Setting boundaries – why they are important and how to set them. 

Setting boundaries – why they are important and how to set them. 

Boundaries are borders, limits we establish in our relationships with others that help us protect aspects that are implicitly or explicitly valuable to us and core to our well-being.

They allow us to identify and clarify aspects of our identity, such as our values, priorities, principles, and needs. Setting limits implies being clear about our position on a particular matter, independently of peer pressure or even anticipating others’ having a different opinion. 

Boundaries talk about protecting what we price in ourselves and what represents us. They have been studied as part of social and collective identities. We differentiate ourselves from others by drawing on the criteria of our groups and communities, creating a sense of shared belonging within our groups. This internal identification process is recognized by outsiders as a collective identity. In the same way, we draw the limits of our personal beliefs, ethics, and criteria to others with the aim of being recognized and accepted. They talk about our sense of self and what we need to be valued by others. 

Why is it sometimes so challenging to set boundaries?

One of the reasons is that we don’t want to disappoint or negatively affect others; this could affect our relationship with them, and we usually reject actions that could provoke exclusion from others. 

According to Bowlby’s attachment theory, affection between people is an intrinsic system protecting us from physical and psychological threats. Hence, we automatically tend to avoid negatively affecting others, not being assertive enough to defend or protect our boundaries.

However, in the long run, repeatedly avoiding setting and expressing our boundaries will cause us frustration, anger, and emotional distress in the present and in the future, negatively affecting ourselves and our relationships with others, creating distance. 

We must remember that we don’t read others’ minds; therefore, no one will get to know our boundaries without expressing them.

How can we be more assertive in setting boundaries?

Listen to your gut feelings and practice self-awareness; it will help you understand what is important. Write about it and/ or communicate it to others to delve into the meaning, it will help clarify your values.

Give yourself permission to prioritize your safety and comfort. Boundaries contribute to healthy relationships with others since we clearly state those essential aspects that are core to us, and vice versa, allowing us to better our relationships with others.

Draw a “boundary circle” on paper and write down what you want and need to be valued, seen, recognized, heard, respected, and cared for inside the circle. Write outside the circle those aspects or persons interfering, distracting, contradicting or even prohibiting or preventing you from achieving that. 

Setting boundaries is a process requiring intention and practice; sometimes, it will be easier than others; keep practising and noticing how you feel when you protect your boundaries.

Remember that you don’t need to apologize for or justify your boundaries, they are part of being you, and being loved is about being accepted, respected and cared for them.


Written by: Ana Gomez

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