Four Keys to Setting Healthy Boundaries

Setting healthy boundaries with those around you is the best thing you can do for your peace of mind. It's a way of being assertive when confronted with emotional blackmail and any other form of psychological manipulation.
Four Keys to Setting Healthy Boundaries
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 20 October, 2022

You’ll have a lot of peace and tranquility if you learn to establish healthy, firm, and clear boundaries. Not only that but all of your interpersonal relationships will improve when you draw the line. This lets others know what’s acceptable and what you won’t allow. Also, it allows you to exercise your identity, values, ​​and assertiveness. In addition, it’ll make you feel safe in most social situations.

Some say that personal boundaries are two-way streets. Thus, as soon as others identify and are clear about yours, they’ll follow their own path respectfully. However, this isn’t always true.

Although nobody likes to think about it, some are skillful at invading other people’s spaces and at questioning psychological and emotional boundaries. Thus, it isn’t enough to just delimit your personal barriers; you must also know how to enforce them. This is because doing so allows the rest of your mental health investments to come to fruition.

Setting healthy boundaries

The above is precisely what Edward T. Hall and Robert Sommer explained back in their day. These anthropologist-psychiatrists were pioneers in the study of personal space. They started investigating in 1969 and mentioned the fact that personal boundaries go beyond physical territory.

These boundaries are spaces where everyone feels mentally, physically, and emotionally protected. They represent a personal sanctuary that no one can trespass with their words or behavior. However, as striking as it may seem, the researchers also revealed that it’s very common to overcome such barriers in daily life. In other words, the barriers you don’t always pay attention to because you don’t use the needed resources to keep them. Continue reading to find out how to go about it!

“Good fences make good neighbors.”

-Robert Frost-

A woman showing a crocheted heart.

1. Honesty – the oxygen of healthy boundaries

Honesty is an attitude that represents truth and transparency. Including honesty in your own repertoire of attitudes secures your personal boundaries. To do so, keep the following in mind:

  • It’s impossible to set boundaries if you don’t make clear, beforehand, that violating them will lead to consequences.
  • Within the framework of an emotional relationship, the other person must understand that, if they attack your self-esteem, values, ​​and dignity, your relationship will end.
  • Try to maintain consistency. This is because it’s difficult for people not to violate your boundaries when you allow others to do it.
  • Being honest implies being coherent with what you say and do. In other words, between what you expect and what you offer.

Likewise, healthy limits need maintenance and updates. You shouldn’t give in. Also, you shouldn’t leave the door open for emotional blackmail that makes you say “yes” to a request you wanted to say “no” to.

2. Microaggression-proof boundaries

Microaggressions are like cyanide bombs that attack your daily life without you even realizing it. It may come in the form of a sarcastic comment from a friend. Or perhaps from a “loving” gesture from your significant other or even a comment from your mother who judges you all the time.

Those are just some examples of microaggression. If you let them go on, they’ll multiply until they become really painful. Thus, never allow them. You must establish healthy boundaries where there’s no place for aggression, regardless of its magnitude.

A person walking on some posts.

3. You’re the only one who can respect yourself and set healthy boundaries

Everyone wants respect from others. But do people respect themselves? As striking as it may seem, they don’t always do so.

A couple of psychologists from the University of Virginia, Timothy D. Wilson and Elizabeth W. Dunn, conducted a study in 2004. In it, they showed that a lack of self-knowledge is one of the most common mental health mistakes.

Therefore, if you can’t structure your needs, desires, flaws, fears, and identity, you’ll hardly be able to protect yourself from others. This is because you don’t know what to protect because you don’t know what defines you, what hurts you, and what’s unbecoming to you.

The task of acquiring self-knowledge is yours only. Therefore, respect yourself by listening to that inner voice that tells you what you need before demanding respect from others.

4. Detachment as a key to exercising the psychic space

It’s often hard to say “no” to someone important to you due to your emotional bond with them. Dimensions such as closeness, friendship, and affection can make it hard for you to set firm and healthy boundaries. Thus, you may give in and say “yes” to something you wanted to say “no” to and allow others to violate your limits almost without knowing how it happened.

Thus, you must know that detachment is the best way to create a safe mental space. You must establish a distance between your feelings and emotional loyalties when it comes to your identity and actual needs. At the same time, you can’t ignore the obvious: that anyone who truly respects you won’t violate your emotional and psychological boundaries.

A woman lighting herself.

As you can see, you must know yourself to be able to set healthy boundaries. Apply your self-knowledge and exercise your self-esteem and self-responsibility. This, in addition to practicing detachment, are essential ingredients that allow you to create an intrusion-proof personal sanctuary.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Wilson, T. D., & Dunn, E. W. (2004). Self-Knowledge: Its Limits, Value, and Potential for Improvement. Annual Review of Psychology55(1), 493–518.
  • Katherine, A. (2000). Where To Draw The Line: How To Set Healthy Boundaries Every Day. New York: Fireside.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.