How To Set Healthy Boundaries: Tips For Success

Understanding boundaries can be challenging, especially for those of us who are accustomed to prioritizing others’ emotional needs above our own. Consider the pre-flight safety demonstration where passengers are instructed to secure their oxygen masks before assisting others. This analogy reminds us that to support others, we must first ensure our own emotional well-being. Boundaries operate on this same principle, emphasizing the importance of self-care and healthy self love in every relationship.

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Getting Started With Boundaries

We need to love ourselves enough to put ourselves first. In Matthew 22 the bible says to love one another as we love ourselves.  

36“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”37 Jesus answered him, “ ‘Love  the Lord your God with every passion of your heart, with all the energy of your being, and with every thought that is within you.’  38 This is the great and supreme commandment. 39 And the second is like it in importance: ‘You must love your friend  in the same way you love yourself.’  

Matthew 22:36-39, TPT

The last part of this verse usually gets left off when people are quoting this verse. They say, “You’re supposed to love others!” But, the full truth is that we are supposed to love others as we love ourselves. If there is no love for ourselves in the equation then what are we bringing to the table? We are bringing our broken, needy selves who are looking to others to affirm us rather than to Jesus to heal us. 

Once you get started on the emotional healing process, it will be apparent very quickly that boundaries are needed to reinforce the healing you have received from Jesus. 

Your mental health is just as important as your physical health. Healthy relationships thrive with clear boundaries. These emotional boundaries are similar to goals in that they serve a purpose to complete a task. In this case, your goal is to preserve and edify your emotional health. 

Different Types of Boundaries

There are many factors to consider when setting appropriate boundaries. The most relevant is determining the context of the boundary. 

Different types of boundaries: 

  • Relationship boundaries (spouse, family members, friends, coworkers)
  • Financial boundaries (spending, saving, budgeting)
  • Time boundaries (social events, family gatherings, social media)
  • Sexual boundaries (in dating)
  • Work-life balance boundaries

When setting healthy personal boundaries consider the type of relationship and your goals. For example, if you often abandon yourself in your financial boundaries by overspending then ask yourself why you are doing this, seek emotional healing for the root of the behavior, and set the boundary as an act of love toward yourself. 

Boundaries are a form of self love and an act of honor toward yourself. Remember, boundaries are about your emotional health and honoring your goals and commitments. 

Tips For Setting Your Boundaries

To get started, I recommend writing a list of your priorities concerning every area of your life (i.e. spouse, children, friends, work, ministry, etc.). The list may look something like this:

  • Stand up for myself
  • Set time aside for working out and “me” time
  • Learn to say no to some of my social activities 
  • I don’t want to text or email on weekends with work unless it is an emergency

Determine The Boundaries

To determine your boundaries, take your list of priorities and create a boundary for each. Here are some examples…

Priority #1 was to stand up for yourself. You can set the boundary by saying, “I am okay with you expressing your opinion to me, but I also want to have time to express my opinion and for you to listen to me.”

Priority #2 was to set time aside for working out and “me” time. The boundary for this one could look like setting the expectation that for a certain part of the day, you will not be answering texts or phone calls letting those close to you know that you need “me” time each day.

Priority #3 was to learn to say no to some social activities. This could look like you telling friends or coworkers that you are okay with getting together once a month but your priority on the weekends is your spouse and your children. 

Priority #4 was that you don’t want to text or email on weekends with work unless it is an emergency. This boundary would be you expressing to your coworkers and bosses that you are okay with regularly texting and emailing during the week, but, I don’t want to receive communications on the weekend unless it is an emergency. You will be turning off your notifications until Monday. If they need you they can call. 

Setting The Boundaries

Okay, I bet at this point you’re wondering how I set my own boundaries. You may even be feeling anxiety like, there’s no way I could say that to my boss or to my Mom.  

Setting boundaries is, of course, different than creating them because you have to speak up for yourself and communicate the boundaries. Your toxic relationships will surface pretty quickly once you establish your personal space. This is okay because your emotional health is more important than being a people pleaser. This is where the importance of boundaries will surface. 

Your priority in setting boundaries is your emotional well-being. Determining your feelings about a situation is the first step. The hard part is separating your actual feelings from the needs of others. 

I recommend journaling with a focus on your thoughts and feelings letting your authentic self speak. Write down your thoughts and honor them. You owe it to yourself to set a healthy boundary. And, a true friend will respect and honor your boundaries. 

If you have tried everything suggested above and still feel like setting boundaries is a mountain you can’t climb, I recommend seeing a licensed therapist to get to the root of your feelings. Your mental state is a huge part of setting (and keeping) boundaries. 

Enforcing The Boundaries

Just because someone else has poor boundaries doesn’t mean you have to. Remember that boundary setting is about your emotions and not the emotions of others. 

Determining your comfort level with the type of relationship is key to enforcing the boundary. You are not going to share the same personal information with a coworker that you would in a romantic relationship. 

The first step to enforcing the boundary is to decide that you are worth fighting for. Sometimes the first step is all about us taking care of ourselves and our mental well-being. This is the most important step because if you don’t love yourself enough to enforce the boundary then you are back to square one.

Guarding Your Heart

Let’s look at what the bible says in Proverbs 4:23 about loving yourself and guarding your heart. 

So above all, guard the affections of your heart, for they affect all that you are. Pay attention to the welfare of your innermost being, for from there flows the wellspring of life.

Proverbs 4:23 TPT

Proverbs 4:23 The Passion Translation

I love how The Passion Translation (TPT) references your heart as your innermost being. This is your emotional well-being. And, out of that part of your heart flows the wellspring of life. 

In Hebrew, the word leb (pronounced lave) is used for “your heart” in Proverbs 4:23. According to the Strong’s Hebrew Interlinear, “leb” means inner man, mind, will, heart, or understanding. The definition goes on to further clarify with these descriptions:

  • inner part
  • midst (of things)
  • heart (of man)
  • soul, heart (of man)
  • mind, knowledge, thinking, reflection, memory
  • inclination, resolution, determination (of will)
  • conscience
  • heart (of moral character)
  • as seat of appetites
  • as seat of emotions and passions
  • as seat of courage

In essence, the scripture is saying to guard the inner part of you which is your soul, your mind, your knowledge, thinking, reflection, memory, and the seat of emotions, passions, and courage within you. 

Proverbs 4:23 New Living Translation

Now, let’s look at the New Living Translation (NLT). It says that your heart determines the course of your life. 

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

Proverbs 4:23 NLT

Enforcing boundaries is how you walk out guarding your heart above all else. In navigating the journey of setting healthy boundaries, remember that it’s ultimately an act of self-love and honoring your personal needs. Just as a well-tended garden flourishes, so too will your emotional well-being when you set boundaries. 

Honoring Yourself In A Healthy Way

Whether it’s honoring your need for solitude, expressing your opinions, or guarding your time, each boundary you set is a declaration of your self-worth and a commitment to honor yourself. As you embrace this journey, let the wisdom of Proverbs 4:23 remind you to: “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” 

Your strong boundaries and convictions will determine the course of your life. So, stand firm in your boundaries, cherish your emotional health, and remember that you are worthy of the love and respect you give to others. 

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