B for Boundaries

When I came back to Cyprus, one of the first psychoeducational seminars I did was on the emotional understanding of two-year-old toddlers. Justifiably, through the seminar, the topic of boundaries came up. Boundaries are one of the foundational pillars of building your self-esteem. There are different ways to define boundaries. Nonetheless, it all boils down to creating rules/limits so that people feel safe when interacting with other people. There are different types of boundaries (i.e., physical, emotional, time, material, sexual, and intellectual), and the appropriateness of the boundaries relies on the setting and culture.

Everyone sets boundaries, either consciously or unconsciously. However, some of you may have rigid boundaries (i.e., keeping others at a distance) or porous boundaries (i.e., tend to have others too involved in your life). The first clue to realizing that your boundaries are unhealthy is evident in the quality of your relationship with your people. As you’re reading this, probably different situations came to your mind. Every one of us has dealt with relationships with unhealthy boundaries. So, probably, the next question that may have come to your mind is why do you keep allowing these unhealthy boundaries in your relationships, since the aim is to have healthy boundaries.

Some of the reasons may be:

  • Fear of rejection and abandonment
  • Fear of confrontation
  • Guilt
  • Not taught how to set healthy boundaries
  • Safety Concerns – if your life is at risk you may need to consult a professional

Let me illustrate what’s the difference between healthy and unhealthy for some boundaries types;

Physical Boundaries: include your body, sense of personal space, sexual orientation, and privacy.


  • Unhealthy Boundaries: When someone else invades your personal space, inappropriate touching, such as unwanted sexual advances, Looking through others’ personal files and emails.
  • Healthy Boundaries: Being aware of what’s appropriate, hugging a person you are close to (e.g., your parents)

Intellectual and Emotional Boundaries aim to protect your sense of self-esteem, and the ability to separate your feelings from others


  • Unhealthy Boundaries: Not knowing how to separate your feelings from your partner’s and allowing his/her mood to dictate your level of happiness or sadness, sacrificing your plans in order to please others, and most of the time, not taking responsibility for your actions and blaming others for your problems.
  • Healthy Boundaries: gradually sharing personal information during the development of a relationship, respect for other’s ideas, and an awareness of appropriate discussion

Once you decide to change your boundaries, the second step is to explore your boundaries.* Armed with the information on the different types of boundaries and the difference between healthy and unhealthy boundaries, you have to categorize where your current relationship with that particular person falls at that time. This process can be challenging because you may easily recognize if your relationship is unhealthy; yet, it may not be easy to be aware of how you can turn unhealthy into healthy boundaries. This is where help from a professional can be valuable. Give time to yourself and recognize what you feel. Your feelings can unreel your core values and beliefs. Prior to any further actions that you want to take with the other person, consider your limits, and set yourself the priority.

*Contact me if you want me to provide you with a worksheet to help you in exploring your boundaries.


Gilbert, P. (2009). The Compassionate Mind. Constable: London, UK.