On Setting Boundaries

Courtesy of Morguefile.com by user quicksandala.

Courtesy of Morguefile.com by user quicksandala.

I’ve been asked to share with you, dear readers, a handout I have on setting emotional boundaries. A Christian therapist I had seen over ten years ago shared this with me, and I’ve Googled this, but I’ve been unable to find any author. Please note that I am NOT the author of this piece of wisdom. I just thought this might be helpful – I know I have to keep re-reading it myself to remind myself how to respond to certain situations! I hope it’s as useful to you as it has been to me. P.S. If you are not a Christian, please still read this, as it has very little religiosity in it – and, you still deserve to be loved, forgiven, safe, and blessed, even if you are an atheist.


Learn to take responsibility for your experience: Do not try to blame others for your reactions or feelings. Take your power back which you have given to others. Realize that you have a choice as to what you experience, how you behave, and what you think. You are not a victim. You can choose how to interpret what you experience and how you will respond in a way that acknowledges your power.

Learn to speak for yourself – not for the other: Communicate using “I” statements (I feel…, I think…, I need…), not “you” statements (You are…, you should…, you don’t…, etc.). Everyone has a right to their own experience and beliefs. By freely and equally sharing yourself without imposing yourself on others, others don’t feel as inclined to react defensively or to counterattack. Communication can become an open sharing rather than a confrontation or competition.

Setting boundaries means that we are taking responsibility, being adult, and demanding equality and respect in relationships.

Setting boundaries reflects our right to say NO to those things that aren’t right for us.

Setting boundaries is about learning to take care of ourselves, no matter what happens, where we go, or who we’re with.

Boundaries emerge from a deep sense of our personal rights, especially our right to be ourselves and take care of ourselves.

Boundaries emerge as we learn to value, trust, and listen to ourselves.

Boundaries emerge from a belief that what we want, need, like, and dislike is important.

Boundaries emerge from deep decisions about what we believe we deserve and don’t deserve.


Anger, rage, complaining, whining, and feeling threatened, “suffocated,” or victimized are clues to boundaries you need to set.

When you identify a need to set a boundary or a limit with someone, do it clearly, preferably without anger, and in as few words as possible.

You cannot simultaneously set a limit with someone and take care of their feelings—they may be hurt, angry, or disappointed with you.

You’ll probably be ashamed and afraid when you set boundaries.

Be prepared to follow through by acting in congruence with the boundaries you set.

You’ll be tested when you set boundaries.

Some people are happy to respect your boundaries.

A support system can be helpful as you strive to establish and enforce boundaries.

You’ll set boundaries when you are ready and not a minute sooner.

There’s a satisfying side to boundaries – it feels good.


“You don’t have a right to tell me what to think, or invalidate my feelings.”

“Don’t vent your anger on me, I won’t have it.”

“This is mine, you don’t have a right to use it as yours.”

“I won’t accept your belittling jokes, your criticism, or your condescending attitude toward me.”

“I won’t be disrespected – If you won’t respect me, then stay away.”

“Keep your hands off me.”

“Stop doing that . . . or I’ll leave; report you; file charges; (etc.).”

“Don’t try to tell me what to do.”

“If we’re going to have a working relationship, I need honesty, respect, and equality.”

“I need to communicate when we have a misunderstanding.”

“I need openness and sharing in a relationship – your withholding is making our relationship not satisfying to me.”


Ask directly for what you want. This shows who you are to others.

Nurture yourself and your integrity. This creates an inner, intuitive sense that lets you know when a relationship has become hurtful, abusive, or invasive.

Be objective about others’ behavior toward you without getting caught in their drama.

Maintain a bottom line – a limit to how many times you allow someone to say no, lie, disappoint, or betray you before you will admit the painful reality and move on.

Change the locus of trust from others to yourself. Don’t put yourself in someone else’s hands or expect infallibility. Trust that you can allow others to be normally human and still have satisfying intimacy.


Nobody has the right to know my mind or my business or to tell me what to think, what to feel, or what to do.

I have a right to my own thoughts, feelings, values, and beliefs.

What I share with others about matter than concern me is determined by what feels right to me – not what they want.

I don’t need abuse or to be disrespected.

I have a need and right to love myself, respect myself, and to stand up for myself.

I always have a right to express what I feel and think for myself, as long as I don’t try to tell others what’s right for them.

I have a right to be who I am and to live my own life harmlessly regardless of whether or not others like (or don’t like) it.

I don’t have to feel guilty for not behaving as others might want me to or for not giving others what they expect from me.

I accept myself just as I am in the moment with whatever thoughts and feelings I have.

I accept my right to make mistakes – otherwise I couldn’t live and grow.

I accept my right to my imperfections and shortcomings and don’t feel guilty for not being perfect.

I believe that no matter what, I am a divine child of God who is loved, forgiven, safe, and destined to God’s eternal life and blessings.

I believe that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us – to be treated with love and respect.

I believe that if I am true to myself and live by the highest truth I know that things will turn out for the best in the long run.