Learning to Set Boundaries: Why Is it So Important?

June 7, 2020
Sometimes, we prioritize the needs of others over our own and feel guilty if we say "no" to someone else's requests. We think that. if we don't help them, then we're being selfish and aren't good people. You need to learn to set boundaries!

Learning to set boundaries doesn’t mean defending your opinions and beliefs at all costs. Nor does it mean being sincere at all times, not caring what others think or feel.

To be specific, setting boundaries means letting people know what you need and what you want, which may be different from what they want and need. It means expressing what you want, and what you don’t want, but without forgetting the needs and desires of others, and taking into account what people think and feel.

Setting boundaries means establishing boundaries that shouldn’t be crossed with others (and with ourselves).

Edward T. Hall and Robert Sommer, pioneers in the study of personal space, claim that the area a person inhabits is more than just physical territory. It’s a place where we feel mentally, physically, and emotionally protected, a refuge where no one can attack us with their comments or behaviors.

However, they showed in their studies that it’s common for these boundaries to be crossed in our daily lives. We don’t always protect these boundaries, as we shouldn’t prevent them from being invaded. Let’s have a look at what limits you and why it’s so important to set boundaries.

A woman thinking.

What’s stopping you from setting boundaries?

What’s stopping you from setting boundaries and saying no when you need to? Fear of rejection probably plays a determining role here.

Let’s take the example of your partner asking for help. However, you don’t really feel like it or maybe you don’t think it’s the right thing to do. Why do you end up doing it, even if it’s not what you want to do? Because you’re afraid that your relationship may deteriorate if you don’t, that’s why.

Sometimes, you prioritize other people’s needs over your own and you feel guilty if you say “no” to someone else’s request. You’re afraid that they’ll think you’re a bad person for not helping, that you’re not a good friend, or that you’re selfish.

These thoughts are often exaggerated. Obviously, you’re not a bad person for not setting aside your plans to do what they want you to do, or for prioritizing your interests above theirs. Of course, you shouldn’t be “selfish” and always put your needs above other people’s. However, you shouldn’t always put other people’s needs above yours. It’s a question of balance.

You probably won’t set boundaries if you tend to take responsibility for everything and over-involve yourself in other people’s problems.

You probably find it hard to say “no” because you tend to take responsibility for tasks that aren’t your responsibility at all. For example, helping others do their work when they could do it perfectly well themselves or trying to solve a friend’s problem when it’s really not up to you to do it.

Why is it so important to learn to set boundaries?

Getting to know yourself

One of the benefits of setting boundaries has to do with getting to know yourself better. Setting boundaries requires you to get to know yourself and your needs well. It means being aware of what you want and what you need at all times. Always ask yourself what you want, what you need, and what makes you feel comfortable.

At the same time, setting boundaries will allow you to respect yourself more and, as a result, others will respect you for the limits that you set.

Benefits for self-esteem

Setting boundaries is likely to result in a significant increase in your self-esteem. This will happen simply because of you taking your own needs into account and giving yourself the space you need.

By feeling better about yourself, and boosting your self-esteem, you’ll lose the fear of people seeing you as you really are. You’ll finally be able to let go of the constant stress of seeing whether something or someone isn’t going to expose or damage your vulnerability.

You’ll feel free to express your needs regardless of how others take it, and without feeling guilty for not doing what others expect you to do.

Learning to set boundaries is also about saying “no” when you want to, without feeling obliged to do what others want or need.

Healthy and balanced relationships

It’s a way of relating to others in a healthy, balanced way, without any imbalance or inequality in what each person brings to the relationship.

You’ll be able to make it clear to others how you want them to communicate with you, and this will bring you a lot of personal satisfaction. In this way, frustration and stress due to the absence of boundaries will no longer be a part of your relationships.

When you’re able to respect your own boundaries and those of others, then your relationships will become healthier and more stable over time. There’ll be mutual respect in your relationships and neither will feel invaded by the other.

In short, learning to set boundaries regarding other people will allow you to create and strengthen aspects of your own personal well-being. It will allow you to identify and adequately delimit your own needs, making you feel like you’re in charge of your choices. This will generate a sense of responsibility in the decisions you make in your life.