Setting Healthy Boundaries
If you have suffered emotional abuse (click here to understand more about what is emotional trauma), especially if it took place over years at a very early age with emotionally abusive parents, one thing will be true and that is that your boundaries would have been broken.
The word boundaries sometimes has the association with being harsh, mean, bad, negative or even cold.
But I will tell you now boundaries are a good thing to have, in fact, it is essential in creating healthy relationships.
Healthy boundaries give you your sense of who you are, it is how you separate yourself, your thoughts and feelings from others. It is your values, ethics, morals, and limits you set yourself of what is right or wrong for you.
Having healthy boundaries is how you protect yourself from being manipulated, used, violated or taken for granted.
In toxic family dynamics or with any abusive relationships boundaries are broken, you are not allowed to have boundaries and are coerced, emotionally manipulated and guilt-tripped into having none. The emotional abuser has a way of getting what they want and the victim is left feeling powerless.
When your boundaries are broken there are several things that can happen, the first being you losing a sense of who you are. You become insecure within yourself because you feel vulnerable – on a deeper unconscious level vulnerable to emotional abuse that you know has happened (or is happening) but can’t put your finger on it since most of it is not tangible.
You lose your ability to simply say “NO” among many other things. Check out my last newsletter for some of the other signs!
Because of the long-term emotional abuse being in a toxic relationship and your personal boundary having been broken, you are not able to sense when you are being used, manipulated or taken for granted until it’s too late.
And even when you realize this, you doubt yourself. How crazy is that?
Unfortunately, emotional abusers, manipulators, and abusive people do exist. This is the reality we live in.
And if you have no boundaries, you are the perfect victim of this type of abuse. Your energy will be “calling” abusive and toxic people to you. Know that you do this to wake yourself up or in other words to heal yourself!
What you actually need to do after healing the emotional wounds that broke your boundaries and created these negative relationship patterns in the first place is start setting boundaries.
Setting healthy boundaries is part of your healing process and how you create emotional safety for yourself.
Setting boundaries is how you build self-esteem and once that happens you will slowly learn to trust yourself and believe in yourself once again!
Here are 5 ways you can start setting healthy boundaries:
1. Re-examine Your Values
Get clear on your values, this is your foundation.
Values are principles or standards you abide by. They are qualities or virtues you hold high for example love, honesty or respect. It can also be loyalty, humility, being dependable, listening or even being open-minded.
Your values will not only help you set boundaries but they will also support you in making the right choices, decisions and know what is in alignment with you.
Once you are clear on your values you will know how to respond when challenging situations come up or when you are faced with important life choices or decisions.
You can always ask yourself, “what would someone with (fill in the blank) value do?” or “what choice is in alignment with my values in this situation?”
Aligning and acting in accordance with your values will make you feel more at peace within yourself knowing that you are congruent with your heart & soul.
Also, know that your values may change over time and that’s ok, take time to always re-evaluate your values and set boundaries accordingly.
As part of your healing process, take some time now and get clear on your top 20 values and reflect on how you can align every aspect of your life to these values today.
2. Get used to simply say NO
Stop feeling guilty for saying NO!
Learning to say NO is another part of your healing process. The people pleaser in you will probably feel like you’re a horrible person but know that in healthy relationships, healthy boundaries are allowed and respected.
You have the right to say no, whether people like it or use this against you or not.
Side note – it’s only toxic people who don’t like it.
It’s ok to say no and it doesn’t mean anything about you as a human being.
You don’t have to be aggressive or pushy either, you can say no remaining calm and assertive.
Know that a certain amount of selfishness is needed to have strong healthy boundaries. “Selfishness” that does not harm others but rather is congruent and in integrity with you.
You may have a tendency to over-explain your “no” and this stems from the people pleasing syndrome I talked about in my previous blog (click here to read it).
Get used to saying “no thank you” without giving an explanation when it’s not needed. This may be hard at first but once you get the hang of this, you will know you are on track with getting your power back and feeling more secure within yourself!
3. Look After Your Needs
After years of having your needs being made “not important” or worse completely dismissed, you will probably feel very guilty for even having needs.
You will put everyone else’s needs before your own and then wonder why you always end up physically and emotionally exhausted as you sacrifice yourself for toxic people who take what you can give and more.
Know that you are the only one that can look after your own needs.
Boundary setting may seem challenging at first but once you have worked out your values and get used to saying no to what you don’t want to do, your needs may be easy to see or you can do this the other way round…
So what are your needs? Do you even know?
Do you need your reading or relaxing time every night to switch off?
Do you have to make time daily to meditate or workout to keep your inner peace in check?
Do you feel good when you nurture your soul’s creativity weekly, monthly or spontaneously?
In some sense, knowing your needs is one thing but this is also about learning to listen to your heart, body and soul because your mental health depends on it.
Life isn’t always perfectly balanced, things happen, work gets busy, family comes to visit, unexpected moves are needed so either daily, weekly or whenever you feel slightly off balance, check in with yourself.
Are you sleeping well? Are you eating well? Are you getting enough fresh air? Are you nurturing your soul? Do you simply need time to relax and recharge?
Emotional abuse will cause you to neglect your own needs and to put other people’s needs before your own. It will make you feel like a bad person for even having needs so you must continuously check in with how you are doing on all levels; physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
You may feel selfish doing this initially, but know that you can only function optimally when your basic needs are met. You will feel good, more centered, grounded and even have more clarity in your thoughts.
Remember you can’t give from an empty vessel.
Ask, “what does my body or soul need right now to feel more balanced / energized / fulfilled etc?”
And when you feel good more often you will start to notice when you feel slightly off. This will then be your “sign” to stop and look at what where your basic needs are not being met once again.
4. You Are Not Responsible for Other People’s Emotions
Having no boundaries makes you an emotional garbage bin for toxic people who are not willing to take responsibility for their emotions.
Please know that a lot of the times this happens energetically, you will certainly “feel” it. You know the times you feel emotionally drained after seeing a specific friend who complains about the same thing yet does nothing to change it. It may seem harmless, they are just complaining but if you’re feeling exhausted after, your emotional boundaries have just been violated.
You have been programmed (through emotional trauma) to believe that it is your responsibility to take on other people’s emotions, especially the ones they are projecting. The problem with this is that you cannot process other people’s emotions! You can only process your own.
Emotions are the language of the soul, it is how you process your experiences and how you grow, evolve and embody the wisdom of each incident, circumstance or challenging situation you find yourself in.
Processing emotions are essential to breaking free from negative relationship patterns and self-sabotaging behavior amongst others. This is why I always emphasize healing the emotional trauma first!
If someone cannot handle or own their emotions, it is not your fault. Taking on their emotions or making it your obligation to make them happy will not actually help them either because in this case you’re being their enabler.
I am not saying don’t help them, dismiss them or don’t be there for them.
You can support someone by owning their emotions by truly listening and understanding their needs. Sometimes people will “get this” and the ones that are not ready to heal simply won’t. It’s ok. That’s their journey. You can only own and be responsible for your own emotions, remember that.
You can only own and be responsible for your own emotions, remember that.
On another note, if someone is upset by your no or by you putting your needs first that’s ok. As long as you are not doing it intentionally to hurt or harm others, you’re bound to upset a few people. You cannot please everyone.
Know that those who love and respect you will understand even if they are slightly upset, it will not affect your relationship negatively. In fact, from my personal experience, it has strengthened most of my real authentic relationships!
5. Follow Through!
This is the make or break point – literally.
Toxic people, emotional abusers, and abusive people will not take no for an answer.
As you start setting boundaries because you haven’t had any previously, you will want to “cave” only because having boundaries is sooo unnatural to you.
It will feel off and uncomfortable for you. It may even be very scary at first.
As I mentioned in the previous points, you will feel like you’re a horrible person, guilty, bad and selfish for putting yourself first. You may even say no and then want to immediately take it back when the guilt kicks on or if the abuser push your buttons.
Have clear, firm boundaries.
No is no, end of story.
Follow through with your no and continue to align with your values as well as looking after your needs as this is the only way you are going to fully re-build your boundaries and ultimately your sense of self.
I know it will be scary to say no, put your own needs first at times and rebuild your boundaries initially, but please be consistent and stick to it.
Be patient with yourself, this is a process.
You are the only one that can set your own boundaries!
If you don’t those that don’t have your best interest at heart will take full advantage of this consciously and unconsciously. It is only when you can respect and honor your own boundaries that people will respect and honor yours too.
I know the journey is not always easy so if this resonates and if you feel you need some support, I would love to help you stand in your power once again!
Tell me what you’re struggling with and let’s get you started on sealing these holes in your boundaries and letting go of what no longer serves you!
If you need support on your healing journey and want more personalized guidance check out my Intuitive Coaching & Emotional Healing Sessions and let’s get you started on getting your life back.
All techniques and information I share are considered coaching, self-help or complementary therapies. I am not a licensed psychologist, psychiatrist or medical doctor, I have a degree in Health Sciences in Complementary Therapies. Everything I write and talk about comes mainly from my own experience in healing myself and the tools, techniques, and resources I learned throughout my own inner journey.
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I didn’t put boundaries when i was younger at school and i don’t talk to people much. So when they talk to me they actually view me as the old me and treat me badly. I’m trying to set boundaries but some people are still crossing them since they’re disrespectful. I’m looking forward for effective ways to deal with disrespect and how to put boundaries and how to change people’s point of view of you.
Hi Nour, thank you for your comment. Setting boundaries is a great start. Healing the emotional wounds would be your next step! Once you truly heal those wounds your law of attraction will immediately change and you will start attracting people into your life who respect you and your boundaries without you even having to say anything. I hope this helps!
This is the best article I ever read… thank you
But Ive got a question…
Im deeply afraid of the way my close people react negatively, since I really care about them, but this seems that this gives me trouble making boundaries. What can I do when the problems lies on their perceptions and beliefs?? I feel that regardless of how good my boundaries are, my worst fear will still become true and they will still react negatively, and the worst part is that it seems that it is entirely out of my control, includinf our relashionship and happiness, and guilt seems to make things even worse.
Thank you for your message, I’m glad my blog was helpful. All negative beliefs and perception stem from the emotional wound itself, once you process the emotions associated with this wound the negative thoughts and the fear will leave and any projected emotions at you will not affect you, you will feel the projection but it will not be able to enter your body, you will feel it bounce off you. The emotional wounds create holes in your energy field which is how the projected emotions from others such as fear and guilt can enter you. Once you process these wounds it is much easier to set boundaries!! – at least this has been my experience. I hope this helps!
After being diagnosed with PTSD I did acknowledge that I need to say good boundaries and I found your website to be very helpful Thank you very much
Thank you so much for this. I really just needed that. I am in a verbally abusive relationship and it is taking its toll on me. I decided to break this cycle of abuse starting by setting my boundaries and stick to them. I got this wake up moment, it seems that a lot of weigh has been lifted off my shoulders(I had an abusive upbringing and it is not the first time I have to deal with this). It is funny how you now exactly what is happening to you and still you let yourself drag into this situation. For me it is again day 1 of breaking free from this situation. I don’t really know what triggered it, but I remember this feeling and strength of willing to free myself again. Thank you so much!
My entire life has been in the care and love of other people. Although I do not regret that, I am sad in a way, that most of those people have actually become users. So I think , even though I’m happy, you better set firm boundaries with people in your life, or they are going to take, and wine because, users will never really be happy.
Thank you for sharing Kathryn. Yes, you need to make sure you are not giving from the wounded place as this is how you reinforce your negative patterns lovely. If you are giving from a place of self-sacrifice or giving when you actually wanted to set a boundary or say no this is not being loving to yourself. Setting ‘healthy’ boundaries is an act of self-love. It sounds like you’re on the right path now anyway 🙂
It describes a lot of how I have been feeling. In the process of healing my emotional wounds.Thank you for your insight and incredible guidance. Namaste
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