How to Set Healthy Boundaries

We set boundaries for ourselves because we love and respect ourselves. Usually, we think of personal boundaries to communicate our needs to others as well as ourselves. Being a responsible adult is establishing limits for ourselves, making choices that are in our own best interest even when they don't seem the best at the moment. They help you monitor your behaviour and create a healthy structure for your life.

There are different areas to set boundaries, physical, sexual, intellectual, emotional and financial are some examples. But today I'm going to focus on personal, maybe you're a people pleaser and while it can feel good to be doing for others, it can also become an energy drainer. As people will expect from you and continuously take and take while you begin to feel as though you're being taken advantaged of Boundaries should reflect your goals and values but don't try to set too many all at once.

Why it's hard to set boundaries with yourself?

We know that structure is good for us, but it can be hard to stick to. Have you ever asked yourself, why is that?

A few examples could be:
- During our adolescence, our parent's didn't set healthy boundaries or limitations for themselves.
- They also didn't set any for you - inconsistency with rules, extreme rules or no rules.
- Boundaries felt as though you were being controlled or deprived (like a strict diet).
- Some mental health or addictions can impair your thinking or make it hard to limit yourself.

If no-one taught you how to set boundaries or explained them, it makes sense why you may struggle to set them now. Setting limits for yourself is one way that you can re-parent yourself.

Know what your limits will be

Have an idea of what you are willing to do. Boundaries aren't barriers, they're guidelines or limits, they help us to be open with areas that will be good for us. When we are setting boundaries, let us focus on the positives of what you will do. Instead of ruling out certain situations because they don't suit us when planned, make alternatives for your boundary. Such as you may dedicate certain days to doing things for yourself but maybe family wants you to do things on those days for and with them, compromise and settle on another day. Of course there will be some instances when you will say 'no, I will not..'.

How to set boundaries with yourself

First of all, let go of any guilt. People pleasers have a close relationship with guilt. I would be the same way, if at work I was asked to do a favour, the one time I said no, I would feel bad afterwards because I felt I let someone down for looking out for myself. It's a cycle we continue to be in as we don't like the feeling of guilt.

You need to practice saying 'no thanks' without giving a reason, we actually don't owe anybody a reason as to why we are saying no. I understand it's common place to feel as though we need to explain but that leads us to feeling and exploring the internal guilt. So let's start of slow by just saying 'no thanks' day to day at least once with no explanation.
But on the other hand, also accept when others tell you no!

Have a VIP list, these will be the people (close friends & family) that you can regularly overshare personal information with. When you have a clear sense of your own boundaries you won't overshare and possibly make others feel uncomfortable or leave yourself vulnerable and exposed. You can share appropriate personal information but not too much or too little.

image credit @a.rosegallery

As I'd mentioned above we can compromise, relationships rely on give-and-take. We have to remember it's not only our boundaries that need to be respected. For example if someone asks you to do something on that day you can say to them...

"I won't be able to make it on that date but I'd love to schedule it for another night, if that's good with you?"

You're giving them a chance to make plans with you for another time that may work better.

Taking a break from toxic relationships can be difficult but the most rewarding type of settling of boundaries as these relationships no longer serve you. Maybe you have a person in your life who constantly uses you as that sounding board for their problems or favours but never returns the favour or their personal struggles impose on your own sense of wellbeing. One-sided relationships can leave you feeling unloved, disrespected, unseen and unheard. Take a break and remove yourself! It is not selfish to put your own well-being first! Healthy friendships are reciprocal and mutually nourishing, not one-sided and depleting.

How you can communicate these boundaries

For some this can induce anxiety and stress but over time it'll become second nature as you'll be able to communicate these boundaries to people with ease making sticking to them next to none. Be polite and confident, we aren't here to upset anyone but we also want our boundaries respected. How you respond to these situations will be personal to you and each situation, for example:

"This topic of conversation is making me feel uncomfortable, do you mind if we change the topic?"

Think of situations you've previously been in that could arise again and jot down how you'd respond to them next time to protect your boundaries.

How do you set healthy boundaries?
create healthy boundaries
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  1. Great advice, boundaries are so so important. Great read, really enjoyed it. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thank you, this is such a good read and you have really got me thinking. In many areas I am great at setting boundaries but there is one area in life I need to work on. Mich x

  3. This is a great, informative and such an important post. Setting boundaries is great for our mental (and physical) wellbeing.

    Keep up the great work!

  4. I've struggled with setting boundaries in the past as I do find it hard to say no and I don't want to feel like I'm letting people down. But since the pandemic I've also respected my own personal mental health so want to find that balance x