The struggle to set boundaries in relationships and in life is one of the most common issues I hear about in my sessions with clients. Many people, women especially, find themselves feeling drained and resentful because they are constantly doing things for others that they would rather not do. Since their boundaries are unclear (either to themselves or others) they continue to give away their energy, time and personal power.

When you have weak boundaries, it’s almost impossible to prioritize your own needs, wants and desires. For many people personal boundaries can be difficult to define because the lines are invisible, can change, and are unique to each and every individual.

In order to have a strong sense of self, it’s vital that you understand and express your boundaries as they allow you to protect and take care of yourself. Having personal boundaries (and sticking to them) is also a huge part of having healthy and happy relationships, especially romantic.

Personal boundaries define where you end and others begin, both psychically and emotionally. Setting and keeping boundaries is about honoring your feelings. When you don’t assert healthy boundaries you are essentially giving up your right to choose and your power.

Your ability to draw boundaries with love is heavily influenced by what you witnessed from your family of origin. For example, if mom was constantly taking care of everyone else (particularly those over the age of six), then you may find yourself as a parent, friend or employee doing the same; feeling drained with no time for yourself. In some families boundaries were not allowed. If this is the message you grew up with then chances are that belief is still driving your life and relationships today.

Personal boundaries are you deciding what types of communication, behavior, and interaction are acceptable to you. If you never learned how to establish healthy boundaries trying to figure out how to set them can be challenging. If your boundaries are too lax you end up allowing other people’s boundaries to dictate what happens to you. On the other hand having overly rigid boundaries creates it’s own set of problems with intolerance and control. No matter where you fall on the boundary spectrum, awareness is the first step to establishing, changing and enforcing healthy boundaries.

To learn about your boundaries (or lack therefore) ask yourself these simple, yet insightful questions. You can then further understand if you have what Dr. Harriett Braiker called, “the disease to please.”

1. Do you say yes when you really want to say no?

Doing things you may not want to do does not always mean you have a lack of boundaries. Often times we make sacrifices for the people we love, especially for our children. However, the difference is conscious choice. When you choose to do something you don’t exactly want to for a loved one because it will make them happy or because you feel it is the right thing to do, you are empowered. When you say “yes” because you are afraid to say, “no”, you are not.

“No” is a complete sentence. via @Terri_Cole (Click to Tweet!)

2. Do you apologize often?

Do you apologize not only when you’re not sorry but when you’re angry? One indication of unhealthy boundaries is feeling overly responsible for others’ happiness and a fear of rejection and abandonment. If you are consumed with being liked and approved of by others you can end up losing yourself. You cannot successfully establish a clear boundary if you send mixed messages by apologizing when you are not actually sorry.

3. Do you avoid confrontation?

Fear of confrontation makes boundary setting challenging. Remembering that you are not responsible for other people’s reaction to the boundary you are setting, may make it a little easier. You are responsible for clearly and respectfully communicating your boundary. If someone in your life is accustomed to controlling or manipulating you, they will most likely push back against and test any new boundary you put into place. Plan on it, expect it, but remain firm. Remember, your behavior must match the boundaries you are setting.

4. Do you put everyone else’s needs above your own?

At first, considering your needs above others by setting boundaries may make you feel selfish, guilty, or even embarrassed. Do it anyway because you have a right to protect yourself and your space (internal and external). And the people who love you have a right to know how you really feel. This process may take practice and determination but the end result is worth the effort.

The issue of boundaries is one the most popular topics that I speak and write about. So, if you would like to focus even more how to successfully, effectively, efficiently, and with love, draw boundaries then check out my podcast, Hello Freedom. Tune in on iTunes or subscribe and listen here.

I would love to hear from you. Drop me a line in the comments below with your answer to one of the four questions listed above. Your words are so often inspiring and helpful to not only me, but to others as well. I look forward to reading your answers.

You can do it, you can draw healthy boundaries. And the sooner you start, the more satisfying your relationships will be, and the happier your life will be.

Have an amazing weekend and as always, take care of you.

Love Love Love


Terri Cole is a licensed psychotherapist, transformation coach, and an expert at turning fear into freedom. Sign up for Terri’s weekly Tune Up Tips and follow her on Twitter.

Image courtesy of Roger.