The Art of Saying No: How to Establish & Set Boundaries 

Posted by Naomi Rohr on

Have you ever found yourself saying ‘yes’ to something you really didn’t want to do, just to avoid disappointing someone else? Or struggled to set boundaries without feeling guilty or apologising? You're not alone. The urge to people please is strong with us anxious folk but the cost to us is HUGE. So, let’s examine healthy boundary examples and how you can enforce yours without apologising.


Examples of healthy boundaries

Having healthy boundaries is crucial in maintaining our emotional and mental well-being. Without them, we can feel overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed out. 

So, what does a healthy boundary look like? 

Simple things like saying ‘no’ to an invite because you don’t have the energy or it’s not really your vibe. Or meatier things like standing your ground at work and calling out toxic behaviour. By honouring your needs and saying no to others, you’re saying yes to yourself. 

Take a moment to consider YOUR boundaries and establish what healthy boundaries look like for you. They may include: 

  • Physical Boundaries - stating what is and isn’t aligned with your needs and wants is healthy. Saying nothing when your physical needs (like eating, drinking or sleeping) are denied, being touched in a way you don’t like or allowing your personal space to be invaded is never ok. 
  • Emotional Boundaries - your feelings deserve to be heard, respected and validated. It’s not ok for anyone to dismiss or criticise your emotions. 
  • Time Boundaries - valuing your time is important. You are in charge of your availability and set the tone for fair treatment at work, home or socially. 
  • Sexual Boundaries - sexual consent, mutual respect and feeling safe are basic needs that should always be met. Being punished for enforcing a boundary is abusive. 
  • Intellectual Boundaries - your thoughts and ideas are worthy. If your beliefs are dismissed and belittled, you are under no obligation to accept this violation. 
  • Material Boundaries - limits on how your material items are treated is healthy. When your possessions are damaged or used without consent, setting a boundary is essential. 

How to set and enforce boundaries 

Loose boundaries can make your anxiety worse. Saying yes to others and neglecting your own needs can damage your mental health. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or resentful towards others, it’s time to set boundaries. 

Establishing and communicating your boundaries is kind. Once you have clear expectations of yourself and others, you can confidently communicate them. Initially, this can feel uncomfortable and foreign but it’s essential and worthy of the hard work. 

Communication is a really big part of boundary setting. If you’re used to people-pleasing, you’ll be tempted to abandon the conversation and deny yourself in favour of others. Don’t! You are worthy. 

Boundary setting sentences: 

  • “I can’t help you with_______ right now”
  • “I appreciate _________ but in the future, I’d be more comfortable with”
  • “I’m not comfortable discussing_______”
  • “I appreciate your invitation but I can’t attend.”
  • “I’m open to trying _______ but I don’t like______”
  • “I’m uncomfortable with what you just did. Do not do it again.”
  • “Thank you for your concern about ______. I’ve got it covered.”
  • “I don’t like _____, I am leaving.”
  • “No.”

3 steps to enforcing a boundary: 

  • Step 1: state your boundary clearly. Be straightforward without over-explaining (you don’t need to!) and don’t raise your voice. 
  • Step 2: instead of focusing on what you don’t like, state your request directly highlighting what you need or would like to see. 
  • Step 3: hold your head up high and let them deal with any feelings of shame or guilt without absorbing their energy. 

Source @silkandsonder

Repeated boundary violations are a red flag that shouldn’t be ignored. Don’t be afraid to limit your exposure or cut contact altogether if you aren’t being respected. 

Living an authentic happy life takes work and setting clear boundaries is a critical step. Celebrate your growth and protect your well-being at all costs. 

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