Supporting your journey to a healthier, happier you
Sara Frawley, LMHC

“If you allow people to make more withdrawals than deposits in your life, you will be out of balance and in the negative. Know when to close the account.”    -unknown

I haven’t been able to track down who originally said this quote, but its meaning rings true. If you have ever been out of balance in a relationship in your life, as most of us have, you can relate.

Establishing healthy boundaries is a way to take care of yourself. Boundaries let others know where you stand. And they allow others to grow as well! Setting boundaries is not about being mean to another person but about setting up your life so that you feel the freedom to live the kind of life you want.

First off, what are boundaries?

  • Healthy emotional and physical space between you and another person
  • Clearly defined limits that allow you to be yourself – free to feel, think, and act how you choose

When do I know that I need to set clearer boundaries?

  • Believing you must feel or think the same way as another or do everything together
  • Not spending time doing your own thing
  • Feeling as though you are expected to report to others in detail about your behaviors, relationships, or opinions
  • Overwhelmed by too much time and attention from another person

How do I know I’m doing the right thing by setting a boundary? What should I say?

  • You have a right to say no.
    “I know you really want me to go with you to the family picnic, but it’s important to me that I follow through on the plans I already scheduled for myself this weekend.”
  • You have a right to privacy.
    “I understand you worry about my relationship but I’d prefer to keep this between me and my partner for now.”
  • You have a right to make decisions about your life – to take risks, explore your interests, and choose your own path.
    “I’m looking forward to this next step. I know this may not be what you would’ve chosen but it’s the right move for me, and I appreciate your support.”
  • You have a right to be seen and heard in my relationships.
    “I know we have different opinions, however, I feel as though sometimes what I think is ignored. Please listen to my thoughts and feeling. Let’s discuss our options together.”
  • You have a right to make time for yourself.
    “I know you need me to help you out again, but I can’t do tomorrow. I need to take time for myself.”

But this is hard. This feels bad!

Yes, setting boundaries can feel awkward and may bring up guilt. When setting boundaries, you may hear responses or reactions, such as, “You’re selfish” or “You don’t really care about me.” Another reaction could be passive aggressive behavior, such as leaving you out of plans or indirect comments meant to be hurtful.

You can’t control others’ reactions, however. Remember that self care is important and that by setting boundaries, you are taking care of yourself to live a healthier life. You are not being mean; you are practicing good self-care. The more you practice setting boundaries, the better you’ll be at it, and the more empowered you’ll feel about having control over your life.

You are your best advocate, so it’s important to identify what you want.  While this may feel silly, try practicing out loud, even in front of a mirror, to become more comfortable stating your case and finding the right words that you feel comfortable with. After that, you have to stick with your self-care needs!

Have there been times in your life you wish you had set better boundaries? If you have set limits before, how has it felt and how did you cope with the guilt or fear? Are you already excellent at establishing healthy boundaries? If so, how or from whom did you learn that skill?

Please note that the Toolbox articles are meant to be informative and are not a replacement for therapy.