How To Set Healthy Boundaries? 6 Steps To Reclaim Your Life

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A guide on what are healthy personal boundaries, why we need them and how to set healthy boundaries step by step.

When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice.


For the past few weeks, my friend Rosie has been venting about her Mother-in-law Beth. She’s so upset about Beth’s surprise visits after 9 pm. 

“She would just come in the house. Use her keys to open the door without any prior notice.“

She used to enjoy her self-care routine before hubby got home. Now she felt like Beth just hijacked her precious me-time.

This reminds me of how my mom would just walk into my room without knocking the door when I was a kid. 

We’ve all been there, right?

When our little sacred nook is invaded, we feel attacked. What’s worse, we may never feel secure again in our own room because we never know when the door will be cracked open. 

With uncertainty comes stress.

That’s why each individual should set a healthy boundary. But what are healthy personal boundaries?


What are healthy personal boundaries?

It is a clear line between you and everyone else.

It’s your personal criteria of what’s ok and what’s not ok.

It’s the instruction manual that people should read upon meeting you.

Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. 

You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won’t accept.

Anna Taylor


5 Reasons why healthy boundaries are important

  • Without healthy boundaries, we’ll always be the victim.

When your life and space is violated, you feel mistreated. “Maybe I just don’t deserve the respect from others,” you say to yourself.

The thing is, most people suck at picking hints of other’s emotional changes. Setting healthy boundaries is to make things clear. Let people know what’s ok and what’s not. By speaking up for yourself, you take back the ship of your life. 

  • With clear personal boundaries, we can focus on ourselves more.

This is what healthy boundaries are for, to protect our sanity

We all have a life to live and no one wants to be the dumpster of someone else’s emotional baggage. When we drop the load on our shoulders, we clear out empty space to take care of our own business.

  • We’ll feel more powerful and confident.

Just as mentioned, it’s pretty scary to say “No”. If you are courageous enough to tell others “You can’t do this to me”, what else can possibly scare you?

  • We’ll gain back the respect we deserve

We show others how we want to be treated.

When you take yourself seriously and stand up for your needs, you let others know they have to do so. They have to respect you in order to earn your respect.

  • We’ll be less stressed and anxious

When you stop tolerating excessive demands from others, you have more energy to spend on your own wellbeing. 

Your agenda won’t get messed up anymore when you turn down Sarah’s unreasonable requests. You get to spend your time the way you want to. Sounds like a good life, right?


How to set healthy boundaries

Setting healthy boundaries requires an in-depth self-awareness, courage and communication.

It may sound intimidating. But just like telling mom to “please knock the door next time”, most of us have been setting boundaries without even noticing. 

To make it easier, here are 6 steps of setting healthy personal boundaries:

Setting healthy boundaries Step 1: Make an “I hate” list

Identify the interactions or relationships that make you feel uncomfortable.

Here are 2 things to remember when making the healthy boundary list:

  • There’s no point in reasoning for those responsible. Trust your guts. These items are on the list for a reason. 
  • Be specific and pinpoint the problems. Instead of writing down “Lucy is driving me nuts”, try “I hate Lucy when she bombards me with her on-again-off-again relationship with Jake”. You got the idea.

Setting healthy boundaries Step 2: Make an “I wish” list accordingly

Now go back to the top of your list. Ask yourself a question: How would you like these “uncomfortable items” to be comfortable again. Write it down.

Again, be specific

If it’s about the tone mom speaks, try to avoid:

I wish Mom would speak differently”.

That’s too vague. If Mom gets this message, I bet you she wouldn’t know how “differently“ really means.

Instead, try to dig real deep into the way she talks. After a while of replaying conversations you had before, you may come up with:

I wish Mom could dump her sarcastic tone and stop pointing fingers at my decisions.” 

So there you have a list of healthy boundaries that should make your life happier.

Setting healthy boundaries Step 3: Inform your healthy boundaries

Now you have a list of what you dislike and how you wish things to be, it’s time to let people know about them. 

Yes, it’s scary. And it should be. After all, you are requesting a change in someone else’s behavior to make YOU feel better. 

So let’s not make them feel that way, shall we?

So here are 2 tips in communicating the boundaries you set:

  • Instead of using “You”, start with “I”.

People may feel offended or judged when you point out their problems straight to the face.

If you tell Lucy “You are bitch’n too much about him.” Guess what would happen? The next thing she bitch’n about would be your attitude. 

Instead of accusing her of her own behavior, try to focus on describing your feelings staring with an “I”.

You can try “I feel overwhelmed sometimes and I really need a moment to focus on my own stuff.”

I can’t guarantee success for the first time, especially if Lucy’s self-centeredness is beyond reversible. But it’s enough for anyone who truly cares about you to pick up a hint of your boundaries. If they don’t care, why should you?

  • State your need as clearly as possible

Anne Lamott says that “’No’ is not a complete sentence”. That’s the golden rule of setting healthy boundaries. 

Now they know that you are not okay with what they’ve done to you, so how are they supposed to turn things around?

The answers come from your “I wish” list. 

Tell them exactly what they can and need to do to make things better. Stand up for your own needs. Luckily, if you have a to-the-point list of healthy boundaries, you are all set. But just in case, here we have Lucy again:

It may be a bad idea to tell Lucy to “shut the f*ck up”. Instead, tell her to give you a moment when you are taking care of your own issues. 

“You know what, Lu, I’m in the middle of something and I really need some time for it. Call me back later, maybe? Love ya.” 

Remember, you don’t need to reason or defend your needs. 

Setting healthy boundaries Step 4: Repeat if things don’t work out the first time

So here’s the thing. When you speak for yourself out loud, not everyone will take it seriously. Your buddy or bestie may think that you are having a bad day or just need to vent in some way. 

Your statement about the healthy boundaries you need may go in one ear and out the other.

If the first time doesn’t work as expected, don’t take it personally.

Most of the time, you’ll need repetition in claiming your boundaries, especially with someone you are closed to. Gently remind them of the conversation you have. Make them aware of your healthy boundaries. 

You are not enemies. You are all in this together. 

So here’s the thing. When you speak for yourself out loud, not everyone will take it seriously. Your buddy or bestie may think that you are having a bad day or just need to vent in some way. 

Your statement about the healthy boundaries you need may go in one ear and out the other.

If the first time doesn’t work as expected, don’t take it personally.

Most of the time, you’ll need repetition in claiming your boundaries, especially with someone you are closed to. Gently remind them of the conversation you have. Make them aware of your healthy boundaries. 

You are not enemies. You are all in this together. 

Setting healthy boundaries Step 5: Make decisions and take action

When setting boundaries, a big part of it relies on what OTHERS do. 

But let’s not forget WE are the ones that make the final call.

If you have stated your boundaries again and again but the situation persists, it’s time to make some decisions. 

You may need to talk to a superior about Mark throwing you a bunch of his files. 

You may need to stop picking up the calls from Lucy at 11 pm. 

You may need to get yourself out of a toxic relationship.

But if that’s what I need to brain dump your relationship baggage and restore peace in my life and mind, I’m happy to do it. And you should too.

Setting healthy boundaries Step 6: Say thank you

Expressing your gratitude is the final step to set healthy boundaries. And it’s also the most forgotten one. 

We all want our efforts to be appreciated. So let them know the small changes in their actions do make a difference in your life. It’s also a smart way of reinforcing your healthy boundaries.


So here’s why and how to set healthy personal boundaries.

Leave me a comment and let me know if these strategies work for you! 

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