Is Setting Boundaries Selfish?

Setting Boundaries


Why Boundaries?

Setting boundaries and sticking to them might seem selfish and restrictive at first to those unfamiliar with the concept. But as the well-known proverb reminds us:

“Good fences make good neighbors.”

Good boundaries, whether they be physical (like fences) or personal, clearly define where one person ends and the next person begins. They are the rules that each of us has that tell other people how we wish to be treated.

Personal boundaries help us define who we are and what we value most in everyday life. They show that we take responsibility for our own lives and allow others to do the same for their lives. Setting healthy personal boundaries and sharing them with those we interact with every day can save us from experiencing a lot of heartache and emotional turmoil.

What Happens When We Don’t Have Them?

We all have limitations when it comes to what we feel comfortable with or able to do in our lives. When we don’t have strong boundaries, when we fear saying no to people, we can end up giving away a lot of our energy, sometimes to the point of exhaustion.

The point of setting good boundaries is not to keep others away from us; but rather, to enable us to care well for the relationships we have so so that they don’t send us over the edge physically, mentally, emotionally or spiritually.

Even Jesus set boundaries. So we do well to follow His example.


How Can We Set and Maintain Good Personal Boundaries?

  1. Know the Difference Between Healthy and Unhealthy Boundaries.

    Healthy Boundaries are Unselfish.

    Let’s start by defining what healthy personal boundaries are. Boundaries are the limits (fences) we place around our emotions, our time, our physical, and mental and spiritual capabilities. Setting them is a strategy we can use to remain resilient and able to perform at our best in our lives.

    Here’s what healthy personal boundaries can do for us:

    • They serve to keep us safe from dangerous and draining situations involving other people which can make us miserable and/or unhealthy.
    • They allow us live creative, fulfilled and balanced lives where we don’t feel too overwhelmed.
    • They provide essential support for our overall health and well being.
    • If we don’t understand our limitations (boundaries) and share them with other people, we can quickly get over our heads in family obligations, relationships, or work to the point of feeling exploited or taken advantage of by the people we consider to be our friends and loved ones.
    • Healthy boundaries define what we’re willing to say “yes” to and what we should say “no” to so that we have the energy, empathy and compassion necessary to respond to others needs in a timely, caring way. They do not seek to control others behavior, only our own.

    Unhealthy Boundaries Are Selfish.

    Some people use boundaries to try to make people act and live their lives the way they want, to cover up for their own selfishness. Boundaries can become selfish (unhealthy) when:

    • They are used as an excuse for laziness.
    • They are used to make one look good at others expense.
    • They are used to avoid communication or confrontation with anyone having a different point of view.
    • They are used to manipulate or control others.
    • They violate another’s personal or emotional space.
  2. Know Your Limits.

    What makes you comfortable? What makes you uncomfortable? Ask yourself what kinds of things cause you stress and discomfort in each part of your life. Anything which drains your energy or causes emotional distress should be removed from your life as much as possible. Your boundaries should keep you feeling safe, supported, energetic, and happy.

  3. Learn To Communicate Your Boundaries

    The only way people can respect your limits is if they know what they are. Be clear about what you can and can’t accept from other people.

    Every yes and no you say will shape your reality and how other people treat you in the future. When something goes against your boundaries, be ready to say “no” and stand by your decision.

  4. Be consistent in upholding your boundaries.

    Finally, consistency is key! Hold steady and be firm without being unkind. While you might change your mind about your limitations in the future, it’s important to not be constantly adjusting your boundaries.

    As hard as it can be to say “no” to someone you care about, you need to be ready to fight for your boundaries if necessary.

Remember: other people will only respect your boundaries when you respect them yourself. Once you’ve decided where and when you draw the line when it comes to compromise, be committed to maintaining and defending your boundaries whenever the occasion calls for it. Learn how to say no to people, speak the truth in love, and live within your personal limitations.

To Your Health!
Sharon Iezzi
Oklahoma Academy Country Store

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