How To Set Healthy Boundaries

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Relationships can only be healthy when both people have the space to be themselves and maintain their personal integrity. Sadly, many people find themselves in relationships, romantic or otherwise, with people who do not respect boundaries and feel entitled to have their needs met regardless of the other persons needs. These people most likely grew up in households that were unsafe and unstable, and where there has been a constant invasion of personal boundaries.

Not sure if you have healthy boundaries? Here’s some questions to ask yourself:

Do you have a hard time making personal decisions?

Do you really hate to let people down?

Are guilt and anxiety your primary emotions?

Are you constantly the victim of situations?

Are you usually a little bit annoyed?

Do you secretly feel that others don’t respect you?

If you answered yes to a few of these, you may have a hard time creating healthy boundaries. People without healthy boundaries are at an increased risk for anxiety, depression, and multiple health issues due to the chronic stress they are under.

Here are some ways you can begin to implement healthy boundaries in your life and relationships.

Identify your limits

The first step in setting healthy boundaries is identifying your limits.

The first step in setting healthy boundaries is identifying your limits.

You can’t set boundaries unless you discover where it is you personally stand. You’ll need to spend some time exploring what you can and cannot tolerate. What makes you happy and what makes you feel uncomfortable and stressed? What are your likes and dislikes? How much of each can you handle in a given time period? Only until you’ve made these discoveries can you move onto the next steps. Practicing mindfulness is a great technique to learn self-awareness and insight into your mind, thoughts, feelings, and relationships.

Don’t be shy

People who have similar communication styles are easy to engage with. These people will quickly understand what your new barriers are. But people who have a different cultural background or personality style may not easily understand your boundaries. With these individuals, it’s important to be very clear and direct. Assertive communication is crucial. This means identifying and owning your needs without taking responsibility for other people’s emotions. Then identify the behaviors in others that you are not comfortable with in a calm, matter-of-fact and respectful manner.

A great acronym to remember when implementing boundaries is JADE. You don’t have to justify, argue, defend, or explain. Period.

Pay attention to your feelings

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You can’t have healthy boundaries if you aren’t aware of your feelings.

People who have a hard time setting boundaries don’t often allow themselves to acknowledge their own feelings because they’re usually too busy worrying about everyone else’s.

You will need to start recognizing how people make you feel in order to know whether your new boundaries are being crossed or not. When you’re with someone, make mental notes of how that interaction made you feel.

If, after spending time with someone, you experience feelings of anger or resentment, this is usually a sign that the person may be overstepping your boundaries. Take a moment to reiterate to this person what your boundaries are. If they continue to disrespect you and your boundaries, it may be worth considering cutting ties or significantly reducing your interaction.

People who knowingly disrespect and abuse your personal boundaries suck the energy and life force out of you. Life is hard enough as it is without having people like this constantly dragging you down.

Make Self-Care a Priority

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Maintaining your self-care plays a critical role in maintaining your boundaries.

Put yourself and your needs first. This may feel strange and even somehow wrong if you’ve spent your entire life putting others first. Give yourself permission to feel your feelings and get what you need to be happy and well. This often means stopping, and asking yourself questions such as, “am I doing this because I want to or because I feel obligated.” Exploring the reasons behind the “obligation” will lead you to your answer.

If you’re not even sure what self-care is, or what your self-care is or should be, think of it this way; doing something because you enjoy it and it makes you feel good. A great way to identify your best self-care is to ask yourself, “Would I still be doing this if no one else knew or was watching?” If the answer is yes, then you’re on the right track.

Talk To Someone

If you’ve spent an entire life with a low sense of self-worth and self-confidence, you may find setting boundaries to be very difficult and potentially even seemingly impossible. If this is the case, it’s important to speak with a therapist or somebody who can help guide you and support you and offer objective perspective to help you discover where these feelings are coming from and how you can change your thought patterns and behavior.


James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists take control and move From Surviving to Thriving.