Setting Healthy Boundaries

March 28, 2023

Think back to elementary school in your social studies class, when your teacher showed you a map and explained that certain lines represented boundaries between states and countries.

Sometimes there would be a natural feature, such as a river that would divide one territory from another. Unfortunately, the lines we saw on the map in elementary school, were not necessarily visible in real life. In other words, the concept of boundaries is easier to grasp on a map, than in our personal relationships, since most of the time, there are no literal physical barriers between ourselves and others.

“boundaries are separations that humans need—mentally, emotionally, and physically to feel safe, valued, and respected.”

-Clara Marie Manley, PhD

Setting figurative boundaries, personal and emotional, is our way of letting people know how far they can go. What does it mean to “set boundaries” and how do we do it?

According to Clara Marie Manley, PhD “boundaries are separations that humans need—mentally, emotionally, and physically to feel safe, valued, and respected.” It means verbalizing what impacts your comfort levels. For example, during COVID, it was not uncommon to ask a person respectfully, to wear a mask in your presence, or stand at a certain distance. This practice may have eased any discomfort that you may have had with your neighbors or community.

Setting boundaries mean learning when and how to say “no.” Many times we feel we owe others an explanation as to why we cannot do a certain task, or go to an event. However, a good boundary is an explanation within itself. “I’m sorry, I appreciate you thinking of me, but I cannot commit to working on that project at this time.” 

Setting boundaries mean being honest and transparent. Although making a conscious decision to set certain boundaries is important, it is not enough. You must also communicate to people what they are, or are not. In other words, let others know, you are not automatically expecting them to know what you want or do not want.

Finally, setting boundaries mean knowing how to expand—or constrict—the boundaries you set. All things change, nothing stays the same. Depending on the situation, people who set healthy boundaries can adjust their boundaries. In practice, boundaries are used to consciously and unconsciously, let others know what is acceptable. When our boundaries are too permeable, we might tend to let people take advantage of us. On the other hand, if our boundaries are too inflexible, we may behave too defensively, keeping respectful loving people at a distance.

According to the experts, here a few common signs signaling that boundaries are needed:

  • Chronically feeling taken advantage of in certain situations (emotionally, financially, or physically).
  • Saying “yes” to please others at your own expense.
  • Not getting your needs met because of fear of conflict.
  • Feeling disrespected by others, but not standing up for yourself.
  • Accepting less than you deserve because of fear of rejection or feeling abandoned.
  • Engaging in people pleasing behaviors in order to be liked or receive approval.
  • Engaging in disrespectful behaviors that hurt other people.
  • Flirting with others who are in relationships, or flirting while you are in a relationship.
  • Doing whatever you want to get your needs met, believing limits don’t matter.


Do you need help setting healthy boundaries? Contact us today. We’re here and ready to help!