This article is not about kidnapping or car-jacking or burglars. It is about emotional and intellectual safety or personal boundaries - invisible lines you set around yourself that people are not allowed to cross. They define us as individuals and are important for healthy relationships. Many people are not consciously aware of their boundaries and sometimes need coaching to help them identify boundary issues. When boundaries are strong, events, situations, your environment, time, and other people’s desires lose their impact and their power over you. In the words of Kathy Wilson, boundaries are ‘part of living your life from the inside out, and this begins with what’s most important to you - your life values.
When you honour your life values by enforcing your boundaries, you’re centred, balanced, and in the place of power - the place where you choose what you want to do, think, and feel. It is important to let others know what your boundaries are, and when they have violated them. Boundaries should be robust, but not necessarily permanent. If, for example, you have a boundary around being called about work when you are at home, you may accept such calls if you had to stay home suddenly and had no time to complete a hand over. Parents are generally mindful of the importance of setting boundaries for their children, but many adults fail to exercise the same care with their peers.
Here are some common observations about boundaries:
Money –You feel constrained to lend friends and relatives money, then you are upset about the way they use it.
Lateness - someone turns up late for an appointment. You are seething inside, and other plans get messed, but you say nothing because you do not want to appear rude.
Personal space – a colleague at work stands too close, and touches you inappropriately (even if not sexually), you say nothing because you do not want to cause a scene.
Friendship - a ‘friend’ calls only when she wants something from you. You complain about this to other people and say nothing to her. In fact, you continue to take her calls and give her whatever she asks for despite your resentment.
Disrespect – a family member shouts at you whenever something isn’t going right. It leaves you feeling resentful and disrespected.
How Strong Are Your Personal Boundaries?
Take this quick quiz from An Inner Journey: Living your life Purpose by Kathy Wilson, to discern if your personal boundaries need to be stronger. In front of the number for each question, write “Y” for yes and “N” for no.
1. Do other people such as your spouse, co-workers, friends, and family, always seem to be telling you how to live your life?
2. Do people often tell you how easy you are to get along with?
3. Do you suffer from stress related diseases such as high blood pressure, ulcers, or eating disorders?
4. Are you often made to feel small by other people? 5. Does everybody like you?
6. Do you often find yourself telling other people what they need to do to fix a situation in their lives? 7. Do people sometimes seem to be put off by questions you ask them?
8. Do you often feel that other people take advantage of your kind and generous nature?
9. Are you the one at work who always gets the least desirable assignments?
10. Do you often feel angry after an encounter with another person and aren’t exactly sure why?
Now give yourself 1 point for every YES answer. Add up your YES answers for your score.
1-3 points: Fairly strong boundaries, although they could use further strengthening.
4-6 points: Your boundaries are a little flabby and need work to get them muscled up.
7-10 points: Your boundaries are easy! Start now to strengthen them!
Healthy vs. Unhealthy personal boundaries
In medieval days people built moats around castles to make it harder for the enemy to invade. Today people install electric fences. A friend once remarked that the grill door that keeps invaders out will also keep the neighbours out when you need someone to come in and help. This is also true of personal boundaries. Tighter boundaries may make you feel safer, but they can also isolate you. And so, in life coaching, we speak of healthy and unhealthy boundaries. Here are some characteristics of Healthy Boundaries
• Says “yes”or “no” without fear or guilt/acknowledges “free choice” in decision making.
• Accepts “no” from others.
• Shares personal information gradually in a mutually trusting relationship.
• Expects reciprocity in relationships and shares personal responsibility.
• Identifies when the problem is “theirs” and when it is not.
• Does not rescue others from taking responsibility.
• Does not tolerate abuse or disrespect.
And the following are some Characteristics of Unhealthy Boundaries
• Gives a “no” response if the request involves close interaction.
• Avoids intimacy at all costs and may even sabotage a relationship to do so.
• Does not share any personal information in a relationship.
• Has difficulty identifying wants, needs, or feelings.
• Has few or no close relationships.

Author's Bio: 

I am a Life Coach who uses the Goal Attainment approach. I hold an Associate Certified Credential (ACC) from the International Coach Federation. I help my clients achieve their life goals, including career, academic and parenting goals.
I have written two workbooks, From Idea to Action: The Power of Thought (2010) and My Dream Journey Book: A workbook for People with Big Dreams (2017).
You may reach me on jaki@lifeskillscoaching.co.ke