Frequently Asked Questions

How would you define boundaries?

Boundaries are limits that we set. They are personal to us and are connected to our values. They are a list of rules we present to others in how they relate to us. There can be physical boundaries – personal space, intimacy, touch etc. and there are emotional boundaries – communicate your needs, again very much connected to your values and beliefs. 

Why do so many of us find boundary setting so difficult?

We develop behaviours from a young age, for instance our belief system starts between the ages of 0-7. We are like sponges, we take everything in and for the first year or two of our life, we are fully dependant or enmeshed with our primary caretaker, we need them for survival.

We learn how to relate from our experiences with our caregiver, so for example if you experienced a big reaction or push back to saying no when you were younger, you may develop the belief that saying no can be scary as there are repercussions.

It is not always our parents or primary caregiver; it can be teachers, siblings, extended family, or friends. One big impactful event can be so traumatic that from an early age it is safer for people to please or focus on another person’s needs. So, what do we do as humans when we feel guilty, we feel uncomfortable, so we want to fix that and we let the boundary lapse – it’s safer.

Are there similar traits, patterns in people who struggle with boundary setting?

So many people hold the belief ‘I am not good enough’ or ‘I am unlovable’ so therefore prioritising themselves is difficult to do. The belief I am not good enough can result in people pushing themselves to be perfect, to do more, have more so they can feel enough; it’s a downward spiral leading to burnout. 

What is burnout?

Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It occurs when you feel overwhelmed, emotionally drained, and unable to meet constant demands. Eventually, you may feel like you have nothing more to give.

What are the common stumbling blocks that people encounter when they try to establish boundaries, especially when this is a new action for them?

I always suggest that people with poor boundaries, develop a list of No statements and have them to hand. You will already know the people who take too much of your time and energy and a pattern has developed where it is easier or safer to say yes. This happens with partners, bosses, family. So, start practicing statements like:

  • I don’t have time for that right now
  • This is not something I can prioritise at the moment
  • If I do that I will have to let something else go 
  • I am not comfortable with doing that
  • No thanks I won’t be able to make it
  • It sounds great but I need to rest

When we practice this new pattern, we buy into it by supporting beliefs “my opinions matter”, “It’s safe for me to say no” or “my happiness is my responsibility”.

This is a process, something that needs attention and to be practiced but it yields such amazing awards.

When a person sets boundaries and have not done so in the past, do they experience resistance from others?

Sometimes yes, Sometimes no, it depends on the person and the nature of the relationship. There is a great quote from Oprah “You teach people how to treat you”, so if you have assumed a certain role for a long time, yes there can be a reaction, but depending on the person, they may be non-confrontational so they may just go along with it. If it’s a parent, there may be a belief that they need to be right, so there can be a reaction, but we work through this too. It’s such an individual experience.

What useful strategies can be deployed to help a person establish boundaries?

Discover Your Values (, scroll to the bottom of the page, and complete the worksheet to learn what you need to place a boundary around. Awareness is Key. Once you look at what you value, you can then become aware of who or what is taking you away from this.

Next ask yourself, what are your beliefs around saying no? Do you believe that it is wrong or that you feel guilty? Why is that? At this stage, you start unravelling why you have no boundaries. It is always helpful to use a coach to do something like this or therapy, to be in a safe place where you feel seen, heard, understood, and accepted. Create some no statements, use someone easy to practice on, a stranger and see how you feel.

Your Basic Rights

  • I have a right to say no without feeling guilty.
  • I have a right to be treated with respect.
  • I have a right to make my needs as important as others.
  • I have a right to be accepting of my mistakes and failures.
  • I have a right not to meet others’ unreasonable expectations of me.