to or heard and they are not valued ‘children are to be seen and not heard’ perhaps. As such children brought up in this way don’t build a strong sense of self, nor a strong self-esteem or confidence. They don’t learn to speak up and keep their opinion and views to themselves believing they are not going to be heard so eventually they decide subconsciously or consciously there is no point in speaking up. Throw in sexual or physical abuse, caregivers who misuse alcohol or drugs or both, caregivers who don’t actually know how to look after a child so the child is neglected, abandoned or abused or the care given is inconstant and the child doesn’t know safety and feels insecure most of the time.

Many of these children grow up to be dysfunctional adults who overreact to situations life offers, they become angry, fearful and anxiety ridden or depressed when experiencing normal life experiences. They are argumentative, passive-aggressive or shy and withdrawn; they perhaps don’t know what is normal, right or wrong, they don’t know how to have fun or relax for example and are hypervigilant to anything which does not smack of security, safety or out of their norm.

They are unable to express their true feelings, thoughts or belief in case they appear wrong or get laughed at or criticized, belittled or told to shut up. If they understand what boundaries or choices are in the first place of course since many don’t believe they have a right to choose.

Member in a dysfunction family are all in the same circle of mind set and all behave accordingly to keep the equilibrium of the family unit rather than any one individual needs. They often have ridged boundaries or no boundaries in some situations; which they follow and never change ‘it’s what I/we do’, ‘it’s what we’ve/I’ve always done’. There is no flexibility, there is little or no change as they physically grow, psychologically there is little or skewed change in their maturation process.

Boundaries may be the place for you to start to bring about a new you, a new way of living and being which is more conscious, aware, enlightened, more manageable and resilient to what life throws at you and as such successful with all you set out to achieve

It is possible - you can do this!

If you have recognised where you might like to begin a change and that's the first step to bringing about the change you want because overall ALL adults have the right to choose what they want in life and how to BE. Your next step perhaps is to investigate and explore what you can do right here right now to bring any change to fruition.

It may mean stop taking drugs or alcohol and if this is the case you will benefit from seeking a specialist agency to support you whilst you do this. Especially if you have been a long term user it is dangerous to just go cold turkey with drugs or alcohol so please don't do that and enlist professional help before you change your habit.

In Doncaster the number to ring is 01302 303900

Out of Doncaster then please contact your GP who will put you in touch with your nearest specialist provider.

Otherwise if you are struggling to create the identify you desire, or to explore what makes you tick. If you wish to identify your old worn out patterns of relating and replace them with new more conscious, productive and healthy techniques and build lasting skills counselling will support you on your journey please consider making contact to discuss your personal needs and together we will find a way forward which is healthier and best suits your needs.

Warm regards


Fostering Personal & Professional Development by Providing a Confidential & Professional Counselling and Supervision Service with specialisms in Trauma, Bereavement, Anxiety, Abuse, Grief & Loss

Tel: 07867938630 email:

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