Characteristics Of Healthy Personal Boundaries


“Boundaries are the guardians of self-esteem.”

John Bradshaw

Good personal boundaries protect you. They are based on your beliefs, thoughts, feelings, decisions, choices, wants, needs, and intuitions.  They are clear, firm, maintained, and sometimes flexible. A person with good boundaries is not seen as hurtful, harmful, controlling or manipulating (Cloud & Townsend, 1992) and they have high self esteem.

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Results Of Abuse

If a child has been injured by the exploitation of another it is difficult to establish boundaries because of the extreme damage to the character structure of the child.

As Adults Abuse Victims May Suffer

Depression, compulsive disorders, impulsive disorders, isolation, inability to trust others, inability to form close attachments, inability to set limits, poor judgment in relationships, further exploitation in relationships, deep sense of pervasive badness,  shame/ guilt, chaotic lifestyle, sense of meaninglessness and purposelessness, unexplainable terror and panic attacks, phobias, rage attacks, or suicidal feelings and thoughts.

Good Boundaries can aid the victim in their recovery and healing process (Cloud & Townsend, 1992).         

Boundaries And Your Self

We have responsibility to ourselves to control our own body and cravings.

Excesses Show Poor Internal Boundaries 

You may show excess in: eating,  money,  time, task completion,  the tongue,  sexuality, and substance abuse. Learning self-boundaries is not easy but worth it.  As we grow in self-boundaries we increase our self-trust and in turn trust others. However, we need to recognize safe people versus unsafe people (Whitfield, 1993).

Essentials for Recovery

In the growth process, it is easy to be distracted but learn to live with your true self.  Learn about your feelings. Learn to grieve. Learn to tolerate emotional pain. Learn to set healthy boundaries and limits.  Learn how to get your needs met. Learn that the core of our being is Love. Learn healthy and effective ways of expressing and setting boundaries by being assertive rather than aggressive. (Whitfield, 1993)

Find Your Anger

As you begin your recovery journey of developing boundaries be aware of your increased feelings of anger. Individuals with injured boundaries often are shocked by the rage they feel inside when they begin setting limits.  This is generally not “new anger”—it’s “old anger”.  It’s often years of no’s that were never voiced, never respected, and never listened to.

Anger provides us with a sense of power to solve a problem.  It energizes us to protect ourselves, those we love, and our principles.  As with all emotions, anger doesn’t understand time.  Anger doesn’t dissipate automatically if the danger occurred two minutes ago – or twenty years ago! It has to be worked through appropriately. Otherwise, anger simply lives inside the heart (Whitfield, 1993).

A great scene in the movie “Monster-In-Law,” comes when Jennifer Lopez’s says to Jane Fonda, “I just need boundaries in my relationship with you,” and then she goes on to give a short direct speech about her needs in the relationship. I recommend viewing this scene for pointers on setting boundaries with difficult people in your life.

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Another good post on boundaries:


Bradshaw, John.  (1988).Bradshaw On: Healing the Shame that Binds You.  Deerfield Beach, Florida: Health Communications. 

Cloud, H. PhD, & Townsend, J. PhD. (1992). Boundaries: When to say yes when to say no to take Control of Your Life. Orange, CA: Yates & Yates, LLP.

Whitfield, C. L. M.D. (1993). Boundaries and relationships: Knowing, protecting and Enjoying the Self, MD: Health Communications, Inc.

Thanks to Tami Thayne, LSCW for her thoughts and insights to this post.

See also:

Camille Curtis Foser, LCSW

Contact Me | Provo Counseling Center/ 801.472.7134

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