Importance of Boundaries


Are you the type of person that can't say no to people?

Let's look at an example. Your Friday schedule is full: you have to finish up projects at work, pick up your kids from school, cook dinner, have a date night, and clean the house for guests that will be arriving that weekend.

Already, you have no time to breathe or relax. But then you get a call on Thursday. Your neighbor wants you to volunteer at a community event in the afternoon for a few hours.

And what do you do? You immediately say, "yes." Followed by immediate regret.

This situation may happen with anyone in our lives: our partner, our boss, our mother-in-law. No matter who is asking for our help, it is hard to disappoint someone who is in need.

When someone asks for a favor, it is natural to start rearranging your schedule so you can tell the person "yes" and get their satisfaction. But sometimes agreeing to help stretches you too thin and creates unrealistic expectations.

Sure, it's great to help other people if we are physically capable, but it is more important to create boundaries and keep our self-respect in mind.

Why Create Boundaries?

Creating boundaries with other people helps to build up our self-respect.

Our schedules should be respected, whether it involves self-care (it should!) or other tasks. But when we let people cross boundaries and take advantage of our kindness, their respect for our time disappears.

Let's go back to the example above. A neighbor asks you to volunteer your time. You automatically say, "yes," despite your busy schedule.

By saying "yes," you send a message to your neighbor that says their time is a high priority of yours. Saying "yes" tells your neighbor that they can rely on you for future favors. One community event becomes another the next week, and the next week, and the next. Especially if you are still struggling to create boundaries.

Don't let your kindness spiral out of control.

Let's take a step back for a second.

Before you agreed to the community event, you had promised yourself that you would complete specific tasks and projects. In order to help your neighbor, these will have to be pushed aside. Or you may have to sacrifice a good night's sleep to get them done.

The bottom line: something has got to give. You only have 24 hours in a day.

But life also requires balance. You can't load up your plate with work and sacrifice play. You can't do things solely to help others and neglect yourself. If you do, you'll burn out quickly.

Remember, even if a person seems desperate for your help or your time, they are the person who is in charge of finding help, not you. If someone is asking you for a favor, you are not obliged to accept and carry out the favor. All that you can focus on is the tasks that you have to complete, and how to manage your schedule.

How to Create Boundaries

Of course, it's a lot easier to tell someone to say no than it is to actually do it yourself. Even if we know we should refuse to do a favor or take on a task, your impulse may still be to say "yes."

So how can you change this habit?

First, stop and pause. Take a moment after someone has asked you for something to stop and think logically about your schedule and your ability to complete the favor.

Be honest with yourself. It's normal to reason with ourselves and try to convince ourselves that we can do a million different things at one time. But if you aren't immediately hopping on the opportunity to do the favor, or have any hesitations, it's time to build a boundary. How?

Memorize these two boundary statements:

  • "That's not going to work for me."

  • "I'm not sure that's going to work for me. Let me check my schedule and I'll get back to you."

Know these statements like the back of your hand. Memorize them. Rehearse them if you have to. Stand in front of a mirror and repeat them over and over to yourself until you feel confident to use them when you are under pressure.

The first boundary statement is useful for when you know that a favor isn't going to work out. It immediately shuts down the offer in a way that is honest, but still kind.

The second boundary statement is useful for when you aren't sure whether or not you have time to do what the person is asking. This response gives you time to check your schedule, and think about what you have to get done that day. When you have made your decision, you can contact the person and tell them whether or not you can complete the favor.

Don't Apologize For Having Respect for Your Time

If you have to tell someone "no," do not apologize or give an excuse that you think will satisfy the other person. Respect your time, and respect the time that you need to complete your goals.

Here's a good tip: replace "I'm sorry" with "thank you."

In a situation where you are creating a boundary, you may want to say, "I'm sorry, but I can't volunteer for the event on Friday." Replace that statement with, "Thank you for considering me, but that's not going to work for me."

This second statement keeps the conversation positive, while creating a reasonable boundary. You should never feel ashamed for respecting yourself and your time.

Let's Wrap This Up

Moving forward, try to make a clear distinction between "yes" and "no" after someone has asked you for a favor. Align your answers with your core values, as well as respect for yourself and your time. Taking control of your schedule and your priorities will make you feel powerful and boost your overall self-respect.

For further inquiries:

Check out Damian Duplechain, marriage counselor, at

Phone: (713) 409- 8111