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  • Dr. Bernadette P. Smith

Saying No and Setting Limits: How to Establish Boundaries and Protect Your Peace



As a mental health professional, I often talk to my clients about the importance of setting boundaries. Boundaries are essential for taking care of ourselves and protecting our well-being and our peace. They allow us to set limits on how others can treat us and give us the ability to say "no" when necessary.


But sometimes, setting boundaries means cutting people off - even if it's family. This can be a difficult and painful decision, but it's necessary if someone is consistently crossing your boundaries or causing harm. It's important to remember that you have the right to prioritize your own well-being and happiness.


Cutting someone off does not mean you don't care about them. It means you care about yourself and your own well-being enough to make a difficult decision. It's okay to put yourself first. In fact, setting and enforcing boundaries is an essential part of self-care.


I also want to also share, that cutting someone off, doesn't automatically mean you aren't talking to them at all. Cutting someone off could look like:

  1. Setting limits: You can set limits on how much time you spend with the person or how often you communicate with them. You can also set limits on the types of interactions you have, such as not engaging in any negative or toxic conversations.

  2. Setting boundaries: You can communicate your boundaries to the person and let them know what behaviors or actions are not acceptable. You can also enforce your boundaries by taking action if they are violated.

  3. Cutting off communication: You can choose to stop communicating with the person altogether. This might mean blocking their phone number, unfriending them on social media, or not responding to their messages.

  4. Limiting contact: You can limit your contact with the person to only certain situations or locations, such as avoiding them at work or social events.


Now that we have established that, why is it so hard for some people to set boundaries? One reason is that we may feel guilty or selfish for saying "no" or putting our own needs first. We may also fear rejection or confrontation, or feel obligated to please others. But it's important to remember that setting boundaries is a healthy and necessary part of any relationship. It allows us to maintain a sense of autonomy and respect for ourselves, and helps prevent resentment and burnout (Nelson, 2019).


Boundaries can be physical, emotional, or mental. Physical boundaries involve personal space and touch. Emotional boundaries involve feelings and how we allow others to affect us. Mental boundaries involve thoughts, opinions, and beliefs (Nelson, 2019).

Here are some tips for setting healthy boundaries:

  1. Know your limits: Take some time to think about what you are and are not comfortable with. What are your boundaries? What do you need in order to feel safe and respected?

  2. Communicate your boundaries: It's important to let others know what your boundaries are. Be clear and direct, but also be respectful and considerate of the other person's feelings.

  3. Practice saying "no": It's okay to say "no" to requests or invitations if they don't align with your boundaries or values. It's better to be honest and upfront rather than agreeing to something and then feeling overwhelmed or resentful.

  4. Follow through: If someone continues to violate your boundaries, it may be necessary to take further action, such as setting firmer limits or even cutting them off. It's okay to do what you need to do to protect yourself and your peace.

If you're struggling with setting boundaries or need support in making tough decisions, don't hesitate to seek help. One of our amazing counselors can work with you to develop healthy boundaries and support you in navigating relationships. You don't have to do it alone.


Setting boundaries is an important part of self-care and maintaining healthy relationships. It's okay to put yourself first and prioritize your peace. Remember that you deserve to be treated with respect and kindness.


References:

  • Nelson, J. (2019). Boundaries: When to say yes, how to say no to take control of your life. Zondervan.





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