How To Protect Your Personal Boundaries as Restrictions Ease

No Trespassing Sign

Photo by Michael Dziedzic on Unsplash

Personal boundaries have changed rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic, Kia Handley and The Sugar Doctor discuss how to identify and maintain our personal boundaries as restrictions ease.

[Full Transcript Below]


You can listen to the show live on Monday mornings from 9:30 am on ABC Newcastle at 1233AM or stream live here.

[Original recording on ABC website here]

Kia Handley is: Not a car! Presenter ABC Newcastle. Loves vintage, Eurovision & great stories.

You can also find the incredibly talented Kia Handley on ABC  Newcastle Mornings here, Twitter @kiahandley  Facebook kiahandleyjourno and on her podcasts: This Retro Life & Let’s Talk-  Rural Mental Health, PLUS even more amazing gems here.

Private boundaries sign on field.

Episode Transcript:


I think it’s time that you and I talked about the big B-word… it comes up in soooo many areas of your life and right now the idea of boundaries are shifting and changing faster than ever. So how do you keep up with what your own personal boundaries are, while also respecting other peoples? It’s not as easy as it seems, so Tara Thomas, your regular Relationship Coach, is here to help you. Tara, good morning

Tara: good morning Kia

Where Do We Have Personal Boundaries in Our Lives?

Kia: Hey let’s talk boundaries, where in our lives are personal boundaries important, or do we find boundaries?

Tara: I believe that in every area of your life it’s important, to know what your boundaries are, and to then maintain them. It’s part of being an adult, actually.

Are We Good at Setting Personal Boundaries?

Kia: are we good at setting these boundaries ourselves? Or are some of them just natural boundaries?

Tara: Look, I think a lot of the time we’re not good at setting them, um and a lot of the time we interpret our response to someone violating one of our personal boundaries in a really poor way.

Brené Brown (who you know I love), has found through her research that the most compassionate people have the most well defined and the most respected boundaries. And that means;

  • assuming that everyone is doing their best,
  • asking for what you need,
  • and not putting up with crap. [Read: Choose Courage Over Comfort]

What Happens if We Don't Know Them?

But if you don’t know what your boundaries are, then often you have these, sort of negative emotional experiences.

So some of the clues that you have boundaries that you’re not aware of might be that you’re feeling indignant or self-righteous, like you know “ I can’t believe that someone did that!” or “who even does that?!” Or “they should know better!”. That’s often a clue that someone else’s behaviour is crossing a boundary perhaps that you might have that you might not understand.

Is it Easier to Set and Maintain Boundaries When They Are Legislative?

Kia: For the last couple of months, boundaries have been set for us, by the federal government, by health officials, by the state government, has that made it easier for us to maintain some of the boundaries in our life, at the moment, when it comes to COVID-19? When it’s someone else saying “this is your boundary” does that make it easier for us sometimes?

Tara: For particular people it makes it easier, but I’ve noticed that there are also people who are not taking those boundaries on, regardless of whether they’re legislative or not, so

Kia: For them they’re not boundaries

Tara: That’s right. For them they’re ‘guidelines’ or suggestions. So I think that that is probably typical of the way that people react to different boundaries. For one person it is a hard fast rule where for another person they’re like “oh yeah, if I can see the sense in that, I’ll follow that rule or that boundary” so it really brings again contrast to how people approach boundaries when we’re in an environment like this.

What is the Societal Impact of Different Approaches?

Kia: I have noticed the last couple of weeks being out and about and talking to people who are working in busy areas as restrictions ease, that it’s very clear that people’s personal boundaries are very very different right now.

What does that mean in our society? Even away from our very close relationships, what does it mean even when we go, say, grocery shopping. For everyone to have different ideas.

Tara: Yeah, well I think it means that until people take responsibility for maintaining their own boundaries then there’s going to be a lot of frustration. There’s going to be a lot of social friction. And having said that, I know it’s one thing to be someone going to the grocery store to buy milk and maintaining my own boundaries, it’s another thing to be working in that store, and to have to navigate people’s porous or absent boundaries.

So it’s a really tricky environment because these aren’t just boundaries around emotional comfort, or navigating relationships, these are boundaries around physical health and wellness so theres a lot of fear underlying that as well.

How Do We Maintain Personal Boundaries in Public Places?

Kia: We can only really control things that we do, so what happens when we are in a situation say out in public where we can’t control people’s ideas of your boundaries, where they are different, what’s the best way to approach that, Tara?

Tara So firstly you want to be clear on what your personal boundaries are, and there might be a few areas you would look at;

Physical boundaries which might be;

  • The distance you are from people
  • Whether or not you are touching them, so that might be people like your immediate family & friends who its find to see now, but are you comfortable with hugging them?

So that will be something that you’ll need to think about. And also your environment,

Environmental Boundaries:

  • what kind of environments are you comfortable being in?

If you think that going to a café now or even the supermarket is still not a place where your boundaries are going to be respected, then you might want to limit your exposure to those environments.

Mental and Emotional Boundaries;

You also want to think about mentally and emotionally,

  • what sort of information are you comfortable receiving from other people, what sort of expressions are you comfortable receiving from other people?
  • That is, do you want for people to share pandemic news or politics?
  • Are you okay for people to share with you their pandemic experiences yet?

So before you go anywhere, you want to know what your own rules are.

How Do We Talk About This With our Family & Friends?

Kia: How do we communicate that with people in our lives. With our family and friends who might be ready to start seeing each other and being around more people, whats the best way to address our boundaries with our close circle of people that we do like and trust?


Be clear, being vague or being uncomfortable about expressing them will only create the kind of ambiguity that will probably lead to your boundary being violated.

The research shows that when it comes to setting boundaries the primary reason that people don’t set them is that they don’t want to make people mad, or disappoint them, or maybe make them stop liking you, and the second reason is they don’t know how to set them without sounding mean or selfish, or, you know, unlikeable, so the key is to just be really kind and clear, and say “hey, you know we’re going to catch up next week, we haven’t seen each other for a while. I’m still not comfortable with touching but I’m happy to be in a café with you.”

Once you lay out your expectations its really easy for the other person to decide whether that’s something they want to participate in, and everyone gets to choose now.

[Read: Hot Tips to Define Your Boundaries]

Kia; Eight minutes away from ten on ABC Newcastle mornings, you’re with Kia Handley, and you’re also hearing from our regular guest Tara Whitewood, Relationship Coach with The Sugar Doctor.

Has COVID-19 Changed the Way We Think About Personal Boundaries?

We’re talking boundaries this morning because boundaries have been shifting and changing, we’re going to see another big change on the 1st of June, we’ll then go into a long weekend as well so your communities might start looking a little different, you might have more people arriving.

Tara, do you think that now more than ever we are thinking about our personal boundaries and what we’re comfortable with?

Tara: Yes, absolutely, I think that there’s been a real requirement for people to get a lot clearer, particularly on their physical interactions, because there has been such a high level of risk associated with physical interactions, so its raeally kind of made everyone sit back and think “oh wait, these things that before I did unconsciously, without realising, like hugging or shaking hands, or just being in someone’s personal space, we have a much more heightened awareness around that now.

People have had to think about that kind of interaction and I hope that we carry some of those things that we’ve learned as a result of that, through now as we begin to see each other a little more.

How Will Things Change in the Future?

Kia: I was going to ask about that, if this then changes boundaries for a long time, maybe for the rest of our life we change what we’re comfortable with

Tara yeah I think a lot of people, particularly people who have a bit more fear might completely limit their interactions for a long time, but it’s also given people an opportunity to step back and now as they’re beginning to connect with people again, to maintain the boundaries they’ve already created. So they maybe didn’t have to have as difficult a conversation as they might have, you know they didn’t have to say “I don’t want to touch anymore”, that decision was made for them, and now they might like to maintain that. So there’s going to be a lot of people I think who are interacting differently for ever. If not all of us.

What is the Best Way to Assess Your Personal Boundaries?

Kia: It’s about , as you said, being really clear on those boundaries, what’s the best way to assess what your boundaries are, and have that clarity.

Tara; Think in advance about what kind of things might happen, and then also notice when you’re out and about and with other people, whether your buttons are being pushed. You know, if you are feeling annoyed or angry or irritated or self-righteous or any of those things, then ask yourself “what specifically happened that was crossing a boundary of mine? Andd then how am I going to articulate that to someone else so that it doesn’t happen again?”

Kia: really great to have this conversation and I’ll catch up with you next week!

Tara: My pleasure, see you Kia.