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  • Writer's pictureNatalie David, LCSW



When I was in my late teens, my father used to repeat one sentence to me when I would get frustrated with a friend or even a family member that hurt my feelings. He said, “Build yourself a little fence.” Those words confused me. I thought he was asking me to ignore people, or to be cold and uncaring. He wasn’t. What exactly was he asking me to do? I struggled to understand, and frankly, I had difficulty asking him directly. Years later, after his death, I understood his words perfectly. He was talking about creating appropriate personal boundaries. Little did I know that this could be one of the most valuable lessons of my life.

The first step in become aware of who you are is defining your personal boundaries. Each person is in charge of discovering and defining his/her own physical, emotional and intellectual boundaries or limits we set with other people in the way we are treated. Developing healthy boundaries includes knowing what you like and dislike, what you are comfortable with and uncomfortable with in different situations, and most importantly, communicating those boundaries appropriately to the people around you. The freedom felt from healthy boundaries can be transformative.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself in order to begin thinking about whether or not you have healthy boundaries:

1.) Do I have difficulty saying no to friends or family when asked for favors?

2.) Do I feel guilty and ashamed when I say no to my partner or my friends?

3.) Do I give my partner ultimatums- “If you do this for me, I will do that.”?

4.) Am I afraid of rejection?

5.) Are my partner’s need more important than mine?

6.) Is my partner responsible for making me happy?

7.) Do I allow others to dismiss how I feel?

8.) Do I do more than I want to do in order to be “accepted” or “liked”?

9. I feel resentment towards my partner or friends, but I don’t talk about it.

10.) I feel selfish when I state my feelings or my needs.

If you answered yes to more than 3 of these questions, it may indicate that you have some difficulty establishing healthy boundaries. Speak with a licensed therapist for additional help.

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