Boundaries: Protecting Our Physical and Emotional Spaces

Feb 20, 2023
girl standing in the middle of a field with butterflies, feeling free for setting boundaries

Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom.

-Henry Cloud

Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.

-Brene Brown

Have you ever found yourself feeling drained, overwhelmed, or resentful after spending time with certain people or in certain situations?

It's a common experience, and it's often due to a lack of clear boundaries in our physical and emotional spaces.

Boundaries are like fences that protect our personal property. They define where we end and others begin, and they help us stay safe and secure in our relationships and our own sense of self.

This article explores the topic of boundaries from various angles, discussing how they relate to yoga, trauma healing, psychology, and therapy. We'll delve into:

  • Different types of boundaries
  • How to cultivate and maintain them
  • How to navigate relationships in which boundaries are tested or violated

Our aim is to help you gain a better understanding of how boundaries can support your well-being and equip you with practical strategies for creating and maintaining them in your daily life.

Understanding Boundaries

Boundaries come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Every person has their unique set used to navigate relationships and protect their well-being. At their core, there are four main types of boundaries:

  • Physical boundaries refer to the need for physical space and boundaries on touch. They help us establish our rights to privacy and autonomy with respect to one's body. For instance, we might not want to be hugged or touched without permission.
  • Emotional boundaries are related to how deeply we let others into our life. A good example is limiting how much we want to share with someone. We might feel comfortable talking about certain topics but not others.
  • Mental boundaries are about our need for mental space free from judgment, criticism, or unwanted advice. They help us maintain our autonomy and respect our right to think independently and make our own decisions.
  • Spiritual boundaries involve protecting our right to practice whatever faith or beliefs we choose without interference or judgment. This kind of boundary might involve setting limits on how deeply others can question your beliefs or not allowing them to dictate your spiritual life.

Why Boundaries Get Lost

Boundaries can sometimes get lost or muddled due to a variety of reasons. One of these is trauma.

Trauma can have a major impact on personal boundaries and cause us to struggle to negotiate healthy relationships. Often, these impacts can be subtle and emerge through defense mechanisms such as avoidance, deflection, and self-sabotage.

It can also teach us that being in control is the only way to keep ourselves emotionally safe, leading us to develop rigid expectations of other people. Further, it can lead to difficulties in trusting others and understanding what we need and advocating for it.

We might also struggle with boundaries when we're dealing with people who have difficulty setting themselves. These are those with codependent tendencies or who use manipulation or guilt to get what they want.

Signs of Poor Boundaries

Weak boundaries can be hard to spot because sometimes, we're too busy dealing with the effects of our poor boundaries instead of recognizing their underlying causes. However, you are more likely experiencing this issue if:

  • You feel drained and exhausted after spending time with certain people.
  • You constantly find yourself compromising your own needs or feelings to accommodate someone else's.
  • You struggle to say no when asked for favors.
  • People often take advantage of you.
  • You find yourself feeling like you're constantly walking on eggshells.
  • You don't feel comfortable making small talk or engaging in conversation.
  • You feel resentful and easily overwhelmed because you believe your needs are not met in any meaningful way.
  • Rifts in relationships are there.
  • People question your limits.
  • You are easily burned out and stressed.
  • You feel you do not have self-identity.

Cultivating Strong Boundaries in 3 Ways

Though it takes time, effort, and practice to cultivate healthy boundaries, the benefits that come from doing so are worth it. Here are three tips that can help you do just that:

1. Practice Self-Awareness and Self-reflection

You can never set healthy boundaries if you do not know yourself.

  • What are your needs?
  • What do you stand for?
  • What are your nonnegotiables or deal breakers?
  • How much impact do these violations of your boundaries affect your relationships?

To know the answers to these questions is to practice self-awareness and self-reflection, which works like giving yourself a much-needed check-in. Have honest conversations with yourself.

Somatic psychology is also a powerful tool for allowing yourself to identify, explore, and observe your feelings. You can also ask yourself questions like "What am I feeling in my body when I'm interacting with this person?"

Other introspective activities that can uncover the source of your boundaries include journaling, meditation, and yoga.

2. Communicate Personal Needs and Limits

Communicating personal needs and limits can be a tricky business. You don't want to come off as too demanding, yet you also want to make sure that your own needs are being taken into account.

The best way to balance the two is by getting comfortable with the art of saying no without feeling guilty. Instead of saying no, try to rephrase it in a way that explains how you arrive at your decision. For instance, "I appreciate you thinking of me, but I'm going to have to politely decline this time."

This framing helps explain why you need to say no without making anyone feel bad or making yourself feel guilty in the process.

Another strategy is to create an "I message." This is where you focus on expressing your feelings, needs, and limits in a way that does not blame the other person. For example, "When you pressure me into doing something I don't want to do, it makes me feel uncomfortable and frustrated.”

By taking ownership of your feelings, you are empowering yourself to set limits without being aggressive or manipulative.

3. Practice Self-Care and Self-Compassion

Setting boundaries can be an emotionally draining process. To ensure that you remain resilient and stay focused on your personal journey, practice self-care and self-compassion.

Self-care is all about prioritizing yourself and making sure that you are healthy both physically and mentally to take care of those around you. This could mean carving out time for self-reflection and mindfulness, engaging in activities you enjoy, or simply giving yourself a much-needed break.

Self-compassion is also important. When facing difficult situations, it’s essential to be kind to yourself and accept that failure is part of the process. Learn to forgive yourself if things don't go as planned—it's part of learning and growing.

By taking time to nurture yourself, you can prepare yourself for the challenges that come with setting boundaries and committing to them.


At the end of the day, setting boundaries is all about respecting yourself and seeking out relationships that honor and respect your needs as well. After all, your boundaries are not meant to keep people out - they're meant to invite the right people in.

I hope this article has been helpful in providing you with tips for setting healthy boundaries. If you're interested in exploring these topics further, consider signing up for a trauma healing certification program. It can help equip you with the skills and knowledge needed to recognize unhealthy patterns and create healthier relationships both at home and at work.

With the right guidance and support, I am certain that anyone can learn how to practice self-care while also creating meaningful connections with others.

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