Gentle ways to start setting boundaries

Setting boundaries.

Does that phrase give you cold chills down your back as you think about HOW you may possibly stand up to someone in your life who is belittling you, placing their expectations on you, or otherwise crossing into territory you don’t feel comfortable with letting go any longer?

What about the thought of setting boundaries on your own thoughts. so you don’t keep torturing yourself? Does that sound impossible?

Sometimes we put up with poor behavior from others for YEARS before we reach a point where we say “No more!”.

The other person will look at us in surprise and ask “Why now, why are you telling me this NOW when you have tolerated it for so long?”

This is where we have 2 choices: 1) to cave into their expectations and hopes that we will “Fall in line”, as we did before and allow them to walk over us, or 2) to find a way to stand up for ourselves.

I’m a little tied up right now, I’’ drop you a note once I’m free.

I’d rather not discuss my relationship/ body/ choices right now.

Thanks so much for the invite, however, I’m not available in the evening.

It sounds great but I’m really feeling like I need some time to myself this weekend.

I’d really like to help you out but I’ve got some pressing things I need to attend to for myself/first.

I can see you’re upset + I’d love to help you,however I don’t have the space/ capacity right now.

You have every right to feel the way you do, however I’m not comfortable taking sides/ with this conversation.

Look at the above phrases for inspiration. Which ones apply to you?

Practice saying them. Over and over!

What other ones could you add to your list of possible things to say in response?

By repeating and practicing the phrases we would like to say, we have a chance of remembering something in the midst of those very uncomfortable moments when we get put on the spot and all good responses flee from our brain!

When I wanted to change how I responded to someone, I’d practice what I wanted to say.

I know it sounds corny or trite, but if you’re like me and your brain goes blank when put on the spot, either by getting humiliated or just plain embarrassed, it is helpful to have some phrases in our back pocket to fall back on.

Under no circumstances are we required to immediately answer if we are so shocked or hurt by something said to us.

In fact, taking a moment to look steadily at the other person as we collect our thoughts, underscores the weight of responding to them when we set a boundary in place.

We aren’t required to argue our point, to prove why the other person is being unreasonable or hurtful.

Getting into those kinds of arguments only gives them ammunition to use against us when they twist our words against us, making us feel even more helpless. That is part of their tactics they use against us, if you haven’t already noticed!

I have found that being slow to respond, then speaking in a measured and calm tone, that people take my words much more seriously and don’t tend to brush them off as easily!

As far as setting boundaries with ourselves, please check out the links below to posts where I have spoken about this concept.

Remember, there is a fine line between practicing phrases ans simply falling down the rabbit-hole of imagining how the conversation might go. In my own experience, I have seen that 99.9% of the time, nothing goes how I had imagined it.

People will surprise us, continually, and determining ahead of time what we are prepared to do and where the line in the sand lies is very helpful.

Trust your gut too. When your stomach starts to clench or feel sour, listen.

It is telling you something isn’t aligning with you. It doesn’t mean it is bad for you, but maybe it just isn’t something that will work for you right now.

Please be gentle with yourself if you do allow your boundaries to be crossed. Please don’t berate yourself, or tell yourself “There you go again! Why can’t you ever learn?”

Remember, we’re all a work in progress, and we need to learn to give ourselves grace, to see ourselves where we are right now and not constantly expecting ourselves to be able to respond at a level 3 steps ahead of where we currently are!

If you’ve been reading my posts, the positive messages have been slowly percolating through the different layers, helping you to change and to become the person your working to be.

I hope you’ll poke around my Archived Posts to find a wonderful trove of supportive and encouraging posts!

I’m sharing more posts that may be helpful for you:

I have created some Guided Journals help you work on a particular issue by answering questions to help see patterns and to find solutions:

Removing Inner Blocks,     Anger Journal,     Guided Anxiety Journal    Joy & Mindfulness Journal     My Boundaries Journal   My Inner Thoughts Journal   

More good stuff:

Teaching ourselves to like, even to love ourselves

By changing our inner dialogue, we change EVERYTHING!

Challenge: When a negative thought enters your mind, think three positive ones. Train yourself to flip the script!

Red Ocean or Blue Ocean? How do you think?

An answer to dealing with the Inner Critic!

My top 10 most viewed posts, plus a few bonuses!

A helpful trick to be able to overcome negatively Comparing Ourselves to others…

Do you only accept yourself if you look a certain way?

A new you! Is this possible?

Please go to my Archived Posts page to find more wonderful posts to check out!

Thank you for sharing this post and for following me!
Tamara Archived Posts:

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33 thoughts on “Gentle ways to start setting boundaries

  1. I would add something essential. If the individual you are dealing with is used to you buckling in the face of his/her offense, he will not give up easily. It is likely that you will be tested on several more occasions, especially if his efforts have produced the result he wants.

    Moreover, he may say more that is troublesome, indicting you for changes he will characterize as making you unkind or selfish. The best way to take on such a person is to be prepared for a perhaps lengthy period of time in which he continues to push you to return to your default method of dealing with him.

    You must be prepared for the possibility that you will both lose him and have to endure his gossip about how you have turned for the worse. Unless you are prepared for the possibilities I’ve described, you may buckle again. Effectively this teaches him to keep going after you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely that is a possible outcome. I briefly touched on those points to but not with the details you gave. It is difficult to break free, but it requires determination to go up against all the ammo that gets thrown our way when we do. Sometimes it is better to start small and build our way up, other times we need a clean break from the people walking all over us. If the person gives us a lot of pushback when we try to set our limits, we can be assured they’re doing it for their own benefit and not ours.


    1. I really struggled with it too when I first started. I had to work my way up to be able to do some of the hard ones, so I started with what I thought were the easier ones. Once I started practicing it slowly became easier. I wish you all the best with this learning and practicing curve.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Be a rebel! Be a badass! Set those boundaries! It’s okay to start with the easier ones! Throw off society’s expectations, they won’t respect you anyway if you don’t have boundaries!

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I think we should start setting boundaries before any new friendship/relationship. Because if we doesn’t, then at one point we will get overwhelmed and then setting boundaries immediately will be hard.
    Setting healthy boundary is must.
    I’ll read it more again.
    I’m saving it because I love the topic.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, ideally, we’d be setting boundaries right away. However, thankfully there is no statute of limitations, so even if the relationship has been unhealthy or even toxic for years, we can pump the brakes on behaviors we no longer wish to tolerate. Yes, there may be hurt feelings, but ultimately it is our right to implement changes at any time we feel we are ready to do so. *smile!*


        1. Yes, that is only possible when we know what we need to do from the beginning. However, too many of us only learn we need to do this when we’re well into relationships.

          My mother was abusive, and I only learned about setting boundaries in my adulthood, but because of the damage she did, I chose friendships and life partners who were damaged and toxic too, so when I finally learned how to set boundaries for my mental and physical health, it was done mid-stream in all those relationships. Did that create difficulties? Yes, because the people wanted to keep behaving towards me how they always did, I was saying to them I needed things to change in order to continue the relationship.

          There are many people like me who have come from abusive or toxic families, who choose the same kinds of friends and partners, who need to learn these skills.

          These tips are for the people who need to learn to make changes, but to do it in a gentle and respectful way.

          They may well experience pushback from people who are benefitting from a lack of boundaries, who want things to remain exactly as they are. Change always creates a potential for struggle, but for the person suffering from a lack of boundaries, their mental and physical health may tell them they cannot continue with the status quo, so the growing pains of change is necessary for them.

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Michele! These seem to fit so many situations, and of course people can customize their own phrases when they see these examples!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve read this post at least three times and read all the phrases to use when setting boundaries when dealing with other people’s demands or requests. I’ve practised the phrases, but how do I stop myself when talking to someone from always beginning with, “I’m sorry, but … .” I find myself apologising for everything and anything when I’m trying to be a bit more assertive – it’s almost like I’m apologising for being myself. Any ideas on how to get out of this habit, please, Tamara? Is it a lack of assertiveness, lack of confidence, etc.? I’ve thought about this in the past but have never come up with a reason or a solution. Any advice you can give me will be very welcome, as always. Thanks. X 💕

    Liked by 2 people

    1. As a Canadian, we get trained to apologize for everything, so I relate!

      I found that slowing myself down really helped. Not jumping in too quickly with an answer was key to gaining control over what comes out of my mouth!

      By practicing a pause or two before answering helps to get the thoughts properly lined up.

      We aren’t obligated to give a quick answer. In fact if we are going to say no, practicing a long pause is helpful also to let the other person know non-verbally that something isn’t sitting well with us and we’re taking the time to find the right words! I hope this helps!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks, Tamara. I’m glad you could relate, and that’s a really helpful idea to slow down my reply while I have a moment to think about what I want to say. I know that body language is very powerful. Believe it or not, I once had a carer for two years (I don’t have care any more as my kitchen is adapted for wheelchair use, allowing me to independent again (thankfully). That carer would make my breakfast in the morning and always put too little milk on it – I was literally scared to ask her for some milk! That’s how timid and non-assertive I was back then. I do have home help now, but still find it difficult to ask her to do something that she’s forgotten to do. I’ve never been an assertive person, but I guess it’s never too late to learn in the most gentle way. I always appreciate your support and advice, Tamara. Have a great day. Xx 🌼💕

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yup, from what you’re describing, you were quite timid! As you see now, it is okay to ask for help, to ask for what we need, and even to ask for what we want! I believe it is all in how we ask! I’m happy you are practicing gentle ways of asking! Don’t forget to speak gently to yourself! Have a wonderful day yourself!

          Liked by 1 person

    1. I get it. There’s a tendency to go from lamb to lion, and finding the middle ground takes learning on the go. It’s something we all need to go through as we fine-tune our responses. I feared the backlash. It was very real with some people. I got to see that the people who gave me the biggest backlash were the ones I was best off without. It was difficult for me to see that at the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I used to be such a people-pleaser. Learning to set boundaries and say “no” changed my life in such drastic ways. Like you, I find it challenging to be put on the spot, so I like the idea of delaying a response and then practicing what will be said. So insightful! Thank you for, Tamara! 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m happy to see there is someone else who practices this! I found it to be very empowering to be able to just say no without having to go into indepth explanations of my chronic illness and how the pain affected my sleep, making me chronically exhausted. I was told too often that I was just lazy in response, so having gentle phrases where those kinds of responses could be avoided became golden currency for my mental health!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. That is so true! I was always surprised when that happened, but looking back now I see the friendships weren’t very healthy for me, so the parting of ways ended up being a blessing in disguise. I don’t know if this was your experience too.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. It’s hard to know. But if not blessings, they were events that opened my eyes… so roundabout blessings. There are some relationships (including a best friend) that were painful losses… back when I was sick, but before I realized I was sick. I falling asleep over dinner and forgetting birthdays, and they thought it was because I “didn’t care about the friendship,” not because they may be something wrong.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. I get it. There was so much I didn’t understand then about chronic pain and sleep deprivation that I couldn’t educate the people around me. I think these days there’s more information and discussions about how it affects us physically and our mental health too. I count myself lucky and am grateful to be out of those heavy seas and storms!

              Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, now you have a great response! I think javing a better response ready helps us to place those boundaries in place, almost like they give us permission to do so! I know I used to feel very guilty if I tried to say no, but learning some gentle responses really helped me out.

      Liked by 1 person

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