• Jessica Hayden, PhD

Balancing Boundaries Part 2

If you haven't read part one of Balancing Boundaries, click here first.

In my last post, I talked about boundaries and why they're so important. This post will dive deeper into what boundaries look like, and how we can set better boundaries for ourselves. It‘s especially important to have boundaries NOW as we face this pandemic. Some will say it’s no big deal, some will feel very anxious about leaving their homes. We need to be able to create the space around us that feels ok AND respect the space of others, “sorry I’d rather elbow bump, bow or throw a peace sign your way-instead of shake hands OR being able to say-hey this thing is big and I don’t feel comfortable doing x, y, or z.” If someone has a stricter boundary than yours, it’s important to respect their values-it’s ok to be curious and provide solid information, but it’s not ok to make fun of, berate, or yell at someone. That kind of behavior only makes people more defensive and less open to listening.

Those of us who feel we aren't enough, or need to prove ourselves, allow people to walk all over our soul. We then worry that the experience wasn't good enough for the other person, when in reality the experience wasn't good enough for US. We don't realize that if we had those boundaries in the first place, we'd never have let that person get close enough to step into and tromp all over the gardens of our soul.

Establishing Boundaries 101 How do we begin to establish boundaries, when we haven't been all that good at it in the past? Start little, and expand. Remember, people will buck at your boundaries when they're not used to you being firm about what you say. They may try to hook you in with statements to make you feel guilty, or appeal to your desire to help and give. They may say you’re being crazy or insensitive. Stay strong, if they truly respect you, they will assimilate.

1. Choose what is and what isn't "ok"

Take some time with yourself to evaluate what you want more of in your life, and what you will not tolerate, what makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed, and write it down:

  • What don't you want to hear, see, or do

  • What will you and what won't you tolerate, keep a journal of these behaviors

  • What makes you feel uncomfortable or resentful i.e. people badmouthing other people

  • Each time you stick to your boundary, write it in your journal, write how it felt, then wait and see how it plays out-what were the consequences of sticking to your boundary. Did the person get mad? Did they change their behavior? Did they respect your boundary?

2. Tune Into Your Red Flag Gut Feelings - BE MINDFUL

  • It's important to have an internal rating system for red flags. According to Dana Gionta, Phd, there are two types of red flag feelings: discomfort and resentment.

  • PAY ATTENTION when someone acts in a way that stirs up feelings of discomfort or resentment.

  • Feelings that range from 6-10 on the 0-10 discomfort or resentment scale are in the red zone

  • Resentment is typically a sign that you're feeling as though you're being taken advantage of or unappreciated. The feeling of resentment usually means we’re pushing ourselves either beyond our own limits because we feel guilty (and want to be a good daughter or wife, for instance), or someone else is imposing their expectations, views or values on us, says Gionta.

  • When you're feeling resentment, it's important to ask yourself, "What's going on here? What is it about this interaction, or the person’s expectation that is bothering me?" Be mindful whenyou start questioning yourself or feel worried that they will think you are too: rigid, crazy, mean, unkind, or unaccommodating. These are not "safe" feelings, this is the way your gut and intuition tells you to "be careful, be aware".

  • The feeling of discomfort is a cue for us that someone is crossing our boundaries or violating our own values.

4. Pick a Mantra

  • Brené Brown uses this mantra: "Choose discomfort over resentment." This mantra reminds us that we are making a choice that's critical for our well-being—even if it's not easy.

  • I'm setting a boundary to help others to behave out of LOVE not fear/anger.

  • I am setting a boundary because I respect myself

  • My time and energy are precious, I get to choose how to use them.

  • I am not taking, I am giving what I can give

  • If you can't respect my boundary, you are not deserving of my respect

  • These are my standards, I value and respect myself

  • It doesn't make me mean or uncaring, because I don't do things your way. Boundaries are a way of caring for myself too.

  • Browse the internet for a quote that might fit you

5. Pay attention to what happens when you set boundaries

  • If someone gets mad when you set boundaries, it is even more important to maintain those boundaries. Remember, people will start to get upset when you set boundaries, because they're not used to you not letting them say, do, or be a certain way with you....

  • If someone is respectful of you and your boundaries, they'll fall in line or ask you about the boundary instead of attempting to inflict guilt or shame.

  • If someone pushes back and attempts to shame or guilt you, run... run fast and hard

  • If you set a boundary and someone calls you crazy, too rigid, too (whatever)… REALLY RUN- this is different than them asking you to reconsider, or see it from their perspective...


  • A boundary isn't a boundary, if you don't stick to it. If you say you won't tolerate the disrespect, that might mean severing that relationship or putting yourself in a time out.

  • If you allow someone to violate your boundaries you are just reinforcing their disrespect for you or the behavior you said you wouldn't tolerate. You must stick to your values.

  • If you aren't consistent with boundaries then you are intermittently reinforcing the behavior, making it more difficult to "extinguish" in the future. You're also making it confusing for the other person, one day it's ok-the next it's not. So, be consistent.

6. Give Yourself Permission

  • You are allowed to set boundaries.

  • You deserve to have your boundaries respected

  • You do not have to feel guilty or like you SHOULD be able to do it all

  • You do not owe anyone anything, you only owe yourself

7. Take Care of Yourself

  • Self-care allows you to recharge, refresh and gives you the ability to see with clarity, not walk around in a fog of should and shouldn'ts

  • Practicing self-care will reinforce the ability to put yourself first, and not put everyone else's needs before yours

  • Self-care helps you recognize and honor the importance of your feelings and your worth

8. Start Small

  • Think of establishing boundaries as learning a new skill, and new skills take practice

  • Start small, something that doesn't have big consequences (i.e. choosing what to do one night, asking someone to please speak louder or quieter, speaking up when your order is wrong in a restaurant), and build on your successes

So, what does it look like?

Don't Be Afraid to Be Direct and Assertive

  • Think of your boundaries as your car or your house. Would you let someone just walk in your door and take your food from the refrigerator? Would you just let someone sit on your car or take it for a joy ride? NOPE. Be direct.

  • Clear communication without blame or shame, allows us to set firm boundaries that preserve the dignity and respect of both parties. Boundaries should never be confused with ultimatums. Ultimatums are manipulative and threatening, the opposite of a boundary.

Boundary setting examples

Boundary: I won't continue this conversation, if you keep yelling at me. Shaming: How dare you yell at me when all I have been is nice to you.

Boundary: I know you really wanted me to come visit this weekend, and I want to come over when I can be fully present with you and not thinking about all that needs to get done. Shaming/Blaming: I can't believe you're going to make me feel guilty for not coming to visit you, don't you know everything I have to do?

Boundary: If you want to have a serious conversation, call me. I won't do it over text. Ultimatum: If you don't call me about this, we're through.

Boundary: I won't be able to get dinner ready on Fridays with my schedule. Shaming: I can't believe you expect me to do everything, you need to pick up the slack.

Boundary: We need to talk about our relationship, a friend saw you on a dating app, and I thought we decided to be exclusive.

Blaming: I am so embarrassed that my friend saw you on that dating app, you never told me you were dating other people, I can't believe you'd do that to me. I thought you loved me.

Boundary: I feel really hurt when you don't include me in making decisions. Moving forward, I'll need to be included. Ultimatum: If this happens one more time, I'm done. Just you see.

Boundary: It makes me feel uncomfortable when you bad mouth your ex. I’d prefer not to have those conversations with you. Not protecting boundaries: Staying silent, agreeing with, or reacting “all you ever do is talk about your ex, I’m sick of it”

Boundary: I need some alone time to run some errands and take care of me. Shaming thoughts: If I go and do this for myself they might see me as being selfish or not caring about their needs.

Setting boundaries isn't an easy feat when you've never done it before. It's a skill and takes practice and with success you'll see failure. Be easy on yourself, remember you're human and you have rights.

What has helped you set boundaries? Was there ever a time when it was tough for you, how'd you do it?

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