Self-help

Need to Set Better Boundaries? Try These Tips

While creating healthy boundaries can help protect you, the question remains: how and where do you start? This article explores the importance of setting boundaries, how to identify them, and how to set ones that protect your overall well-being.

therapist sean abraham By Sean Abraham, LCSW

Updated on May 13, 2024

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Establishing healthy emotional boundaries is essential to building healthy relationships. Drawing boundaries can be challenging, especially when you don’t want to hurt others or seem selfish — but it’s possible. 

While creating healthy boundaries can help protect you, the question remains: how and where do you start? This article explores the importance of setting boundaries, how to identify them, and how to set ones that protect your overall well-being.

Why Setting Boundaries is Important

Boundaries communicate how others should treat you — what’s suitable and not. Setting effective boundaries is healthy for you and those around you. Among their various benefits, here are two key reasons why boundary setting is important.

Prevents Anger and Resentment

Without boundaries, you may overspend, overcommit, and do things that conflict with your values or are unimportant. You may also be mistreated, resulting in anger and resentment. However, with well-defined boundaries, you can speak up for yourself and communicate your expectations and needs — combatting resentment. 

In addition, adhering to your boundaries and communicating helps to reduce stress, promote peace, and avoid future conflicts.  

Creates a Mutual Respect in Relationships

Sometimes you may feel unappreciated and undervalued by your partner, family member, or friend. Feeling disrespected or mistreated may lead to resentment and relational impairments, creating a cycle of destructive behavior.

Establishing boundaries helps your partner understand your needs, fostering respect and understanding in the relationship. 

Setting your own boundaries also helps you recognize other people’s boundaries. You become aware of their needs and how they expect to be treated.

Consequences of Not Setting Boundaries

Not having clear and healthy boundaries may lead to the following:

Additionally, a lack of boundaries may cause mistreatment, emotional abuse, and poor relationships with your partner, family, or colleagues. It may also lead to increased chances of stress and mental health issues. For instance, not setting limits may cause burnout or stress — or, in more severe cases, result in anxiety, depression, or panic attacks. 

Identifying Your Boundaries

The common types of boundaries that can help organize and maintain your life include the following:

Boundaries surrounding time and relationships can further help protect your physical and emotional well-being. 

Relational boundaries improve the connection between you and others, whether it’s a workmate, schoolmate, family member, or romantic partner. Setting relational boundaries with a romantic partner is vital for addressing relationship issues as they provide an outline of expectations.

Time boundaries help you to manage your time effectively; they prevent doing things you don’t want, overworking, and people wasting your time. For instance, you can set time to spend with loved ones, practice self-care, and create a healthy work-life balance without compromising yourself. 

Communicating Your Boundaries

Communicating personal boundaries allows people to respect and conform to these limits, improving your relationships. Learning to say ‘no’ is important to a healthy relationship with yourself and others.

How to Say No

While you want to maintain a healthy relationship with others, accepting everything they say or do may affect your wellness and, in certain instances, hurt the relationship. So, to avoid this, you’ll need to learn when to say ‘yes’ and when to say ‘no.’

Assertiveness requires that you confidently communicate when your boundaries are crossed and bring it up with others. Often people think assertiveness means asserting themselves. But that’s only part of it. If we understand communication on a spectrum, such as a spectrum of needs, we can see aggressive communication as focusing solely on our needs, passive communication as focusing solely on the needs of others, and assertive communication as expressing our needs while respecting the needs of others.

To assert your limits, express your needs clearly and respectfully. For instance, use ‘I’ statements so people don’t feel attacked. Also, understand your barriers to assertiveness and learn how to overcome them. Common barriers may include low self-esteem, fear of rejection and being judged, and negative past experiences. 

Setting Boundaries in Different Areas of Your Life

According to Kristina Anzell, a Grow Therapy provider, when discussing a boundary or setting a new one, follow the seven steps of ‘DEAR MAN’: 

Setting Boundaries in Relationships

Relationship boundaries allow your partner to understand your needs and comfort levels. To set healthy boundaries in your relationship, know what you want and be honest. 

Also, remember to be mindful of your partner’s needs — you want mutual respect for each other’s boundaries at the end of the day. So, take time to understand what your partner needs too; listen to and discuss their boundaries.

Further, communicate when space is needed. Be sure to talk with your romantic partner whenever you need time alone. However, take your time with the communication, use the right words to the best of your ability, and be respectful. For example, try saying something like “I appreciate that you enjoy our time together and I do as well. Today, I need some time to myself to decompress.”

Setting Boundaries at Work

According to Anzell, set rigid boundaries for yourself, not rules for others to follow. For example, if you don’t want to start work until 8:30, a boundary, in this case, could be requesting that others don’t call or email you before that time if your role permits. 

Other ways of setting boundaries in the workplace include the following:

While setting workplace boundaries is important for your relationship with colleagues, remember to be adaptable where possible, considering your needs and those around you.

Setting Boundaries with Family Members

Setting boundaries with family members protects your well-being and helps maintain a healthy relationship with them. While it may feel hard to share your boundaries, knowing that your needs are as valid as anyone else’s is important. So, let them know what you need and what behaviors may hurt you.

Be sure to use a kind but firm approach. While you want everyone to respect your boundaries, being respectful and considerate is essential. 

Talk to a Therapist Today

Setting boundaries effectively protects your emotions and improves your mental health and relationships with others. Understanding the importance of boundaries and setting them in daily life can help develop positive connections with others.

Consider talking to a therapist if you have challenges setting boundaries or are struggling with unhealthy boundaries. Therapists can help you to set boundaries that fit different areas in your life and help you understand barriers that make boundaries challenging.

Frequently Asked Questions

About the author
therapist sean abraham Sean Abraham, LCSW

Sean Abraham is a licensed clinical social worker who works with those who have struggled with substance use, depression, anxiety, loss, communication problems, student life, as well as other mental health concerns.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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