Healthy Personal Boundaries: Why No One Teaches Us and How to Learn

When someone asks you to do something that you don’t want to do, do you politely decline the invitation, or do you say yes even though you want to say no? Do you lend money to people although you know it will end badly, or do you fully cut off contact with someone if they disagree with you or say or do something you don’t like? Do you tell someone you’ve just met your deepest thoughts, feelings, or experiences?

These are all examples of unhealthy or disordered boundaries.

As women, many of us have been systematically taught to prioritize the wants, needs, desires, and preferences of others above our own. We have learned covertly and overtly that women are supposed to be feminine and “nice.” This may sound like ideas circa 1972, but I assure you these limiting beliefs and ideas are, sadly, alive and well. The misconceptions and confusion around how and when to draw boundaries in personal and professional relationships remain the number-one complaint of the women in my psychotherapy practice for the past two decades. My own journey to becoming a boundary master and my desire to make this elusive process accessible to all women inspired me to create Boundary Bootcamp, my eight-week virtual course for women from around the globe.

Many of my clients and students express fear that drawing boundaries is synonymous with creating a confrontation, being demanding, or building relationship walls. This is simply not true if the boundaries you learn to create are healthy and flexible. In fact, healthy boundaries become the bridge to deeper intimacy and more harmony in your relationships. According to Brene Brown, drawing effective boundaries equates to readily telling the people in your life what is OK with you and what is not OK with you. I love this simple, clear explanation, but getting there requires a certain amount of self-understanding of what I refer to as your downloaded boundary blueprint.

All of us have downloaded blueprints in our subconscious minds from our growing-up experience and family of origin, of how things are supposed to be in all areas of life. I use the term blueprint because a downloaded belief system is like the architectural blueprint for a house…that someone 
else designed.

Whether it’s boundaries, finances, love, health, or any other aspect of your life—how you were raised, what you observed, your culture, and your home environment, among other factors, informed those blueprints. Blueprints are passed down through generations, and if they go unexamined, they eventually tend to become your reality. However, just as with any architectural blueprint, you can alter your mind’s framework if the one you have is not producing the results you seek.

The first step to becoming a boundary master is to understand your current downloaded boundary blueprint because you cannot change what you do not consciously know.

To get started, answer the questions below:
1. Were people allowed to have privacy in the home you grew up in?
2. Were you encouraged or discouraged to express your individual feelings, especially if they differed from the majority?
3. Were either of your parents people pleasers?
4. Were you expected to be a “good girl” and not make waves?

Answering the above questions will start to give you a picture of your boundary blueprint. Looking to the past to identify what you learned about personal boundaries will raise your awareness and your ability to get off autopilot and begin to make mindful, conscious boundary choices that are aligned with the types of relationships you want to foster in your life.

Having unhealthy or disordered boundaries is exhausting, unsatisfying, and counter-productive to your being authentically known. How can anyone authentically love you if they don’t authentically know you?

And you most definitely deserve to be authentically loved and known!

Since saying no and drawing boundaries can also produce feelings of guilt, I’ve created a Guilt-Free Boundaries guided meditation just for you! Click here for instant access: 

About the Author | Terri Cole

Terri Cole is a licensed psychotherapist and global leading expert in mindfulness, meditation, relationships, and wellbeing. For two decades, Terri has worked with some of the world’s most well-known personalities, from international pop stars to Fortune 500 CEOs. She empowers over 100,000 women weekly through her platform, online community, and popular podcast, The Terri Cole Show.

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2 comments to "Healthy Personal Boundaries: Why No One Teaches Us and How to Learn"

  • LaToya Robinson

    Great read! I’m definitely a boundary ninja in training 🙌🏼

  • Tracey

    After hearing you speak at The Rise I have been recognizing how in every area of my life I am afraid to committ to saying what I need. I recognize that I tell stories in order to get my point across. thinking there now I have told that person what I am ok with , because I gave an example through a past experience that really bothered me. THAT approach is not working and yet I keep catching myself automatically falling back Into the rut. It was pointed out to me that clear is kind! But wow I sure take the long detour to recognize that is what I need to do. Really interested in taking your boundary course.

    Thank you for sharing it will be a life changing event.