Emotional Boundaries

defining who we are

If you want to be respected by others the great thing is to respect yourself. Only by that, only by self-respect will you compel others to respect you.
— Fyodor Dostoyevsky

As executives, we are many things to many people. We not only represent the essence of our firm, we are also an extension of the collective - representing each member of the firm. Many of us have experienced confusion regarding our responsibilities to others. There is the tendency to feel responsible for everyone and everything, including for how others see or treat us. This often creates uncertainty about which feelings regarding ourselves are truthful. We think, perhaps by making ourselves accessible and pleasing to others, they might approve of us and respect us. Even though we are the leader of the firm, we may find ourselves looking for affirmation in the eyes of others. Though we mean well and are perceived as “likeable”, living such a life day to day is exhausting as we continually change masks. Consequently, we experience a constant feeling of unease and tension deep within. Ultimately, this leads us away from our true self and drains our inner energy.

Another common reaction to these pressures, is to go in the opposite direction and become isolated and inaccessible to others. The executive may build walls–often through their position of power, to protect themselves from the expectations or demands of others. This often results in a daily life rooted in fear and anger, lonely and devoid of the fulfillment of “being part of the flow of life”. Ultimately, they become a prisoner behind walls, removed from the pulse of the firm, industry sector and the subtle changes happening in the marketplace.

Emotional boundaries are the edges which define us as separate from others. They are also a valuable skill that can be used to meaningfully connect with the people in our lives. As we learn to build healthy boundaries, we gain clarity of the essence of who we are and how we want to relate with others. We learn how to protect ourselves from the ignorance and ill-intent of others, as well as from energy thieves. These emotional boundaries are limits which promote integrity and are a significant key on our Journey towards Self-Actualization.


“As I learned about boundaries, I became more aware of my inner feelings, whoI share them with and how. I learned that by being aware of my feelings and accepting them, I gained an understanding of the nature of my connections with others. I came to accept that I cannot control how others choose to respond to me or what they expect of me. I gained the power to prioritize what relationships I will foster and those I will back away from. I know how to handle situations by trusting the process and my intuition and by living with integrity. A new skill I subsequently developed, was an acute awareness of others’ boundaries. This resulted in significant growth of my leadership skills.”

M. Martin, Entrepreneur

We teach others where our boundaries are by the way we let them treat us.
— Anne Katherine, M.A


Questions for Self-Exploration

The content, structure and flow of this exercise are designed to guide you in:

  • examining your thoughts and actions for the fear they may contain

  • identifying your fears and their sources

  • acknowledging how your fears affect you and your interactions with others

  • applying this knowledge positively and productively to address your present fears and prepare for future ones