How Setting Personal Boundaries Can Help You Re-Establish Healthier Relationships

Offered By Melanie Gillespie Mindset Coaching

Imagine playing a complex board game where everyone is playing by their own rules, except you don’t know what the rules are or how to invent your own. That’s what life can feel like when we haven’t learnt the skill of healthy personal boundaries.

As a Hypnotherapist, one of the main areas I see causing people stress is learning how to navigate what the right thing to do socially is, whilst looking after their own needs first. Many have inherited the belief that it is selfish to look after their own needs and as a result, struggle to adhere to them.

Stressed woman sitting on sofa looking into distance

So, what are personal boundaries?

These are our own unwritten standards of what we will and won’t accept that influence how we interact with others. They determine how well we protect our energy and wellbeing, so they are a vital skill to have, yet poor personal boundaries are often subconsciously inherited from our caregivers and go unchallenged.

Poor personal boundaries come in many forms, but usually boil down to doing things against our intuition for the benefit of others. It could be agreeing to things we don’t have time or desire for, being made to feel guilty for tending to our own needs, allowing others to dominate our opinions and beliefs or being afraid to express our own thoughts and feelings for fear of upsetting others.

Many of these behaviours we learn in childhood. Either through modelling the behaviour we see growing up of others with poor boundaries, or as a coping mechanism to deal with strong characters who we don’t feel safe to challenge. If we learn to put our own needs behind those of a dominant character enough times, the brain starts to learn that as a survival behaviour and so we continue to behave this way throughout life.

As adults, we then find ourselves stressed because we have agreed to take on too many things or don’t know how to say no. We might not know how to ask for help or remove ourself from situations that make us uncomfortable, which can cause a great deal of stress on an ongoing basis. We then build up resentment to those making emotional demands of us, but really the resentment is with ourself for agreeing to it.

stressed man sitting at laptop

Defining ‘Personal’

The key aspect to remember about personal boundaries, is that they are personal.

Not everyone will share the same boundaries as each other, and that’s ok.

Other people don’t know how much we have to juggle. They don’t know what our personal struggles and to-do list consist of. Therefore, what might seem a reasonable request in their world, could very well be one task too many in our world. So, it is up to us to decide what our own rules are that we want to play by. Learning to follow our intuition and listen to our own needs.

Here are a few examples of what strong personal boundaries look like;


  • Not feeling the need to reply to messages straight away
  • Saying no if you can’t take on anymore errands
  • Delegating work that you can’t fulfil
  • Choosing not to attend everything you are invited to if you don’t want to


A common misconception client’s worry about is that putting boundaries in place will make them appear rude. However, this really couldn’t be further from the truth. There are many ways we can decline something nicely, for example;


  • “I would love to help, unfortunately my diary is full this week but I could offer sometime next week instead?”
  • “Thank you so much for the invite, sadly I’ll have to decline due to other commitments but I hope you have a wonderful time”
  • “I’m feeling overwhelmed with how much I have on at the moment, would you mind helping me with....”
  • “I see where you are coming from and appreciate your opinion, however on this occasion I disagree”

Infographic showing examples of personal boundaries

It’s important to remember that much like dealing with small children, others can only take from us what we are prepared to give. So, unless we are clear to ourselves about what we can manage or what we find acceptable, others will continue to take until they get told otherwise.

If you think you might like to improve your own boundaries, a few helpful questions to ponder are;


  • “If I was really listening to my own needs, what would I stop doing?”
  • “What belief makes me feel I have to do these things?”
  • “Do I want to believe this belief or have I just inherited it?”
  • “What would be a more helpful belief to replace this with?”


When shift our thoughts and beliefs behind our behaviours, we can start live in our own best interests again and protect our energy. This generates feelings of calm and control internally which positively impacts our wellbeing, as a result we end up having more energy available to give to others when we choose to because we aren’t burnt out. We can still always be kind, caring and helpful to those around us, but it is on our terms and comes from a place of genuine desire to help as opposed to a feeling of obligation.


Want to keep learning?  Find out more about the author, Melaine Gillespie - Melanine Gillespie Mindset Coaching.

Mental Health and Wellbeing

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