Woman drawing a door on a wall with chalk

Setting Boundaries For Your Health

Last updated: May 2022

I was talking to someone about relationships recently. More specifically, we were talking about how hard boundaries can be, but how they can help relationships so much. At one point, they said something that really struck me. They said that boundaries aren’t walls. Boundaries don’t keep people out. Instead, boundaries are doors that allow you to control who has access to you.

I thought that was so profound. So often, boundaries get a bad reputation as being mean, harsh, or something you only do when you’re angry. But boundaries can be a healthy part of a relationship.

Boundaries can help manage expectations and help to express what you need to feel safe in a friendship or any relationship. What is a boundary? In this article I will explain what a boundary is and common boundaries that people may use.

What is a boundary?

A boundary is a personal guideline, rule, or limits that a person makes to feel safe ways for others to behave towards them. They can be made from a mix of beliefs, opinions, thoughts, and personal experiences.1 Boundaries are a form of self-care.

This form of self-care gives us permission to say no to things or situations. A boundary helps us to draw a clear line around what is okay and what is not okay. One example of a boundary is expecting respect in your relationships. How do you set a boundary, though?

How to set a boundary

Figuring out that a relationship may need a new boundary can feel overwhelming. How do you figure out what you need? Also, how do you express the boundary in a healthy way? Below are ten ways to set and maintain good boundaries.2

  • Enjoy some self-reflection. It is vital to figure out why the boundaries you want are important to you. Doing so will help your emotional well-being. Take time to pay attention to what’s happening to you so you can determine what it is that you want.
  • Start small. Introduce smaller boundaries at first. This will help you figure out if the new boundary is helping or if you need to tweak something.
  • Set them early. Setting boundaries early on in a relationship can help lessen feelings of confusion or hurt. Everyone knows where they stand from the start, and it makes it easier for both you and them.
  • Be consistent. Once you have a boundary in place, stick with it. Letting boundaries slide can lead to anger and confusion to those around you.
  • Create a framework. Each relationship may have a different boundary. It can be helpful to have a few basic boundaries that can be applied to different people. For example, expecting respect from the people you interact with daily.
  • Feel free to add extras. Boundaries don’t only exist with personal relationship. They can occur in any situation. For example, you can set boundaries at work such as saying no to working on weekends or not answering emails in the evening so you can spend time with your family.
  • Be aware of social media. Sometimes, people can overshare on social media. Setting a boundary with others about social media is just as valid. For example, asking friends not to post your picture on their social media page.
  • Talk. And then talk some more. Communication is key to success. And boundaries are no different. You can talk with your friend about a boundary and be non-confrontational. If they consistently overstep your boundary, remind them. If it continues you may need to determine if this is a relationship that can continue or one you might have to end.
  • Be your biggest champion. You have got to believe that you are worth setting boundaries for. If you tell yourself you’re worthless and don’t deserve them, then you won’t be able to advocate for yourself.
  • Gain perspective.

Showing up for yourself and other people

Boundaries can help relationships thrive, but sometimes they can feel very scary. Largely, when you aren't used to them. They can feel mean or harsh, but they don't need to feel that way. Setting boundaries is one way of saying, "This is what I need right now."

When you set a boundary with someone, you are letting them know what you are comfortable with. Also, you are letting people know how you want to be treated by others. Letting others know what you need can help you in many ways. For example, it can help with good mental health and good emotional health. Additionally, it can improve autonomy, identity, and help you avoid burnout.3

It is also good to remember that you may need to come back and look at your old boundaries. Boundaries can change over time just like your needs can change over time. For instance, what worked for you last year may not work for you right now. The more often we do communicate our needs and set boundaries, the easier it becomes and the more easily we can recognize them in other people. When we set boundaries, we help people show up for us. And we also become better at showing up for them.4

Are there any boundaries you have had to set related to you or a loved one living with CF? Share with us in the comments!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Cystic-Fibrosis.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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