How to Set Healthy Boundaries?

How to Set Healthy Boundaries?

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Having boundaries has changed my life in ways that I didn’t know were possible. This article is dedicated to those of us who want to know “How to Set Healthy Boundaries?”, and are gaining freedom through unapologetic, healthy boundaries.

Boundaries will set you free. Sometimes we know we need to set boundaries, but we have no clue how or where to start.  This article serves as a guide to the benefits of limits and the hard work of setting expectations as you maintain your values in your relationships. Because we often don’t know exactly how to express what we need, I’ve included wording suggestions. Feel free to use mine or practice your phrases.

Also Read: Mindfulness Exercises Based On the Elemental Forces of Water, Air, Earth, And Fire

Signs That You Need Boundaries

  1. You feel overwhelmed.
  2. You feel resentment toward people for asking for your help.
  3. You avoid phone calls and interactions with people you think might ask for something.
  4. You make comments about helping people and getting nothing in return.
  5. You feel burned out.
  6. You frequently daydream about dropping everything and disappearing.
  7. You have no time for yourself.

Reasons People Don’t Respect Your Boundaries

  1. You don’t take yourself seriously.
  2. You don’t hold people accountable.
  3. You apologize for setting boundaries.
  4. You allow too much flexibility.
  5. You speak in uncertain terms.
  6. You haven’t verbalized your boundaries (they’re all in your head).
  7. You assume that stating your boundaries once is enough.
  8. You assume that people will figure out what you want and need based on how you act when they violate a boundary.

What Is a Boundary?

Boundaries are the gateway to healthy relationships. Boundaries are expectations and needs that help you feel safe and comfortable in your relationships.   Expectations in relationships help you stay mentally and emotionally well. Learning when to say no and when to say yes is also an essential part of feeling comfortable when interacting with others.

Boundaries in A Relationship Versus Examples of Personal Boundaries

Mental health issues such as anxiety can be prompted by our neurological response to stress. When we are stressed, our brain has difficulty shutting down. Our sleep is affected. Dread sets in. Poor self-care, feelings of being overwhelmed, resentment, avoidance, and other mental health issues as common presentations of boundary issues.

The root of self-care is setting boundaries. Neglecting self-care is the first thing to happen when we get caught up in our desire to help others.

Self-care is more than taking a spa day, and it isn’t selfish. Saying no to help is an act of self-care.   Paying attention to your needs is self-care.   And like putting on the oxygen mask, you’ll have more energy for others if you apply it to yourself first.  If you think about it, the root of self-care is setting boundaries: it’s saying no to something to say yes to your own emotional, physical, and mental well-being.

Setting Healthy Boundaries

Creating healthy boundaries leads to feeling safe, loved, calm, and respected. They are an indication of how you allow people to show up for you and how you show up for others. But it doesn’t stop there.

The Meaning of Boundaries

  1. They are a safeguard against overextending yourself.
  2. They are a self-care practice.
  3. They define roles in relationships.
  4. They communicate acceptable and unacceptable behaviors in relationships.
  5. They are parameters for knowing what to expect in relationships.
  6. They are a way that you ask people to show up by upholding your needs.
  7. They are a way to communicate your needs to others.
  8. They are a way to create healthy relationships.
  9. They are a way to create clarity.
  10. They are a way to feel safe.

A boundary is a cue to others about how to treat you. It can be explicit, such as saying “I’m about   to share   something   that I’d like you to keep between   just the two of us.” Or implicit, such as having a basket for shoes and socks right by the front door for guests. As you set your limits, it’s important to remain aware of the boundaries people are trying to communicate to you as well.

THERE ARE three levels of boundaries.

See if any of these sound familiar to you.


Porous boundaries are weak or poorly expressed and are unintentionally harmful. They lead to feeling depleted, overextending yourself, depression, anxiety, and unhealthy relationship dynamics.

Porous boundaries look like

  1. Oversharing
  2. Co-dependency
  3. Enmeshment (lacking emotional separation between you and another person)
  4. Inability to say no
  5. People-pleasing
  6. Dependency on feedback from others
  7. Paralyzing fear of being   rejected
  8. Accepting mistreatment

Examples of porous boundary setting:

  1. Saying yes to things you don’t want to do
  2. Loaning money to people because you feel obligated or when you don’t have the funds to do so


At the other extreme, rigid boundaries involve building walls to keep others out as a way to keep yourself safe. But staying safe by locking yourself in is unhealthy and leads to a whole other set of problems.   Whereas porous boundaries lead to unhealthy closeness (enmeshment), rigid ones are a self-protective mechanism meant to build distance.  

This typically comes from a fear of vulnerability or a history of being taken advantage of. People with rigid boundaries do not allow exceptions to their stringent rules even when it would be healthy for them to do so. If a person with rigid boundaries says, “I never loan money to people,” they never stray from that, even if a   friend who isn’t the type to borrow money is in a crisis.

Rigid boundaries look like

  1. Never sharing
  2. Building walls
  3. Avoiding vulnerability
  4. Cutting   people out
  5. Having high expectations of others
  6. Enforcing strict rules

Examples of rigid boundary setting:

  1. Saying no harshly as a way to discourage people from asking you in the future
  2. Having a rule that you never   watch   your sister’s kids


Healthy boundaries are possible when your past doesn’t show up in your present interactions. They require an awareness of your emotional, mental, and physical capacities, combined with clear communication.

Healthy boundaries look like

  1. Being clear about your values
  2. Listening to your own opinion
  3. Sharing with others appropriately
  4. Having a healthy vulnerability with people who’ve earned your trust
  5. Being comfortable saying no
  6. Being comfortable hearing no without taking it personally

Examples of healthy boundary setting:

Saying no without apologizing because it’s the healthiest choice for you at that moment

Supporting people financially, when appropriate, and when you can do so without causing financial   harm to yourself

How to Establish Boundaries?

Indeed, setting boundaries isn’t easy. Paralyzing fear about how someone might respond can easily hold us back. You might play out awkward interactions in your mind and prepare yourself for the worst possible outcome.

But trust me: short-term discomfort for a long-term healthy relationship is worth it every time! Whenever you identify a boundary you’d like to set, remember that there are two steps to the process: communication and action.


Verbally communicating your needs is step one. People cannot accurately assume your boundaries based on your body language or unspoken expectations. When you explicitly state what you expect, there is little room for others to misinterpret what works for you. Assertive statements are the most effective way to do this.

Verbally communicating your boundaries sounds like this:

  1. “When we disagree, I’d like you to use a lower tone and take a break if you feel like you’re getting too heated in the argument. Also, I will mention when I’m becoming uncomfortable with your tone.”
  2. “It’s important to me that you honor the plans that we set up. If you need to change our plans, please send me a text a few hours   before.”


The process doesn’t end with communication.  You must uphold what you communicate through your behavior.   Betting on the other person to read your mind is a recipe for an unhealthy relationship. Action is required.   For instance, let’s say you’ve told your friend, “It’s important to me that you honor plans that we set up. If you need to change our   plans, please send me a text a few hours before.” Because you’ve verbally communicated your boundary, when it’s violated, you need to reinforce it with action.

In this case, you would let your friend know that you can’t accommodate the changed plans because they didn’t give you enough notice. You might say gently, “I want to hang out with you, but my schedule won’t allow for the adjustment. Let’s   set up a time to   get together next   week.”  It’s hard, I know. But honoring your boundaries through action is the only way most people will understand that you’re serious, which will help the people in your life become serious about your boundaries, too.

How to Deal with Someone Who Doesn’t Respect Boundaries?

It’s important to consider how people might respond, but don’t get too fixated on their possible reactions.

Common Responses to Boundaries

  1. Pushback
  2. Limit testing
  3. Ignoring
  4. Rationalizing and questioning
  5. Defensiveness
  6. Ghosting
  7. Silent treatment
  8. Acceptance

Boundaries are the cure to most relationship problems. But both parties have to participate and respect the boundaries on either side.

Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship

  1. You are unable to express your needs because the other person refuses to listen.
  2. The other person refuses to meet reasonable requests.
  3. There’s emotional, physical, or sexual abuse.
  4. You feel sad, angry, drained, or disappointed after most interactions.
  5. The relationship is one-sided; you give, and they take.
  6. There’s a lack of trust in the relationship.
  7. The other person refuses to change some unhealthy behaviors.
  8. The other person has an addiction that is harmful to you.
  9. Boundaries grow and expand over time as our needs change.

Exercise for Setting Healthy Boundaries

  1. Grab your journal or a separate sheet of paper to complete the following exercise.
  2. Think of a time when someone said no to you. How did you react?  Could you have reacted more healthily?
  3. Think of a time when you wanted to say no but didn’t. How could you have expressed the boundary?  
  4. How do you think people in your life will respond to your boundaries? Is this based on fact or your assumptions? What about your past makes you think this?  
  5. Where are you in need of boundaries right now? List three places or relationships where you would like to set a new one.

The Cost of Not Having Healthy Boundaries

Choosing discomfort over resentment. —BRENÉ BROWN

Related: 22 Peace Quotes to Inspire Love and Tranquillity

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