3 Signs You Need to Set Boundaries
By: Lauren Milton
February 22, 2024

3 Signs You Need to Set Boundaries

            The word boundaries has become a bit of a buzzword in the last few years and it’s not always clear what people mean when they talk about them. Often boundaries are confused with an attempt to control another person. You may think “I told my father that he isn’t allowed to make comments about my weight anymore and he did it again! He’s not respecting my boundaries!” Or “I told my boss that I wasn’t going to be able to work anymore overtime and she’s still asking me to stay late! She’s not respecting my boundaries!” Boundaries are not about controlling other people. Boundaries are what you will need if the behavior continues after you have requested it to stop. In the example of a parent commenting on your weight, the boundary begins with “Dad, it really hurts my feelings when you comment on my weight. Please don’t do that anymore. If you do it again, I will end our conversation.” Then when Dad makes another comment about your weight, you follow through on ending the conversation. In the example of the boss, you stated that you would not be able to work overtime. The boundary comes in when you follow through on not staying late and responding to her requests with “I’m not going to be able to do that.” You cannot control whether your dad continues to make comments or your boss continues to ask you to stay late but what you can control is whether you give in and allow the behavior to continue or set the boundary and follow through.

In her book ‘Set Boundaries, Find Peace’, Nedra Glover Tawwab gives this definition of boundaries: “Boundaries are expectations and needs that help you feel safe and comfortable in your relationships. Expectations in relationships help you stay mentally and emotionally well. Learning when to say no and when to say yes is also an essential part of feeling comfortable when interacting with others.” It is you taking responsibility for your thoughts, words, actions, feelings, material possessions, and how you spend your time, and allowing others to take responsibility for their own.

3 signs that you might need to grow in the area of boundary setting:

  1. You often feel overwhelmed. When we don’t feel safe telling people no, we tend to overcommit to things and stretch ourselves too thin. This usually stems from fear of disappointing people or fear of them being angry with us. (It also doesn’t help that we live in a society that does not value rest for the sake of rest and tells us we have to earn downtime but that’s for another blog.)
  2. You feel resentful towards the people who are asking you for things. People are going to make requests of us, whether it be our partner, our boss, our children, our friends, our religious community, etc. It is up to us to decide what we say yes to and what we say no to.
  3. You feel burned out. If you find yourself just struggling to get through the day and not finding joy in things as well as a constant feeling of stress or anxiety, you may be experiencing burn out. Sometimes it’s because we’re in a temporary period of things being stressful (moving, someone in the family is ill, a busy season at work or school, etc.) and sometimes it’s because we need to set boundaries.

Do you find yourself resonating with any of these things? If so, it might be something to explore with a therapist who can help guide you. If reading is your jam you can also check out Nedra’s book that I mentioned above or if you identify as Christian and would like something that specifically addresses that worldview, the book ‘Boundaries’ by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend is a great resource.  If you’d like to set up a time to meet and talk about this further, please reach out.  I’d love to work with you!