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The Challenges of Establishing Boundaries

December 29, 2020

Learning how to set up (and keep) boundaries – which can be loosely defined as letting other people know how we want to be treated (Tartakovsky, 2018, para. 18) – has been a painful process for me. Fortunately, I understand today that growing pains are a natural part of becoming a wholehearted individual, as I become empowered to express my wants and needs, while respecting the autonomy of others, in turn. 

My biggest struggle with building boundaries has been the belief that if I advocate for myself, I am not a good or kind person. As someone who has struggled with independence, both in my emotions and in my material existence, building my autonomy and learning to exist outside of other people’s opinion of me has been a trudge. But boundaries lay a foundation for us to be ourselves rather than be an extension of someone else, or who someone else wants us to be. (Martin, 2019, para. 4). 

Balance of God El Equilibrio de Dios by Randy Burns

As a previously non-wholehearted individual, I was desperate to be considered good or kind. That desperation ran deep because my identity was embedded in being liked for my sensitivities. I needed a radical change of heart to learn that people-pleasing did not make me a good person, and that I did not need my identity to be wrapped up in being sweet, in order to be liked. A hurdle to overcome when beginning to set up boundaries is in managing feelings of guilt which sends the message that placing oneself over others is wrong (Strauss Cohen, 2017, para. 2).

A significant problem that stems from people-people habits which complicates boundary setting, is the development of the belief that they are responsible for other people’s feelings (Strauss Cohen, 2017, para. 6). It is therefore best to know what our limits before we start to define them to others (Strauss Cohen, 2017, para. 9). Once I learnt what my limits were, it became a lot easier for me to know when I truly needed to implement where I stop and where someone else starts. (Mathews, 2017, para. 4) 

Something that has helped me as I begin to establish boundaries is the understanding that when I take on other people’s obligations, whether it be attempts to circumvent feelings, or physical duties, I am actually taking opportunities away from those people who can and ought to take their own actions. This acknowledgement was one of the first lessons I learned, that helped me when the time came for me to exist outside of other people’s responsibilities.  

Learning boundaries was a hard won lesson, and I still want to run from them. I carry on with my boundaries because I believe that once the discomfort of growth subsides, I will be stronger, with greater chances of accomplishing my deep rooted desires for doing so. Truly the best way that I was able to begin to carry out boundaries was through the mature concession that time is a limited resource, and to add to that as well, that I need to take care of my body in order for it to be healthy and help me meet my responsibilities. 

When I can remember my purpose, and when I can see my own self-worth, I am able to resist the agony of needing to be considered good or nice, and then I can show up in the world as someone deserving of holding limits to how others can interact with me.


Martin, S. (2019, October 24). Five tips for setting boundaries (Without feeling guilty). Psych Central. https://blogs.psychcentral.com/imperfect/2019/06/5-tips-for-setting-boundaries-without-feeling-guilty/

Mathews, A. (2017, May. 30). The right to boundary: Owning you. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/traversing-the-inner-terrain/201705/the-right-boundary

Strauss Cohen, I. (2017, May 8). When guilt keeps you from setting boundaries. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/your-emotional-meter/201705/when-guilt-keeps-you-setting-boundaries?am

Tartakovsky, M. (2018, October 8). What to do when you feel guilty about setting boundaries. Psych Central. https://psychcentral.com/lib/what-to-do-when-you-feel-guilty-about-setting-boundaries/BoundariesCodependencyMental HealthSelf-EsteemFacebookTwitterReddit

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