Read any magazine article or book about parenting and the author will advise the necessity of setting limits for children.

“Set limits and stick to them,” parents are counseled. Limits create the structure and discipline and boundaries that every child needs for a healthy upbringing.

But for adults—especially those who tend to view other people’s needs and wants as more important than their own—setting limits and boundaries is more than an exercise in discipline; it’s a vital component in good self-care.

Meet Georgia. Her calendar is filled with one family event after another. A niece’s graduation followed by a great-uncle’s 75th birthday party followed by a tea her mother planned for an old family friend. As much as she loves her family, enough is enough. After a day at work and meeting her immediate family’s needs, she had hardly any time left for herself.

Or Susan whose boss scarcely gives her time to complete one project before he lays on another. Then another. Work is so backlogged Susan stays at the office every night till past nine and goes in on weekends as well.

Stephanie’s husband helped her build a studio for her photography in the garage then stored his fishing gear willy-nilly in whatever cabinet or cupboard he wanted.

By not setting limits, Georgia, Susan and Stephanie are letting the needs and wants of others to come before their own well-being.

Many women, myself included, are natural caretakers and givers who have a hard time saying no to others. It’s difficult to learn to care for ourselves as much as we care for others. Especially if we feel uncomfortable or guilty saying “no.” We may fear losing someone or something if we set limits on how much time we can give or work we can handle or if we claim space for ourselves. However, always giving in to the requests or demands of others is plowing a field where resentments take seed. And failing to assert our needs and wants or to stand up for ourselves is disregarding our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

Far from being selfish and mean, setting limits is a healthy act of self-respect.
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Taking a firm stand might be difficult at first. But by being calm, clear and direct—and without intentionally stepping on anybody’s toes—you can learn how to set limits and create the kind of life that honors your own needs and wants.

For Georgia, it meant coming up with compromises—she’d attend the great-uncle’s birthday party but drew the line at the niece’s graduation and her mother’s tea. Susan had to explain to her boss that it was impossible to do the kind of job the boss expected if she wasn’t allowed ample time to complete a project. Stephanie offered to help build additional storage space in the garage for her husband’s fishing equipment.

In each of these scenarios, far from losing something or someone they valued, by setting limits Georgia, Susan and Stephanie got what they wanted or needed, took good care of themselves and in the process gained a healthy amount of self-respect.

As a body image and weight release coach, I have witnessed many women disregard boundaries, lose their power,  only to find themselves leaning into food for support. We all live in a time now that we know how important limits and boundaries are.

So the question I have for you is are you still giving into everyone else’s needs above your own?

Or have you started taking action steps in service of yourself?

If it is the former, there is nothing to be ashamed of.

Start with baby steps boundaries.

You can do this. Lean into your support system and begin saying NO to others and YES to yourself.

Please comment below with an example of how a baby step helped you feel more empowered.

I welcome hearing from you.

Laura Fenamore, Body Image Expert, Coach and acclaimed Author is on a mission to help women around the world end the constant battle with their bodies and start adoring who they see in the mirror. Her approach walks students and readers through the heartfelt journey to self-love at any size or age by unlocking the secrets to a lifetime of emotional, physical and spiritual health. After overcoming a lifelong battle with addiction, obesity, and eating disorders, Laura released 100 pounds – keeping it off for more than 28 years. She chronicles this journey to self-love and health in her widely acclaimed book, Skinny, Fat, Perfect: Love Who You See in the Mirror. Learn more about Laura’s programs, or invite her to speak by visiting

Image courtesy of Rachel Lynette French.