Why boundaries feel scary - and how to overcome it

So picture the scene: a friend or family member has asked you to do something for them, but you're overwhelmed right now, you have a lot on your plate and the thought of saying yes fills you with dread. But, saying no would feel so much more uncomfortable, what would they think of you? How would they react? After all you're that person who always says yes right?!


So you do the thing, meanwhile beating yourself up for saying yes and regretting your decision, leaving you wondering why you find it so hard to just say no! 

You find that you never seem to do what is right for you, the lines feel blurry and in the process you have lost yourself. 

Some of the main reasons you find boundaries in relationships so difficult could be: 

  • You don't want people to think of you as mean, unkind or selfish.
  • You're worried how other people will react.
  • It's about what you want and that is a new mindset. 
  • Keeping everyone happy feels easier than dealing with the complaints.
  • You don't want to lose the relationship. 

So the question is, why do you feel this way? 

Very often those who struggle with boundaries also struggle with a critical inner voice, that voice gets to you before anyone else can (a protection mechanism) and tells you that you're selfish if you consider what you want or you're mean if you say no. 

This voice can be as a result of the way you were raised or the environment you are in but it isn't helpful and gives you an extreme view of boundaries and what they are. 

The fact is that boundaries don't need to be scary, very often they're not a big brick wall but rather a fence with a gate in, let me explain...

A big brick wall is a solid no and sometimes we need boundaries like this, but most of the time there is a line where some things are ok and others are not. We can decide where the gate is in the fence and we can open and close the gate when we wish to, we are in control of that boundary. 

Feels less daunting right? 

The other thing about boundaries is that you can start small, for example not replying straight away to a friend's text or finding five minutes in your day that is all about you and with time and practise it will begin to feel easier. 

The fact is that boundaries have so many benefits; 

  • healthier relationships
  • clear communication 
  • builds self-esteem
  • reduces stress and anxiety
  • helps you to feel clear in your identity 
  • values your needs and wants 

One small exercise you can do is to take a piece of paper and put a line down the middle, on one side write down what 'is ok' and on the other 'what isn't'. This will not only help you to define a clear boundary but have something to refer back to when you're struggling to keep that gate shut!

So what is one small boundary that you can start with today? 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, MK16 9PY
Written by Amy Fokkens, Dip.Couns. MBACP Therapeutic Counsellor
Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, MK16 9PY

Amy is a Therapeutic Counsellor and registered member of the BACP with a passion for helping those with low self-esteem. She has experience of working with the charity 'Mind' and a local refuge for women who have survived domestic abuse. Her practice is called 'Crown Counselling' and she is based in Newport Pagnell near Milton Keynes.

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