Boundaries for Self-Care and How to Set Them


A transformative act of self-care, setting boundaries helps you take back your power and gives you the time you need to nourish yourself. Without healthy boundaries in place, you begin to feel depleted, unappreciated, and resentful.

In self-care, boundaries are intentional decisions you make for your life about what you will or will not tolerate. Self-care boundaries are put in place to save your time and protect your energy. Establishing clear boundaries can prevent unnecessary pain and help you avoid burn out.

By making yourself your number 1 priority and having your own back, you can start committing to the things that matter most to you. Today, we’ll look at what boundaries are, the different types of boundaries, with examples, and go over exactly how to create your self-care boundaries so you can start living a balanced, joyful life.

What are Boundaries?

Simply put, boundaries are an act of self-care that helps you define how others can treat you and how you treat yourself. Boundaries look different for everyone, so you’ll need to do some soul searching to understand what best serves you. I’ll discuss how to get started with that process later on.

Boundaries are Flexible

It’s also worth mentioning that your boundaries don’t need to be set in stone. Healthy self-care boundaries are a guide to help you have more energy and time to nourish yourself and the people you care about most. They should not be something that controls your life and make you unhappy.

If your boundaries feel rigid and prevent you from growing or doing the things you love, you may need to re-examine them. And that’s okay! Boundaries are something that will change over time.

As you grow more comfortable with a person, you may relax your relationship boundaries with them. Likewise, as you get to know someone better, you may create boundaries to protect your energy around them. As you learn and grow, the personal boundaries you create for yourself may change as well.

Boundaries Take Practice

Finally, remember that setting boundaries for self-care will take practice.

As you go through each part of your life and begin to create boundaries that serve and support you, there will be parts of the process that feel more difficult than others.

You may have trouble deciding what boundaries will serve you in the first place, or you may be less assertive than others, and stating your boundaries will be difficult. You may also find that when people push you to test your boundaries, you’re tempted to give in to them. These are natural obstacles you may have to overcome as part of the boundary creation process.

Unless you grew up creating healthy boundaries for yourself, this will be a foreign process to you. It’s okay if it takes time to understand how it all fits together.

A large part of creating boundaries that serve you is tapping into and listening to your inner guidance and letting go of old programming. This work is ongoing throughout your life, so don’t feel discouraged if you don’t have a clear vision of what boundaries will work for you right away. Do your best to create some, and see what works from there.

Related: Emotional Self-Care to Heal Your Past

Types of Boundaries

Boundaries are split into two general categories, the boundaries you create for yourself regarding how you handle your thoughts, emotions, and actions, and interpersonal boundaries, which are how you choose to relate to other people.

Interpersonal Boundaries

Interpersonal boundaries give you clear guidelines for how you interact with other people, and how you allow them to interact with you. A lack of interpersonal boundaries leads to unhealthy relationships, generally with both people feeling unsatisfied.

When you don’t define your interpersonal boundaries, you can waste a lot of time worrying about other’s perceptions. It’s important that you decide how you feel, so other people don’t decide for you.

Having clear boundaries means you understand how YOU feel about a situation, and don’t abandon your well-being for the sake of others’ satisfaction.

Physical

Most people have a grasp of what physical boundaries are. These are the boundaries you have in place to protect you from unwanted touch.

Physical Boundaries Examples

-Only accepting hugs or any kind of touch when it resonates with you

-Setting boundaries around personal items, and how other people are allowed to use them

Relationships

Relationship boundaries are how you let other people treat you. They govern everything from professional relationships, friendships, romantic relationships, and even your family.

As you set these boundaries, know that you aren’t selfish for deciding to limit your availability to people. Setting aside time only for the relationships that matter to you is what best serves you and the people you care about most.

Trying to maintain surface friendships with everyone you meet, be on call for anyone and everyone, or just generally letting people walk all over your boundaries will stretch you thin, leave no time for self-care, and create tension in your relationships. In the end, all your relationships will suffer. Be honest with yourself about which relationships are worth nurturing and tend to them.

Relationship Boundaries Examples

-Not being anyone’s go-to therapist. Helping other people with their issues can be fulfilling, but it also takes a ton of energy and time. Make sure you aren’t stretching yourself thin trying to take care of someone else.

-Setting aside time every month for your partner, friend, or family member to spend time together.

-Letting go of or spending less time with people who leave you feeling drained. When you set relationships that don’t feel good for you aside, you create space for meaningful connections to grow.

As you set relationship boundaries for self-care, remember that establishing boundaries around pending energy on people who treat you a certain way won’t change those people, it will only help protect you from their behavior.

Related: Realistic Self-Care for Bad Days

Personal Boundaries

Personal boundaries are the guideline you make for yourself to nurture your inner growth and well-being. Those guidelines include how you deal with your emotions and thoughts on a personal level, as well as how you eat, spend your money, and spend your time.

Personal boundaries for self-care are about figuring out how to best support your well-being and making that a priority.

How Open You Allow Yourself To Be With Others

How open you allow yourself to be might seem like an interpersonal boundary, and in some ways it is. For different people, you have different comfort levels, and that’s perfectly fine. On another level, how open you allow yourself to be with others also has to do with the internal boundaries you create for yourself.

Are you practicing authenticity in your interactions, or do you keep your personality and true thoughts closed off, never letting people get to know you? Even if there are people you don’t want to share everything with, you can find ways to be open and truthful with them.

When you make an intentional decision to be authentic with others, it can transform how you relate to the world. By being open with the people you interact with daily, you can communicate your boundaries clearly, as well as create meaningful relationships that nourish your soul.

Setting Boundaries on How You Treat Yourself

With relationship boundaries, I talked about how you let other people treat you. But what about how you treat yourself?

The worst thing anyone will ever say to you will likely be something you say to yourself. And worse, you will probably repeat it dozens or hundreds of times, ingraining it into your mind.

To prevent this, make clear boundaries for how you speak to yourself. When negative self-talk or self-doubt arises, simply remind yourself that you don’t talk to or about yourself that way.

Ending negative self-speaking is another self-care boundary that will change your life. If you wouldn’t say it to someone else, or wouldn’t want someone else to say it to you, don’t say it to yourself, simple as that.

Related: 14 Crystals for Self-Love and How to Use Them

*A quick side note on negative self-talk: There is a difference between beating yourself up and giving yourself the constructive criticism you need on your journey to growth.

Sometimes things you need to hear will sting, but that pain will serve a purpose to help you grow. Find the balance between coddling yourself and attacking yourself to find self-care, comfort, and growth.

Boundaries for Time

Setting time boundaries helps create an outline for how you spend your time. Time is a resource you can’t get back, so it’s best to spend it on activities and people that nourish you.

Evaluate what daily tasks you have that aren’t serving you. Look at your social calendar. Are there events you’re attending that don’t truly resonate with you? Are there tasks you do regularly that aren’t adding value to your life?

Time Boundaries Examples

-Committing to self-care activities that energize and charge you.

-Not working around the clock and making room for other activities in your life.

-Placing limits on social media/Netflix/T.V. time.

-Only attending events that truly resonate with you.

-Setting aside time for yourself where you allow yourself not to worry about doing anything else.

Related: How to Create a Daily Spiritual Self-Care Ritual

Emotional Boundaries

Emotional boundaries aren’t about constricting how you feel. They’re about learning how to accept and allow your feelings, rather than trying to push them away.

Emotional Boundaries Examples

-Understanding that you don’t need to take other people’s actions and words personally.

-Separating your feelings from other people’s feelings.

-Being careful about sacrificing your emotional needs for other people’s.

-Being present when you feel emotional.

-Allowing and accepting your emotions fully.

-Taking time to yourself, or reaching out when you feel emotionally triggered.

Financial

Putting financial boundaries in place helps you to be smart with your money. Spending money only on items and experiences that are beneficial to you means you save money while creating less clutter in your life. This leaves time, money, and space for the things you value most.

Financial Boundaries Examples

-Monthly or daily spending limits

-Only buying what you truly need

-Cooking at home instead of ordering out

-When someone asks to borrow money, tell them you need time to think about it rather than saying yes right away

Minimalism can help you define your principles about what you need in your life. To learn how to shop with intention and start discovering minimalism check out this article from Simplelionheart.com.

Boundaries About Food

People usually have some sort of boundaries with food, often in the form of restriction. Restriction means defining good food vs. bad food, constricting calories, and deciding when or how much you are allowed to eat.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with restrictions or boundaries around food, but they can become a source of guilt and a form of destruction, rather than self-care.

As you look at your eating habits to set boundaries for self-care, I encourage you to look at the relationship you have with food and see how it makes you feel.

To transform my boundaries and mindset around food, I turned to mindful and intuitive eating. They can inspire healthy boundaries for how you relate to food and help end the shame or guilt you might feel around eating.

Learn more about mindful eating at Headspace.com and intuitive eating from Intutiveeating.org.

If you need help addressing harmful eating habits, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the National Eating Disorder Organization via phone call, text message, or chat to get help. You are worth it.

Boundaries for Forgiveness

Personal boundaries are also about how you treat yourself when you feel you aren’t living up to an external or internal standard. Give yourself permission to let go and offer yourself forgiveness when you think you’ve made a mistake.

Being able to move on is an invaluable self-care skill that will make life (and setting boundaries,) that much easier.

How to Create Your Boundaries for Self-Care

Now that you are more familiar with many of the different categories of boundaries for self-care, it’s time to do the inner work to discover how to bring them into your own life.

Self-Awareness

The first step is self-awareness and understanding how you feel about things. This means letting go of worrying about other people’s perceptions and allowing your truth to come forward.

-Figure out where your limits are and clearly define what needs to be changed.

-Understand your limits, tune into your feelings, and go with your gut.

-Writing in a journal can be hugely helpful in deciphering all these emotions.

Here are a few prompts to help get you started.

Journal Prompts for Creating Self-Care Boundaries

What activities or people do I spend energy on that leave me feeling drained?

What relationships and activities do I partake in that leave me feeling fulfilled?

When I say ‘yes’ to activities that don’t resonate with me, what am I saying ‘no’ to?

What fears do I have around creating boundaries that I need to overcome?

Create and State

The next step is taking those clearly defined boundaries and putting them to use.

-Express your truth, even when it feels uncomfortable or awkward.

-Say what you want and communicate clearly.

-Say why your boundary is important to you.

– Don’t over-explain your boundary. You don’t owe anyone an explanation about why something is best for you.

-As you state your boundary, prepare to accept any feelings that come up within yourself.

-When making a boundary clear to another person, prepare to be unattached to their response, whatever it may be.

Maintain

Finally, maintain your personal and interpersonal boundaries.

-Now that you have made your boundaries clear, stick to them as long as you feel they are serving you.

-Discover your true feelings BEFORE you respond or take action by creating space between when you get asked to do something and when you give an answer.

– Ask yourself if this is something that truly resonates with you or if you’re only doing this to avoid saying no.

-You can do the same thing to check in with the personal boundaries you made. Create space before taking action, and ask if what you are doing is what’s best for you and aligned with your truth.

-If someone isn’t accepting of your boundary and acts upset, pushy, or rude don’t give in. Don’t send the message that your boundary can be torn down through pushiness on their part.

-Keep in mind how YOU feel, separate from how others perceive you.

For more on creating and preserving boundaries check out this article for Psychcentral.com.

Dealing with Guilt Around Boundaries

A little reminder, self-care is never selfish. Taking care of yourself is how you offer the best version of yourself to the world. Boundaries are a huge part of self-care and creating a life where you feel nourished and live up to your full potential.

For the most part, people are reasonable and accepting of your boundaries. However, some people may push back, and you need to remember this is their problem, not yours. Don’t make yourself responsible for other people’s feelings.

You did not just create space for yourself to feel guilty for hours or days about saying no, so take a deep breath and set your guilt aside so you can embrace your newly found free time and energy.

Boundaries are an act of self-care that allows you to be fully present and truly enjoy when you say yes. They build self-worth, self-love, bring peace and joy to our lives. If you haven’t created boundaries for your life yet, make time to get started with this life-changing process today.

I wish you love and healing on your journey of self-care.

Thanks for being here,

Rebecca

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