What Are Boundaries & How Do They Apply to Your Life?

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What Are Boundaries & How Do They Apply to Your Life?

A definition of, and a self assessment for, healthy boundaries.

By Vic LeBouthillier

Becoming aware of what boundaries are and learning how to implement them into your personal life reduces relationship conflicts and stress.”

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Social scientists divide boundaries into several categories. For the sake of simplicity, a general definition of a boundary has two important elements:

  • Being aware of reasonable things that are important to you, and honoring those things for yourself, while teaching others to honor and respect them as well.
  • Being aware of what is important to others and respecting those things.


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Read each of the following questions, and decide whether you feel in such a way never, rarely, sometimes, often, or almost always.

  1. Do you feel stressed out, overwhelmed, and/or burnt out?
  1. Would you do almost anything to avoid hurting others?
  1. Do you feel as though others run your life, or like your life is not your own?
  1. Do you feel like you are never caught up?
  1. Do you feel taken advantage of by those you love?
  1. Do you resent others for being so demanding and inconsiderate?
  1. Do others’ needs seem much more urgent than yours?
  1. Do you see yourself as the only one who can help others, and therefore, you always say yes to them?
  1. Do you tend to meet others’ needs before your own?
  1. Do you question the legitimacy of your own needs?
  1. Do you hate to disappoint others’ expectations?
  1. Are you afraid that if you don’t do what others ask of you, they will leave you?
  1. Do you say “okay”, or say nothing at all, when you would rather not do something for someone just because you don’t want a confrontation?
  1. Do you believe deep down that if you don’t anticipate people’s needs and provide services for them, they won’t want to be with you?
  1. Do you try to convince yourself that your feelings aren’t real, or that you shouldn’t have those feelings, or that your feelings don’t matter compared to the other person’s feelings?
  1. Are you very distressed if someone disapproves of you?
  1. Are you very distressed if someone seems as if they don’t like you?
  1. If someone criticizes you, do you automatically believe that their criticism is true?
  1. Do you let other people define what your behavior means? (ex. You don’t really love me if you won’t...)

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If you mostly answered “often” or “almost always”, this indicates that you struggle with setting boundaries. If you mostly answered “rarely” or “never”, then you are likely relatively strong when it comes to setting boundaries in your life. But before assuming that there is nothing to learn, look at the individual questions and answers to identify where you are strong and where you still seem to struggle with boundaries. In either case, the tips in our following blogs, coupled with support from your EAP, could be very helpful in improving your ability to set healthy boundaries in your life.

In our next blog, we will take a look at why it is so difficult for most people to set and maintain healthy boundaries.

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