Healthy Boundaries


All of us have that one person who causes us to take a deep breath before answering their call. A person who, despite them being a family member, friend, co-worker, or neighbor, just seems to make things difficult every time they interact with you. Maybe it is your mother-in-law, known as the “well-oiled guilt machine”, or your boss, who just doesn’t care that you are on vacation because there is something she needs. These people may all be important to you, but what these relationships are lacking are boundaries.

Why are Boundaries Important?

Setting boundaries says that you have self-respect and are willing to protect yourself (mentally, emotionally, and physically) and in most cases your immediate family as well. You are determining what is healthy for you and yours by trusting your gut and your feelings to point out uncomfortable or unhealthy relationships and people. And while most of us do not like conflict and do not aim to hurt another’s feelings, setting boundaries in difficult relationships can actually help bring peace and healing where there was once turmoil.

How do I Start Setting Boundaries?

Setting boundaries is by no means an easy task, but it is a vital one for both your relationship and your mental well-being.

1. Trust your feelings -Feelings of regular annoyance, irritation, guilt, and the like relating to a specific person are usually a good first indicator that something is awry. You have feelings for a reason. Trust them, and examine why you are regularly feeling this way- it may mean that an unclear boundary or thought that you have for your life has unknowingly been crossed by this person. If the neighborhood kid keeps walking into your home without knocking and every time you see him you just grumble inside with irritation, there is a boundary that needs to be set.

2. Recognize your priorities - Be aware of your priorities and what you are willing to accept or participate in (and what you are not). Have the self-respect to determine your needs and stick to them for your own good, rather than putting up with someone’s behavior that mentally puts you at risk or makes you uncomfortable. If helping to care for your young niece on weekdays causes you to be unable to make doctors appointments and participate in regular self-care, recognize that something is missing and that boundaries may need to be set. Others cannot know what your limits are if you don’t recognize them yourself.

3. Speak Obviously and Directly -Even though it may seem that you have stated your needs or boundaries, if you were ambiguous or if your counterpart is not quick to understand, there may still be some unclear boundaries. Be polite, but be firm. Do not confuse directness with rudeness; you can speak both kindly and clearly about what you expect from the relationship. If your mother doesn’t seem to understand when you say you “don’t like” your child watching PG-13 movies, you need to be more clear.  Stating “Susan cannot watch PG-13 movies” is clear and leaves no misunderstanding, but is not disrespectful .

4. Do Not Falter on Your Convictions - Don’t let guilt or carelessness cause you to break down the boundaries you have established. Some people may be pushy, some may be unaware of how forceful they are, and some just want to get their way regardless of the stand you have taken. Have the self-respect to stand firm for what you have already made clear and do not falter. You are worth the struggle, and your emotional and mental well-being is counting on you to fight for yourself.

5. Do Not Put Caring for Yourself Last - It is so easy to place someone else feelings above our own. So many of us care deeply about the feelings of others, especially those we care about. But choosing to do (or not do) something that meets the needs of self-care because we don’t want to disappoint or hurt someone else is not a healthy relationship. Putting off your lunch until after you feed your newborn is a healthy choice to postpone what you need to meet a more immediate need of someone who cannot care for themselves  but skipping dinner altogether four nights a week to drive an adult child to and from work shifts because they choose to not get their drivers license is not a healthy choice for either of you. If you do not make self-care a priority, others won’t either. Do not put off self-care because of missing boundaries.

Setting healthy boundaries in your relationships is a primary ingredient to having a healthy and peaceful life. It allows you to deal with conflict and stress more easily, and ensures that your own self-care is a priority.

For more information on how to set boundaries with difficult people, contact Light Mind Counseling today.

Join our clients on the path to achieving happiness.

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