How To Set Boundaries Without Being Controlling

How to Set Boundaries

How are you at setting boundaries?

When working with my clients I often bring up the topic of boundaries. That's because I know just how much setting good boundaries can make a difference in their lives.

I've found that people are often confused about what boundaries really are; how to set them and then how to maintain them.

Boundaries are a way to set limits in your life. They help you to make clear what you will and will not accept in another person’s behaviour towards you. They are a way to show people that you value your own worth, and asking them to value you too.

Boundaries also help you to set strategies for yourself, so that you're more successful, healthy and happy. They influence every area of your life including relationships, work, money, health and success.

Boundaries and Relationships

We already live in a world of boundaries and we manage these appropriately because we know that doing so will keep us safe and happy. Say, for example, someone wants to come into your home—you expect them to ring or knock at the door to announce their presence, so that you can decide if you wish to allow them in.

You wouldn’t welcome someone into your personal space who is abusive or disrespectful to you. Yet when it comes to our relationships, we often leave the door wide open!

We make the mistake of thinking that people will automatically respect our boundaries when we ourselves aren’t even sure of what those boundaries are.

Then we spend time getting anxious and irritated when people take advantage (often unwittingly.)

That's a bit like fending off people coming through your doorway because you haven’t taken the time to stop and put an actual door in place!

'True assertiveness means letting people know ahead of time how you want to be treated - instead of reacting when they let you down'     

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How to set boundaries without being controlling

One thing that people tell me is that they're not sure how to set boundaries without being controlling.

They worry that they'll push someone away or cause conflict. It’s a good idea therefore, to understand the difference between putting up barriers, and setting boundaries.

Think of it like this:

  • Barriers are created from a place of fear and separation.
  • Boundaries are created from self-respect, healthy relationships, a sense of worthiness, and love.


Barriers come from the anxious Inner-child.

People use barriers to protect themselves when they feel defenceless. They can seem to be unfriendly or controlling, when really they’re trying to shield themselves from a situation in which they feel overwhelmed.

It’s always the anxious little child within that puts up barriers. You can recognise this in yourself or others when one of you:

  • Withholds affection.
  • Says ‘No!’ without explanation.
  • Withdraws.
  • Becomes angry and defensive.
  • Want's to have the last word.

Boundaries come from the Adult self.

On the other hand, when we set loving boundaries, we’re coming from our Adult. You can recognise this in yourself or others when one of you:

  • Offers care and understanding.
  • Says ‘no’ with an appropriate explanation.
  • Stays in communication (in the way that feels right).
  • Remains calm.
  • Suggests win-win options and seeks common ground.

But How Will People React When I Start Setting boundaries?

When we don't set boundaries we tend to people-please, and people get used to us being that way.

One of the common concerns that clients share with me is that the people they’ve been ‘pleasing’ will become angry or reject them if they suddenly start putting their own needs first. 

It’s certainly true that when we first start setting boundaries, some people may find it strange and even be a little put out. But it’s important to bear with it.

For a short time, it may seem like their feathers are being ruffled - but these uncomfortable transitions often right themselves surprisingly quickly.

It's essential that you get very clear on your boundaries. That way you will be able to speak clearly and stand firm. You won’t have to stop and worry about it, in the moment. The guidelines are already in place in your mind – all you have to do is act accordingly. 

I suggest you use a journal for all your personal development learning. Write down the boundaries you'd like to set.

Follow the guidelines in this post on how to set boundaries without being controlling..

You'll see a big difference in your confidence and in your relationships!

And as always to my lovely community, much kind love 🙂

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