Setting Boundaries – The real self-care

❝Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom – HENRY CLOUD Introduction The internet has popularized the idea of […]

Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership. Knowing what I am to own and take responsibility for gives me freedom



The internet has popularized the idea of self-care as meditation, candles, face masks, and a lot more. Beyond the basics of eating well, resting sufficiently, and maintaining your physical well-being, self-care has a much wider landscape. This includes how you treat yourself and how you let others treat you. It is between these two activities that we most often find our enjoyment, leisure, happiness, and companionship. A vital part of learning how to treat yourself and how we let others treat us is understanding ourselves and learning to respect and honor our boundaries. 

Defining boundaries

Boundaries define the limits of what we are willing to tolerate, accept, and engage in. They help us establish a sense of control and self-respect. Essentially, boundaries are what define what is and is not acceptable behavior from others. It would help to think of boundaries as an act of self-care. It is to treat yourself with the same care and concern that you would have for a close friend or loved ones. 

Challenges in setting boundaries

Boundaries can seem a little vague to wrap your head around, especially if you have conditioned parts of yourself to be people-pleasers or workaholics. Simply put, if you have been conditioned to always put others’ needs and emotions above your own, boundaries can seem uncomfortable and stressful. 

Here’s one way you can think about it. Boundaries are like a trusted advisor, picture Rafiki ( The Lion King) or Master Oogway (Kung Fu Panda). You would trust their opinions. Their wisdom and knowledge of things are usually accurate guides on how to handle any tough situation. They can take care of you and trusting them and letting them take care of you will mitigate the stress that comes with clouded judgment or indecision. The same goes for your boundaries, it is simply the guiding force behind all of your decisions. More often than not, however, these boundaries can be ignored or stepped over by other people. As a result, we may be overwhelmed and exhausted by certain situations, and more dangerously, we start straining the trust we have in our own decisions, and the relationships we have with ourselves and others. 

Understanding and respecting boundaries

Learning how to listen to and respect our boundaries takes practice and patience. It requires a certain amount of tolerance for some stormy emotions, because establishing your boundaries may tend to upset or disappoint people. It is important to remember that yes and no are not feelings, and you are not responsible to deal with their emotions constantly, especially if it means crossing your own boundaries. Your boundaries cannot be determined by the feelings of the people around you, or your desire to please them and keep them happy. Like any other skill, it requires some time and practice to master.

Setting boundaries requires you to take a closer look at yourself and understand yourself better. It requires you to treat yourself with love and compassion. Listen to your worries, fears, tears, and any feeling that causes you discomfort, and look into what circumstances or actions cause that feeling. Only you can fully understand your needs and emotions at any given moment with the most accuracy. This means it is also your responsibility to take care of yourself, especially when you need it the most.

Building healthier relationships

We are social beings and we are inherently wired to look for deeper connections, and we desire to be heard and understood. You need to know how you want to be treated and what you will and will not tolerate – this can help protect your emotions and help you stay in control of how you feel. 

Boundaries also allow us to have open and active communication. Your relationships can flourish when the other person respects your boundaries and treats you with the respect and affection you deserve. It allows us to develop positive self-esteem. It allows us to realize that we are whole and good in and of ourselves. 

While our companionships and relationships can be a positive enhancement, we are capable of surviving without them as well. These personal discoveries can greatly improve the quality of our lives and allow us to have more fulfilling interactions with ourselves, and others as well. 

Maintaining boundaries

With time it will get easier to separate our feelings from our boundaries, and listen to our intuition. Beyond all this, life and people are still unpredictable. You will still find yourself in situations where it is harder to take care of yourself and keep your boundaries intact, here are some things you can do to help yourself: 

1. Join support groups, talk to therapists, learn how to reach out to friends and family – create a network of resources that you can fall back on any time

2. Assess the different things that require your time and attention, and decide the things that you will take responsibility for and the things you will either let go of or delegate to someone else. 

3. Remind yourself that your time and energy is a resource that is precious and it needs to be protected and cared for as well 


In summary, setting and maintaining boundaries is crucial for our well-being and personal growth. It helps us establish healthy relationships, protect our mental health, and achieve our goals and aspirations. It is important to communicate our boundaries clearly and respectfully and to be willing to enforce them if necessary. 

Remember, setting boundaries is not selfish or mean; it is an act of self-respect and self-care.


1. Cloud, Henry; Townsend, John (1992). Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No. Thomas Nelson Publishing. ISBN 978-0-310-24745-6.

2. Richmond PhD, Raymond Lloyd. “Boundaries”. A Guide to Psychology and its Practice. Retrieved 6 May 2015.

3. Katherine, Anne (2000). Where to Draw the Line: How to Set Healthy Boundaries Every Day. pp. 16–25. ISBN 9780684868066.



Writer: Anita Priyadarshini

Editor: Poojitha Balamurugan