The Goldilocks principle on personal boundaries – how do you get it right?

When you don’t have strong enough boundaries, it is hard to say no to things which are not yours to say yes to.

Boundaries are defined as are guidelines, rules or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits. Boundaries are needed to maintain healthy, productive relationships. Too strong or too weak boundaries create havoc for individuals and the people in their lives.

The trick is knowing how to uphold the right amount of boundaries in a healthy way.

I recently explored the topic of boundaries explicitly while becoming certified in an Emotional Intelligence assessment tool called Learning in Action EQ. Emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize, understand and rely equally on all dimensions of our internal experience and the internal experience of others. To accept and be present with who and what is and be able to stay connected with and separate from others. Boundaries are just one of the areas the tool looks at. In future posts, I plan on sharing other areas. As with many personal development methods, practitioners who implement them learn as much about themselves as they do about how to support their clients. I was impressed how much I learned about myself and my internal motivators when interacting with others.

The EQ Assessment reveals patterns in our underlying motivations which are extremely useful to make sense of ourselves.

I personally find my boundaries are tested most often in interactions with certain family members. For example, with my father. He is an old-school authoritarian patriarch. He wants the final say in any and all decisions the rest of the family makes. For example, long after I moved out on my own, he still wanted a say in what tires I buy, what neighbourhood I should buy my home in, which plants to have on my balcony. You get the picture. In a nutshell: My father has strong boundaries for himself, but his expectations infringe on the boundaries of others. In early adulthood, I struggled with balancing his expectations of me, with my strong need for autonomy. I had to learn to set healthy boundaries. It is something I am still conscious of.

Your boundaries may be more difficult to assert under certain circumstances, especially when in conflict with others.

Without healthy boundaries, the lines between the demands of others and your own needs are blurred. There is little distinction between what other people expect from you and what you end up doing. You are prone to take on too much. To feel responsible for things which are not yours to own. You run the risk of being taken advantage of. Alternatively, you may yearn for more intense interconnection with others than they do. And you may not notice this and omit giving others the space they need.

With too strong boundaries, you may be too inflexible – even with yourself.

On the contrary, when your boundaries are too strong, you may keep others at a distance. Others can find you unapproachable, distant or aloof. Because you don’t let them in, you may feel disconnected from the people around you – including those you love. Thus, when boundaries are too strong, you keep others at arms length and can’t receive the benefit of social support yourself.

What is the right amount – not too much or too little?

What does the perfect balance look like? You are there for others, but not at a detriment to yourself. You can engage with others and will know when to pull back. You know how to keep your own space and avoid infringing on the personal space of others.

Do you have people in your life who do not respect your boundaries?

A classic example of relationship boundaries relates to the extend a partner tries to make the relationship work – or not. A person with low boundaries will do whatever they can to fix a relationship. And stay in it longer than may be healthy.  A person with strong boundaries, won’t engage in the efforts of another unless they want to. They may even actively distance themselves in search for more autonomy. Many frustrations are created by couples who are on opposite sides of the boundary coin – one seeks more connection than the other wishes go give.

Do you respect the boundaries of others?

One way to answer this question is to ask others. This is not the easiest method. Its hard to ask for feedback. Plus, others don’t necessarily answer honestly. They don’t want to hurt our feelings. After all, they still need to work with us or live in the same household. The truth is, that it is hard to get – and receive – really useful, objective feedback from people who share our lives. That is one of the reason people hire coaches and undergo such EQ assessments.

Interested to find out whether your boundaries are too rigid, too loose or just right?

In the Learning in Action EQ Assessment (CLICK HERE to find out more) I mentioned earlier, a person with high boundaries often displays these four profile results:

  • Accesses feeling of anger more readily than the average population
  • Prefer to do things on their own (Independently)
  • Tends to disconnect from others when under stress, by emotionally checking out or physically removing themselves.
  • Tends to focus on others when in conflict

Because this assessment sheds a light on several facets which affect how we experience conflict in relationship with others, it is an excellent way to find out more about yourself.

I would recommend it to anyone who has a thirst for more self-awareness. And wants actionable insights to improve their life for the better. Contact me by clicking HERE to find out more about this assessment or to book one with me to gain actionable clarity on what your underlying emotional motivators are. From my experience, insights from this tool has the ability to change your life. I highly recommend it.



Simone supports one-on-one coaching clients and also teaches people how to coach themselves – either individually or within a Mastermind group. Reach out to her her for an obligation free call by CLICKING HERE.

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