The importance of setting boundaries with friends, family, relationships, and other people in your life

The importance of setting boundaries with friends, family, relationships, and other people in your life
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boundaries and respect

Expressing your limits is a proactive way to recognize your own limits and share them with others before you hit a crisis. You can’t expect someone else to know what you need before you share it. Unfortunately, you also can’t expect people to respect what you need if you don’t keep asserting it. Setting and maintaining boundaries is an important way to protect yourself.

It’s also important to respect the boundaries of others. When you respect the boundaries of others, you communicate that their well-being is important and you reinforce the validity of setting and maintaining boundaries in your relationship. Boundaries are a fundamental way we can communicate and respect each other’s needs.

Why it might be difficult for people to set boundaries

To set limits, you must know your limits. This requires a deep connection to yourself. Many people are not conscious enough to know what boundaries to set, let alone how to set them.

When you know what boundaries to set, you have to face the vulnerability of communicating them. Boundaries are a form of protecting your time, energy, and abilities, and communicating the limits of these things to others can feel strange and difficult at first. Additionally, figuring out how to express your limitations can be awkward and uncomfortable. Few people are taught how to communicate boundaries and as such many are fairly new to the process and are constantly trying to figure it out over time.

Additionally, expressing a boundary is often a multi-step process that involves initial communication and continuing to uphold or maintain that boundary in response to others’ desire to resist it. Holding a boundary is tiring and can lead to conflict. Many people have had to learn or learn to accept each other’s limitations.

set limits

your working life

Setting boundaries around work is a key element of work-life balance. In a world where money is becoming more important, it can be very difficult to enforce a work-related boundary that can result in a lower paycheck or lower performance in your position because you prioritize other elements of your life. Income is measurable, and other parts of your life that you can prioritize when setting work-related limits are often less quantifiable. This can make it difficult to defend your decisions to yourself and those around you. However, your life is more than your job and it is important to prioritize things that will help you grow, ease the ease in your life, make you happy and make the world a better place to live a fulfilling life. Setting boundaries in your work life allows you to prioritize your fulfillment.

Your family

Cultural narratives surrounding the family may lean towards the rigid notion that family comes before all else, or else. The stereotypes of loving yourself in order to love others and taking care of yourself before caring for others are clichés for a reason. Setting boundaries with your family is often challenging, but it also means you can better prioritize your own well-being and care, which puts you in a better position to give to others when you have the capacity.

your romantic relationships

Romantic relationships are another setting where shared narratives can make us feel that setting boundaries signals a lack of care and/or commitment to the relationship. However, an alternative framework is that setting boundaries with a romantic partner puts you in a better position to show up for them because you’ve shown yourself and your own boundaries. Setting boundaries is one way to take care of yourself. When you are well taken care of, you can take better care of your relationships.

your friendships

Culturally, we tend to view romantic and family relationships as more important and/or intimate than friendships. This can make it difficult to feel entitled, to ask things of our friends, or to want to form deeper and more intimate relationships with friends. But friendships have a profound impact on our lives, and they can be so in both positive and negative ways. So setting (and respecting) boundaries in friendships is perfectly valid and makes sense. Ideally, our friends want what’s best for us, just as we want what’s best for them. Setting and respecting boundaries is a way to communicate and honor what is best for each of you.

With your roommates

A comfortable living space contributes significantly to your mental health. Setting boundaries with your roommates can be difficult to facilitate your ability to charge effectively and use your home, but it’s definitely worth exploring. Because setting boundaries can feel uncomfortably close to conflict, and sometimes leads to conflict, igniting conflict in your living space might feel counterintuitive. However, you should consider the long-term potential outcome of adhering to your limit(s) as opposed to the likely short-term potential conflict that may arise from communicating those limits. Having a living space that meets your wants and needs can help save you from burnout and other negative consequences.


Setting boundaries in an online environment is complicated. The space is a little nebulous, so it’s a bit harder to delineate responsibility and accountability. As such, setting boundaries online is even more about your relationship with your boundaries than in other environments. Adhering to your online boundaries is often all you have, and without an in-person interviewee, it can sometimes be tempting to not respect your boundaries. Sometimes there are good reasons to push your limits, but you should be careful not to do yourself a disservice by failing to follow the guidelines you have set for your own well-being.

honor yourself

Giving ourselves permission to keep the world at a distance for our own good is difficult, especially today when everyone is aware of every bond. However, even the most extroverted people need time to recharge, and it’s not selfish to need it. Creating and maintaining boundaries helps us achieve a higher form of mindfulness that allows us to be more connected to the people and things that matter to us when we are together. We’re doing ourselves a disservice by allowing our limits to be crossed, so hold the line and trust your instincts. Respecting yourself is just as important as respecting everyone else.

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