Tips to Help You Tighten Your Personal Boundaries

Just like a fence around our property, personal boundaries establish where we end and another person starts.  Boundaries are the physical, emotional and mental borders we build to safeguard ourselves from  being manipulated, used, or infringed by others. They allow us to establish our limits as separate beings and distinguish what we think and feel, from the thoughts and feelings of others.


Through this series of blog posts I am going to help you to continue to assemble your “Life Tool Box.” The toolbox will be filled with lots of simple living skills. When you are having a rough time in your life, just look in the Life Tool Box and find the best skill to help you that day.


Female worker wearing a toolbelt work apron for tools

Each week I’ll continue to choose one common home improvement tool to represent one of these life skills. By the end of each blog post, you’ll understand exactly why you need that tool and how you can use it to improve your daily life.


Let’s add the screwdriver to  the Tool Box.


When you think of a screwdriver, you probably imagine yourself putting the tip into the top of a screw and leaning in to tighten or loosen it. It’s an excellent tool, but sometimes it does require a bit of elbow grease. Screwdrivers are also used for jobs that don’t involve screws. You can poke, pry, and dig at things with a screwdriver, too.

Just like using a screwdriver for various jobs, people sometimes try to break through your boundaries in ways you don’t expect. A coworker pokes a hole through your personal space bubble by frequently standing too close. You mom pries her way into your schedule by constantly dropping by. A friend keeps digging for details about a personal situation, and you don’t feel comfortable sharing that much.

While you can’t control the actions of other people, you can tighten up your personal boundaries to allow fewer intrusions. Let’s take the example of your mom or your best friend prying into your schedule by constantly dropping by.

Defining the problem

  • You love your mom and your friend, but it seems like they drop by constantly and at times when your house is in chaos. You would like to see them regularly, but want to reduce the unexpected drop-ins.

Why It Keeps Happening

  • Your mom or friend believe they are there to help you and likes spending time with you. You don’t want to upset them, so you don’t say anything about better times to come over.

Why It Upsets You

  • It upsets you because sometimes their visit disrupts your regular family routine and you often have trouble getting things back on track. You don’t want them to feel unimportant, but you can’t help but feel frustrated.

The boundary between you and them are somewhat porous and leaky. While their intent may seem helpful, they prefer having a surprise element to their visit. They might be  getting a sense of control and importance by simply being able to come by unannounced.

Does this make them bad people? No, it doesn’t. But, you deserve to have personal boundaries that make your relationship with them feel empowering and emotionally safe. Here are some ways to manage the tricky situation with them next time.

Tell Them When You Are and Are Not Available

  • Write down the times you are best available for a visit. If that’s Tuesdays after 8:00pm and Saturdays after lunch, then let her know.

Don’t Let Them Inside

  • If they come by at a different time than what you have told them, make it clear that you really cannot have a visit right at that moment. You will call them later and find out a time that works, but right now you just can’t. Smile and shut the door. Don’t open it again, even if they knock.

Stick to Your Guns

  • Set your boundaries and stick with them. The only way to take more control over your boundaries is to be firm and consistent.

  • It can be difficult to stick to your guns – that is usually when guilt takes over – but if you don’t you will become resentful and that does not help the relationship – remember the old saying “Good fences make good neighbors.”

Think about using that screwdriver to tighten up the fences. Take that screwdriver and take care of your personal boundaries. Tighten them up so you feel empowered and confident about your daily life.

Tell me, do you have someone who tries to pry into your life? How have you tightened up your personal boundaries when they got too leaky?


Project111-150x150Dr. Ines K. Roe has been helping women in transition rediscover themselves for over 20 years. If you’re  been feeling unfulfilled, are frustrated with your sense of accomplishment in midlife, or simply need guidance on your path to holistic well being, join her ecourses.