Discovering and Setting Your Boundaries

Dr. Julie Sorenson DMFT, MA, LPC

Communicating Your Boundaries

Boundaries are expectations that we set for ourselves. They help relationships determine how parties within a relationship behave. Boundaries dictate what behaviors are acceptable and what behaviors aren’t acceptable for an individual or within relationships. Without boundaries, people don’t have any guidelines or rules. People are likely to take advantage of you by asking intrusive questions, disrespecting you, speaking to you in an unkind way, yelling, touching, and taking advantage of you. Without boundaries, you may overwork because you don’t set limits on your time. Eventually, without boundaries, it could negatively impact your mental and physical health if you don’t set boundaries. 


In relationships, it is vital to have boundaries and

 know how to communicate those boundaries with the people that you are close with. Sometimes people struggle to make boundaries with friends and family members because of the feeling of guilt. 


Your well-being needs to learn to communicate your boundaries and let someone know when they have crossed your boundaries. It could lead to emotional manipulations if you don’t have boundaries or haven’t communicated them. Unhealthy or having a lack of boundaries could make you feel emotionally raw or exhausted. You need to be able to identify your boundaries. Upon identifying your boundaries ensure that you know when to say “no”. It’s okay to say “no” and it is okay to communicate with someone if you don’t have the time or don’t want to make the time for something. As with everything, there are times in which you may want to compromise, but the good thing is that you get to decide what is best for you. 

Another key point is knowing when to take the blame for something and when the blame is not your fault. You can refuse to take the blame for anything that you didn’t do, but don’t let someone make you feel guilty for something that you believe is not your fault. You can empathize with the other person and let them know that you are sorry that they are hurt and are there for them without taking the blame if it is not yours to take. In saying that though, remember the importance of taking ownership of your actions when apoplectically.


When thinking about your boundaries, it is essential to expect respect. Remember if you give respect, you deserve respect. If the other person doesn’t agree with you, it’s okay to disagree but never let the other person disrespect you or make you feel less than others.


Another key factor when thinking about boundaries is knowing how to communicate your needs and wants within your relationship. No one has a crystal ball and people are not able to read your mind. It is up to you to communicate what it is that you need. If whomever you are communicating with doesn’t understand, then it is up to you to let them know that isn’t what you mean, but you mean this instead.

When Setting Your Boundaries

  Remember when setting your boundaries and enforcing them that it is okay to ask for   help. It is also okay to ask for space while you try to process things. You deserve to be   able to ask for help and space. Your mental health must stand by your boundaries and   feel comfortable with the outcomes.  

  Allow yourself time for self-reflection. You may or may not know what your boundaries   are but establishing them means you possibly need to unlearn unhealthy habits. It is also   important to avoid reactions of anger when you are setting your boundaries. You know   you best, stand up for yourself, and allow yourself opportunities to be vulnerable.   Remember if you make a mistake it is an opportunity for growth.

Types of Boundaries

There are three types of boundaries. Rigid, porous, and healthy boundaries are types of boundaries to be aware of. Many people have a mix of boundaries. Some people may have healthy boundaries at work, porous relationships, and a mix of all three boundaries with family and friends. How appropriate boundaries are is dependent on the setting. When setting your boundaries remember who you are and why you are setting the boundaries. What is appropriate to say to friends may not be acceptable in a professional setting. Healthy boundaries are usually set around your values, morals, or beliefs. 

Rigid Boundaries

  • Avoids intimacy
  • Avoids close relationship 
  • Unlikely to ask for help 
  • Few close relationships 
  • Protective of private information 
  • May seem detached
  • Keeps people at a distance to avoid the possibility of rejection

Porous Boundaries

  • Overshares information 
  • Difficulty saying no
  • Overinvolved with other’s problems 
  • Dependent on other’s opinion
  • Accept abuse/disrespect
  • Fear of rejection if don’t go along with others

Healthy Boundaries

  • Value’s own opinion
  • Doesn’t compromise own values for others
  • Shares the appropriate amount of personal information
  • Communicates personal needs/wants
  • Accepting if someone says no

Why Do Boundaries Cause Us To Feel Guilty?

Oftentimes people avoid setting boundaries because of guilt. People don’t always know how to set limits or how to ask for their needs/wants. However, you could cause larger issues if you aren’t able to set boundaries. They create healthy relationships and protect from being taken advantage of. 

Guilt causes you to feel that you have done something wrong. Guilt also causes obstacles that make you believe you have done something that isn’t in your best interest. Learning to set boundaries without guilt can be challenging. Many people feel that it isn’t right to think of yourself first, but that is inaccurate. Remember you can’t put an oxygen mask on someone else unless you have yours on first. It is okay for you to set limits, so people don’t take advantage of you. Changing your mindset to boundaries is necessary rather than they are wrong or selfish. Boundaries are essential to self-care. Here are some things that happen when setting boundaries: 

  • Boundaries are good for your well being
  • Boundaries benefit you and the people around you. 
  • Boundaries strengthen relationships (for example children feel safe when parents have clear expectations. 
  • Boundaries foster connectivity and allow people within the relationship to feel emotionally safe.
  • Boundaries offer avenues for people to feel vulnerable. 
  • People are less reactive and have fewer resentments because of boundaries.
  • Tune into your feelings and needs. Having a better sense of what you need will make it easier to set boundaries. 
  • Know it may feel uncomfortable setting boundaries at first, but the more you do it the easier it will become. 
  • Give yourself grace and compassion. 

Tips For Setting Boundaries

  • Know your limits 
  • Know what is acceptable for you and what isn’t 
  • Be aware of your values and morals 
  • Know what is important to you
  • Listen to your emotions 
  • Understand your feelings 
  • Have self-respect
  • Have respect for others
  • Be assertive 
  • Don’t be shy about your boundaries 
  • Compromising is important while respecting your boundary
  • Consider the long-term effect
  • Some days may feel like more give than take 
  • Be willing to re-evaluate are take a different view

If you are having difficulties setting your boundaries or determining what you want your boundaries to be you can always reach out to a local mental health care provider. We are here to help you find your journey. You don’t have to struggle with boundary work alone.

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