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How to Set Boundaries and Manage Guilty Feelings

Learning to set boundaries can be challenging for some people. But, it’s necessary to do it, so you can protect your mental health. Many times when you set limits with others, they will respect you. In an ideal scenario you will have the opportunity to express your needs and get them met. Sometimes, it’s not easy for people to set boundaries, because they may feel guilty. A person may feel as if they’re doing something wrong. In reality, there isn’t anything the matter with asking for what you need out of a situation. Here’s why it’s important to set boundaries and what you can do if you start feeling guilty when you express your limits.


Honor your feelings

One reason for setting boundaries is to honor your feelings. It begins with observing your emotions. Notice how you feel when somebody pushes your limits. For example, imagine you work for a boss who is demanding. Your work shift ends at 4 PM. As you are getting ready to leave, instead of respecting your work hours your boss asks that you continue working on a project. You begrudgingly keep on task even though it’s after 4 PM and feel resentful. Instead of harboring resentment, you could set a boundary. You can say to your boss “I love this job, but I need to keep strict hours because I committed to a shift of 8am – 4pm.” It’s okay to express that you would be happy to take overtime hours, but you cannot work for free. When you stick up for yourself and set those boundaries, you may experience anxiety or guilt. That doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong.

Boundaries and anxiety

Some people become anxious when they set boundaries because they’re unsure of how the other person will react. They’re worried that the individual on the other end will have a poor response to their boundary setting. This sort of thinking can stagnate a person from expressing what they need or setting limits. If you feel anxious when you’re setting a boundary, remember it’s a normal feeling. There’s nothing wrong with you if you have anxiety about setting limits. Nevertheless, it’s important to express your needs and set those boundaries so that you don’t build up resentment.

When guilt comes up

Guilt is a common emotion that comes up when people set boundaries. You may feel as if you’re doing something wrong by saying “no.” Remember, you have a right to your thoughts and feelings. If something doesn’t sit right, trust your instincts. Your guilt could be coming from a variety of sources. Maybe you feel bad because you don’t want to set a boundary (and as a result) hurt someone else’s feelings. The important thing to remember is setting boundaries is about prioritizing your feelings first. Guilt is an emotion that many of us experience. It’s okay to acknowledge your guilty feelings, but don’t get stuck in them. Setting boundaries can help you further your emotional well-being. You need to take care of yourself, because nobody else will do that. You want to feel emotionally independent and setting boundaries is a way to do that. It’s also taking care of yourself. There’s no need to feel guilty about utilizing self-care.

Boundaries and self care

Self-care and boundaries are interconnected. Part of taking care of yourself means setting boundaries and limits with people so that you maintain your mental well-being. Only you know what you are capable of accomplishing. It’s important not to overextend yourself. If you have trouble with boundary-setting, that is something you can practice and get better at over time. It can help to talk these feelings out with a close friend or family member. You can also speak with a licensed therapist and learn how to effectively set boundaries. When you’re searching for a therapist, check out some of the best therapy resources online. Consider talking with an online therapist to work through boundary issues. Therapy is an excellent place to discuss how to set limits with others and enhance your emotional well-being. If you have trouble setting boundaries, it’s okay to admit it. That’s the first step to learning to be assertive. After that it takes practice. The more you set boundaries the better you will become at it.

Marie Miguel Biography 

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health 
related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health 
resource with With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with 
mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.