How to Set Healthy Boundaries

How to Set Healthy BoundariesSetting healthy boundaries is an important life skill yet knowing HOW to set healthy boundaries can be difficult, especially at first.

If you would like to learn how to set healthy boundaries, then keep reading.

#1 Understand What Defines a Healthy Boundary

For those that struggle with setting healthy boundaries, it can be difficult to know what a healthy boundary looks like. Understanding the difference between rigid, porous, and healthy boundaries can be a good place to start. For example, someone with rigid boundaries may struggle with emotional intimacy due to avoidance and keeping others at a distance whereas someone with porous boundaries may overshare information, have a hard time saying no, be overly dependent on others, or tolerate unhealthy relational dynamics.

#2 Love Yourself First

If you do not love yourself first, then you are more likely to be accepting of abuse and disrespect. Remember that abuse is not your fault and that love is respect. If you are trying to set boundaries within your relationship and your relationship is important to you, it is important to have self-respect and love yourself first. If you struggle in this area, talking to a therapist can help you learn to love yourself first.

#3 Learn Effective Strategies for Communication Boundaries

Clearly identifying how you feel during a particular situation and identifying what you need in an I-statement format can be a basic place to start. For example:

I feel ___ when you____ and I would like____.

Having conversations about boundaries is easier when there is mutual understanding and respect within the relationship. If you do not respect someone and vice versa, it is going to be difficult to effectively communicate to that each person feels heard and understood. Therapy can be a great place to learn effective and assertive communication skills if this is something that you’d like to improve.

#4 Practice Setting Boundaries and Upholding Limits

Once one has a solid foundation for setting boundaries, then these can be practiced within relationships. Saying ‘no’ can be difficult, especially if one is afraid of rejection or is prone to “people-pleasing” yet is essential to set boundaries. Saying ‘no’ is going to be hard at first but will get easier with practice. Some people struggle with feeling the need to apologize for setting a limit or feeling the need to explain when saying no. It is important to uphold the limits that you set.

#5 Manage Your Responses to Others’ Responses

This is a hard one. Those who are closest to you will likely be upset, even angry when a boundary is set (and especially when they are upheld). This can be incredibly uncomfortable and feel overwhelming. It is OK to sit with these emotions. The person who is having a big response likely does not like the fact that a boundary has been set and may try to compromise your boundary. Reminding yourself why you set the boundary can be helpful. You are not responsible for other people’s feelings. Calming and reiterating the boundary while feeling proud of yourself at this moment can reinforce your chances of success in boundary setting.

Written By : Charlotte Johnson, MA, LPCC

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