Personal Space: A Brief Overview
I was standing in line (or what could loosely be called a line) at the New Delhi airport. The airport is huge, and there’s lots of space, but somehow the other passengers felt like they had to close any available gaps. People were pushing into me on all sides, especially the guy behind me. My personal space was being infringed upon. It felt claustrophobic. I turned to the guy behind me and, with noticeable irritation in my voice, said, “Can you just back up and give me a little space?”
Personal space is our conscious and subconscious territory. In my experience in Delhi, my physical space felt like it was being invaded. But physical space is just one part of our personal space. Personal space also includes the sexual, sensory, psychological, and emotional area we inhabit and our need for privacy, desire for autonomy, and sense of ownership. Any encroachment on personal space can make us feel physical, mental, and emotional discomfort ranging in intensity from mild irritation to extreme anxiety and anger.
Can you recall a time when you got angry, upset, or irritated with a client? You were likely triggered by encroachment on your personal space. Maybe they made sexual overtures or shared a political opinion that was opposed to your own. Perhaps they seemed just a little too enthusiastic to see you again, or maybe they just seemed too demanding. These kinds of situations can be exhausting and dampen our love for our work.
If we really want to come into work each day with joy instead of dread, we need to understand our personal boundaries, recognize when they’re being crossed, and then be able to respond in an appropriate way to shut down these invasions into our personal space.
Watch this short video taken from the digital textbook Boundaries: The Foundation of Ethical Massage Practice to discover the various facets of personal space and watch to the end to test your understanding.
We use boundaries to protect our personal space. Boundaries are the limits we set on other people to indicate what we find acceptable and unacceptable in their behaviors towards us. People with healthy boundaries know the types of behavior they are willing to allow and the types they are unwilling to allow in relationships, both personal and professional.
The first step to setting healthy professional boundaries with clients is to develop our awareness of personal space. When we give these issues more attention, we can establish, maintain, and defend our personal space and better understand client boundaries in a massage practice.
If you’re interested in exploring your own boundaries and would like to be able to set clear boundaries with family, friends, and clients in a way that honors your personal space while being gracious and respectful, then check out the textbook Boundaries: The Foundation of Ethical Massage Practice. Like all digital massage textbooks at Massage Mastery Online, it’s filled with vivid imagery, video, audio, and interactive activities. And if you need ethics CE, we have several courses available based on the content of this book.