How to Set (and Keep) Boundaries

setting boundaries

What are boundaries?

Personal boundaries can be thought of as the limits or rules we set for ourselves within relationships. Healthy boundaries provide a foundation upon which to build healthy relationships.

The boundaries we set help us establish where our responsibilities begin and end. We can set boundaries around our time, our possessions, our physical space, our emotions, our energy, and more.

Here are just a few examples of a personal boundary one may set:

  • Making it clear to coworkers that you won’t answer emails on the weekends.
  • Choosing not to loan money to loved ones.
  • Saying no to something you don’t have the energy to do.
  • Confronting someone when they’ve crossed a boundary with you.

Why are boundaries important?

“Porous” boundaries tend to breed resentment, anger, stress, wasted time, and burnout. If you often feel upset or resentful that people keep crossing your boundaries (expecting a lot from you, offending you, taking advantage of your generosity, etc.) ask yourself first if you’ve made your boundaries clear to them. Instead of expecting others to know your limits or guess what you need, you must first accept that it is your responsibility to make your boundaries clear to others.

Setting boundaries is a necessary component of self-care and nurturing your mental health.

Healthy boundaries protect your mental health by:

  1. Helping you establish personal autonomy, identity, and self-esteem
  2. Protecting you against burnout
  3. Improving your relationships by helping others know your limits

If you’re not used to setting boundaries, you might feel guilty when you start implementing them. Remember that boundaries are not selfish. You’re protecting yourself, yes – but you’re also protecting your relationships when you make your boundaries clear.

Say no to a request or invitation without over-explaining or making up a lie to get out of it. You have the right to say no without feeling guilty. To be treated with respect. To prioritize your needs.

Why is setting boundaries so hard?

In essence, there are two steps to setting boundaries: setting the boundary and then standing firm on the boundary you’ve set. Sometimes the hardest part about setting a boundary is standing firm on it.

We are conditioned to want to be liked, “easy-going”, “laid back”, and helpful. In turn, when we aren’t practicing healthy boundaries, we’re susceptible to bending for the needs of others and betraying ourselves.

You may feel tempted to go back on a boundary if you’re met with resistance of any kind. Remember that the other person’s reaction is not an indication of whether or not it was within your rights to set the boundary in the first place.

It’s your responsibility to protect your own needs. It’s not your responsibility to make everyone else feel okay about your decisions.

Getting Help

Curious to know more about boundaries? As outlined here, porous boundaries can lead to resentment, but rigid boundaries can keep us from experiencing fulfilling relationships. Learn more about different types of boundaries and traits associated with rigid, porous, and healthy boundaries.

Establishing healthy boundaries can be extremely challenging for many. Navigating your boundaries with the support of a therapist can make all the difference. GLPG offers online and in-person therapy. Browse our therapists here.

Want to learn more?

Subscribe to our latest psychology news and articles.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.