Thursday, July 31, 2014

Setting Healthy Boundaries:  “No” is Not a Nasty Word
by Diane Kern, Ph.D.


Setting healthy boundaries with others is about being able to set appropriate limits, turn down unreasonable requests and refuse or reject reasonable expectations that will not work well for us. In many instances, it requires us to be able to say, "No" to others without feeling guilty or as though we are mistreating them.  Setting limits is a way to establish and protect our healthy boundaries by setting the parameters within which others may appropriately interact or engage with us. This is also the mechanism by which we determine the lines that distinguish the issues for which we or others are responsible. In other words, by setting healthy boundaries, we reinforce our self-respect, self-esteem and sense of personal power.  This also conveys to others the message that we expect to be treated well.

Listed below are guidelines for what constitutes healthy vs. unhealthy boundaries.  A great self-help book for developing and honoring our boundaries is: 
Co-Dependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself  by Melody Beattie.

Healthy Boundaries:

  • The ability to feel free to say “no” and to respect another’s right to do without guilt, anger or fear

  • Having respect for oneself and one’s right to be treated well

  • Refusing to accept abuse or disrespect

  • The ability to acknowledge when a problem or issue is your responsibility or that belonging to someone else.  In other words, “knowing and honoring your stuff vs. someone else’s stuff”

  • Possessing a strong sense of self, who you are, and how you feel; Also, being able to clearly communicate that to others.

  • Having a healthy expectation of shared responsibility and reciprocity in relationships.

  • Feeling independent, secure, at peace, joyful and confident.

  • Having a healthy and balanced ability to trust others and interact in an interdependent manner.

  • Respecting one’s own privacy and that of others.

  • Feeling the right to have one’s own beliefs and behaviors

Unhealthy Boundaries:

  • The need to please others without regard for the personal cost (i.e. integrity, values, etc.)

  • Feeling powerless, passive and dependent in relationships

  • Problems identifying one’s own feelings, needs and wants

  • Trying to control and change others

  • Extreme discomfort and refusal to share personal information

  • Avoidance of close interaction and emotional intimacy with others; distrust

  • Allowing others to control, disrespect or abuse you

  • Difficulty saying no to others’ requests, due to fear of rejection, abandonment or conflict

  • Taking responsibility for the feelings and problems of others, often feeling overwhelmed


  • Inability to see the flaws and weaknesses in others

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