Setting Boundaries: Do Not Cross

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by Rolonda Williams, LGMFT

October 22, 2019

What are boundaries and why do we need them? Boundaries can be best explained as a means of creating a balance between social connection and personal limitations. Setting boundaries can be seen as a means of self-care and is often exhibited through positive, assertive language and behavior. When contemplating about boundary-setting, ask yourself if you can do what is asked of you, without it negatively impacting you, draining your energy, time and/or finances. The best way to use boundaries appropriately is to challenge common misconceptions about boundary-setting and to use positive language to set boundaries with others.

1. Misconception #1: “Boundaries make me seem like a mean person.” Setting boundaries are healthy and creates a more positive experience for yourself and others. It is about knowing your limits and not pouring from an empty cup. Others may perceive you to be “mean” when, in fact, they may be upset that you are no longer overextending yourself to meet their needs. This is especially problematic if the effort is not reciprocated. Having limits does not equate to being an aggressive person.

2. Misconception #2: “If I set boundaries, I will lose friends or family.” While setting boundaries may create rifts in relationships, what happens most often is that there is only a temporary period of shock and disapproval from the person who is on the receiving end of the boundary. Although it is not uncommon to lose friends or family, most people find there are more benefits to productively changing these relationships. Boundaries are most difficult to set with those who are closest to us. However, those who care for you and are close to you will eventually respect and follow the boundaries that you have set.

3. Use Appropriate Language: It is essential to use respectful and appropriate language to set boundaries and learn how to say “no.” Here are some suggestions for how to phrase boundary-setting with others in a way that they can better hear it:

“I would love to do this for you, but…”
“I am happy to know that I can be the person you count on to do this, however, this time…”
“I care about our friendship/relationship, however I cannot …”
It is important to remember that the key to setting boundaries is really setting them with yourself and not necessarily with others. Set good boundaries and respect the boundaries of others.

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