The Beauty of Boundaries
If saying “no” is hard for you, you aren’t in the minority. For many, there is the fear of
hurting someone’s feelings, not being a good friend, or maybe even being selfish. However, the truth is that our ability to say “no” makes our relationships more fulfilling, safe, and open. Although the boundary setting process can vary, healthy boundaries have a few things in common: self-respect, honoring your needs, and the improved ability to maintain strong, enduring relationships. It’s time to change the misconception that setting boundaries is “aggressive” or “selfish," but rather a healthy limit that protects everyone in the relationship. Healthy boundaries are an essential form of self-care, and maintaining your own boundaries encourages others to do the same.
How to Set Healthy Boundaries
The first step in boundary setting is checking in with your intentions. It is essential to raise your awareness about what expectations you have for yourself and others, as well as what you are comfortable and uncomfortable with. Reflect on the reasons for why you want to set these boundaries, and explore your values. Once you determine boundaries you want to set, it is helpful to be assertive when setting your boundaries, while avoiding expressing yourself in ways that are aggressive or passive. Assertiveness involves expressing how you feel in a calm and respectful way, not demanding anything from others.
Ways to be assertive in setting your boundaries involve being clear and
straightforward with your expectations, as well as accepting any discomfort that comes with sharing. Once you set your boundaries, be consistent with them. Letting boundaries “slide” can lead to confusion, as well as new and inaccurate expectations in your relationships. Additionally, communicate when your boundaries have been crossed. Communication is key in setting boundaries, as not
everyone will know when they have overstepped. It’s normal for boundary setting and enforcing to cause feelings of anxiety. Understand that it takes practice and patience. Even if it’s tough at first, you will get more comfortable if you continue to respectfully state your needs (1).
Types of Boundaries
Boundaries can fall into seven categories, and understanding each type can help you
clarify what you need! The first type is a physical boundary. Physical boundaries protect your
space and body, including physical touch. A physical boundary defines that your body and space
belong to you (3). The second type of boundary is a sexual boundary. Sexual boundaries protect
your right to consent, and to feel comfortable with your partner. The third type of boundary is an
emotional boundary. This boundary protects your right to have your own feelings and thoughts,
as well as putting your emotional well-being first before caring for others. You can support
others, but you are not responsible for their feelings. The fourth type of boundary is a religious
boundary. This boundary protects your right to believe in what you want, and protects your
spiritual values. Fifth, there are financial boundaries. You have the right to spend money how
you choose, and to not give or loan your money if you don’t want to. Sixth, there are time
boundaries, protecting how you spend your resource of time. This includes agreeing to things you actually want to do, rather than doing something you don’t want to or being overworked. Lastly, there are non-negotiable boundaries. These include things you must have in order to feel safe (3).
Recognizing Boundaries of Others
In addition to creating your own boundaries with others, it is important to understand
theirs, even if they are different from your own. Sometimes, hearing “no” from someone else can
throw you off guard or be confusing. But no matter how you feel, it is crucial to still respect
others’ boundaries, just like you would want them to respect yours. Don’t be afraid to ask what
someone needs as you get to know their boundaries. You are not a mind-reader, so don’t criticize yourself for accidentally crossing someone’s boundary. If you are finding that people are
accusing you of overstepping a lot, it is okay to ask for help and reach out in relationships.
Examples of Healthy Boundaries
Although you may have consistent boundaries within your relationships, it is normal to have different boundaries across relationships (2). Some healthy boundaries to set in
your relationships could include:
● Declining anything you do not want to do
● Expressing how you feel honestly
● Expressing problems directly with the person, not a third party
● Making clear expectations rather than hoping someone will figure it out
● Refusing to take blame for something you didn’t do
● Expecting respect from others
● Communicating discomfort
● Asking for space
● Accepting help!
Written By: Ali Green, Social Media Intern
The Grove Counseling & Consulting, LLC
1. Ph.D, Jo Nash. “How to Set Healthy Boundaries & Build Positive Relationships.”
PositivePsychology.com, 5 Jan. 2018, positivepsychology.com/great-self-care-setting-healthy-boundaries/#google_vignette.
2. Davenport, Barrie. “21 Examples of Healthy Boundaries in Relationships.” Live Bold and
Bloom, 31 May 2020, liveboldandbloom.com/05/relationships/healthy-boundaries-in-relationships.
3. “7 Types of Boundaries You May Need.” Psych Central, 23 Apr. 2020,
Accessed 27 Aug. 2023.