The Montfort Group

How To Effectively Set Boundaries

This one is for people of all ages. Do any of you have difficulty saying no? And I am not referring to significant inquiries. I’m talking about scenarios such as going to that event after work or giving someone a ride that’s far enough out of the way to add 30 minutes to your commute, going for Chinese even though you really wanted a spicy margarita and fajitas, or watching your partner’s choice of television for the ninth day in a row when really, all you want to do is watch Grey’s Anatomy reruns to end the day.

Maybe, it isn’t the act of saying no, but merely not stating what it is you want in the face of avoiding conflict. You’ve always been perceived as the “laid back type,” and it doesn’t really bother you that you’re watching the TV go from watching Luka Doncic’s 10th triple-double this month to the Monday night football game, and sometimes even a Dallas Stars brawl with the opposing team.

Can any of you relate? I often wonder, what’s behind that? What has most often been reported to me from clients are things similar to: “I don’t want to disappoint people,” “I don’t want to let people down,” I don’t want to upset anyone,” or “it’s not worth arguing.”

And then I catch myself wondering… and what’s behind THAT? What are they going to think of me? How will I be perceived if I don’t go to that party (even though I worked a 70 hour week and just want to sit on my couch and watch Netflix)?

Always doing, always being the yes man. It sounds exhausting.

What I’m telling you is, sometimes, it’s okay to choose yourself. In fact, I encourage you to do so. Let’s chalk it up to self-care. Setting boundaries is a form of self-care.

I’ll give you a personal example (and yes, I know I am therapist- what you should know is that unfortunately, I haven’t been pardoned from being a part of the human race. I too, have struggled).

I once found myself in a relationship where I was absolutely being taken advantage of; doing everything and receiving close to nothing in return. After the breakup and during my anger stage of the grieving process, it was easy for me to point blame and resent him. And boy did I. I was doing all of the things and this is what I get? All of the things meaning, letting his dogs out every day, cleaning, cooking (let’s not forget meal prepping), driving to him 85% of the time, holding him up in moments of despair even though I hardly had the energy to hold myself up. Being so busy taking care of him that I forgot about me. And to what end? To get broken up within the passenger seat of his vehicle after our friends’ party where he completely ignored me. Did I mention it was the fourth of July? Talk about fireworks.

I was tired. I was so tired.

After I allotted myself the time I needed to be angry, I found myself wondering, what role did I play in this dynamic? He didn’t ask me to do all of those things. Not every time anyways. He would ask what I wanted to watch, and I would usually reply that I didn’t care (I did). Or where did I want to eat and I would generally let him decide (pizza it was – I don’t even really like pizza).

None of those things really bothered me at first. Until they did. I found myself trying so hard to get him to love me by loving him in the ways that I knew how that I lost sight of loving myself. It didn’t matter what I wanted as long as he was happy. I had no boundaries. And it wasn’t his fault. It was mine.

Now I understand that during that time, I didn’t respect myself. So, why should he?

Let’s shift the focus for a moment- think about the important people in your life. Maybe those who share your last name (maybe not) or the people you choose to fill your spare time with. People you consider to be a part of your inner circle. People whom you love and love you in return. Don’t worry- I’m getting to the how-to portion in a moment.

Truth is, setting boundaries is relatively simple. You say what YOU want. “I want to watch Grey’s Anatomy.” “I want to eat Tex-Mex.” “I think I am going to stay in and watch TV on my couch.” Side note: notice I didn’t give an explanation.

Another thing I fell victim to for so long. If I did say no or change my mind about going to an event, I had to have a good reason. Actually, you don’t. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. Sometimes you’re just tired, and THAT’S OKAY! If it’s not, I encourage you to examine that relationship (friendship, family, significant other, etc.). Am I having to put more energy into this relationship than I want? Am I scared to say what I really want? Do I often have to explain myself?

People who love you, respect your boundaries. People who love you don’t leave you for saying what you want.

My prior relationship- it never had a chance. I was my own worst enemy.

Setting boundaries doesn’t make you selfish. Sometimes, choosing yourself gives you the ability to be the best version of yourself for you and for others. Choosing yourself shows that you respect yourself. Respecting yourself is a great way to learn to love yourself.

Picture of Courtney Strull, MS, LPC

Courtney Strull, MS, LPC

I attended The University of Texas in Austin where I majored in Psychology and minored in Sociology. During my undergraduate coursework, I did research under Dr. Rebecca Bigler, where I studied gender and racial attitudes among children. Upon competition of my undergraduate degree, I moved to Dallas to attend Southern Methodist University’s Master of Science in Counseling program and completed all the training to become a Licensed Professional Counselor.

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