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5 Myths About Setting Boundaries That Steal Your Joy and Lead to Resentment

Meditating in a Bubble

Compassionate people ask for what they need. They say no when they need to, and when they say yes, they mean it. They’re compassionate because their boundaries keep them out of resentment.” ~Brené Brown

Do you find yourself saying yes when you’d rather say no? Are you inexplicably exhausted all the time? Do you often experience anger, bitterness, or resentment toward yourself or others?

I did too for a long time.

I’m a recovering people pleaser. For as long as I can remember, I desired to keep everyone around me happy. I was also very fearful of upsetting others.

Over time, I found myself doing whatever I could to keep others happy. In short, this meant saying yes to just about every request that came my way. No matter the day or time, no matter what I was doing, I found time for others by neglecting my own needs.

For instance, I often need time alone for personal reflection and meditation. But instead of starting my day with silence, I would begin my days by checking email. This would often cause me to start my day feeling stressed. At the end of each day I was often exhausted and irritable.

Over time, this path became unsustainable. By not giving myself the care I needed, I was much less effective at caring for others. As my feelings of resentment and bitterness grew, I knew that something had to give. I needed to develop healthy boundaries to protect myself and others.

Over the years, as I’ve strengthened my own boundaries and helped others do so, I’ve found some common misconceptions about boundaries that keep people from creating and enforcing them.

If you struggle with boundaries, it’s likely that you’re consciously or unconsciously harboring some of these misconceptions as well:

1. Boundaries are not needed in intimate relationships.

Every relationship needs boundaries to be healthy. Setting boundaries is all about establishing ownership over what’s yours versus what belongs to someone else. Boundaries may be physical, emotional, or spiritual. Dr. Henry Cloud, author of Boundaries, defines the concept this way:

“Boundaries define us. They define what is me and what is not me. A boundary shows me where I end and someone else begins, leading me to a sense of ownership.”

No relationship, no matter how familial, is exempt—that includes relationships with spouses, lovers, children, parents, coworkers, extended family, and close friends. This misconception alone is responsible for a high degree of dysfunction in our families and intimate relationships.

It’s actually rare for people to have boundary problems with total strangers or acquaintances. People often struggle with boundary issues in their most personal relationships.

It makes sense: those who know us best may use that knowledge to manipulate us. Most of the time, this happens unconsciously but it makes the reality no less painful. However, the solution is not to pretend that nothing’s wrong for the sake of the relationship.

2. Boundary setting is for selfish people.

If you’ve had loose boundaries for a long time and attempt to put some in place, it’s almost guaranteed that someone will call you “selfish.”

For some people, the idea of losing their power over you will cause them to do or say almost anything to keep you under their control. Others are simply unaware of the ways in which they were conditioned to view any form of self-care as selfish.

If you’re a naturally generous person, you may refrain from creating or enforcing boundaries for fear of being viewed as selfish and cold. However, setting boundaries is one of the most generous things you can do for others.

Boundary setting is not about being selfish; it’s about protecting the spiritual property rights of yourself and others. Because it’s not just about protecting yourself from others, it’s also about protecting others from your own potential toxic behaviors that may unconsciously occur when your needs are not being met.

In my case, when I did not give myself the alone time I needed, I often snapped at the people closest to me. This reality finally convinced me to take action by waking up earlier in the morning to spend the first moments of my day in solitude.

3. Setting boundaries means being aggressive toward others.

If you’re a sensitive person, this common myth can be an obstacle to setting proper boundaries. Boundary setting does not mean that you need to get in peoples’ faces, have nasty arguments, or display acts of aggression toward others. In fact, aggression is a sign of poor boundaries.

Setting boundaries is really about modifying your own behavior to conform to the reality that you are limited in what you can do for others. It means recognizing that to effectively bring your authentic self to others, you must care for yourself—not as an afterthought, but in a primary way.

4. Setting boundaries involves saying no all the time.

Undoubtedly, learning to say no is a big part of proper boundary setting, but this is not the end all be all. Learning to say no is ultimately about learning to say yes to the things that truly matter in your relationships with yourself and others. In other words, “no’s” pave the way to authentic “yes’s.”

It’s also important to realize that not all boundaries are created equally. Boundaries have different levels of permeability depending on the nature of the relationship and the individual on the other end of the relationship.

Boundaries tend to be more permeable when dealing with the people closest to you (quite different from having no boundaries at all) and less so when dealing with strangers. However, if the family member is highly manipulative then the boundary will need to be less permeable.

5. Nobody will like you if you set boundaries.

We resist setting boundaries to appear more likeable to others. If you’re a recovering people pleaser like me, you’ll be tempted to answer phone calls, emails, or texts immediately. You’ll quietly bear the lion’s share of the workload at school or in the workplace, and you’re probably wearing many hats as a church or non-profit volunteer. Finally, you can be counted on to take on any other roles that nobody else wants to sign up for.

If you’ve lived this way for many years, upending the balance can seem daunting. Besides, everyone thinks you’re a saint and you feel highly regarded by your peers.

This may be true, but it’s also likely that some of these people actually respect you less and view you as a pushover. Some will actively take advantage of your kindness because they know they can always get what they want from you. Are these relationships really worth protecting?

Free Yourself By Defining Your Boundaries

Are you ready to be free of resentment and bitterness?

If you’ve resonated with these misconceptions, you already know that it’s time to try something new.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take today to begin setting boundaries in your life. These include: clearly defining your values, learning to say no, asking for what you need, and making time for yourself.

Defining your boundaries will feel cold and hostile in the beginning. But if you do it with a compassionate heart, you’ll regain your joy.

And you’ll increase the joy of those around you.

Editor’s Note: Cylon has generously offered to give five readers free access to the Kindle version of his book Self-Love: How to Love Yourself Unconditionally. With this book, you’ll learn how to overcome negative thinking, grow your confidence, and transform your life.

To enter for a chance to win, leave a comment below. You don’t need to write anything specific—“count me in for the giveaway!” is sufficient. You can enter until midnight PST on Friday, September 2nd.

Update: The winners for this giveaway are: Melody of Life, Regan, Michael Gibson, Mary Banks, and Dylan Montanez.

About Cylon George

Cylon is a spiritual chaplain, musician, devoted husband, busy dad of six, and author of Self-Love: How to Love Yourself Unconditionally. He blogs about practical spiritual tips for living well at Spiritual Living For Busy People. Sign up and get his free guide 20 Little Tricks To Instantly Improve Your Mood Even If You Feel Like Punching Something (or Someone).

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  • Katie

    Great post! I struggle a lot with setting boundaries, so this has been really thought-provoking for me. Count me in for the giveaway!

  • Kelly Frey

    I need to set boundaries–help!

  • Sarah

    Fabulous tool there to use with myself and tips to pass on to those I work with. Would be very gretful for a copy of the book

  • I recently had to overhaul some personal relationships due to lack of boundaries, and my difficult recognition of this lack of boundaries showed up as aggression. When I dealt with why I was feeling aggressive (repressed anger due to a perceived lack of control), then I knew which areas and relationships to set my boundaries in. It was a supremely uncomfortable process but you’re right – one does free oneself by defining one’s boundaries.

  • Samantha

    please and thank you

  • MainerDeb

    Excellent article and seems to be always timely…

  • Samantha Jane Galati

    Count me in 🙂

  • KTR

    Love it!

  • Aegira

    Sometimes I think the universe can be as subtle as a sledgehammer, count me in please.

  • Aimee Mangher

    I start my mornings by reading tiny buddha posts and once I started applying what I read rather than just reading it and not acting upon it, I’ve noticed a big change in my demeanour and how I go about life. please count me in for the giveaway!!

  • jacquie astemborski

    please count me in 🙂

  • Aimee Mangher

    as much as I have taken time to set boundaries for myself with my partner and our relationship has flourished because of doing so, I find it really hard to set boundaries with my parents and it’s causing turmoil in my life. any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. they don’t mean any harm and have the best intentions for me at heart, but their methods of relaying the message come from a place of heavy manipulation, guilt, controlling, minimizing, justifying…. all things that are typically linked to an unhealthy relationship, so it doesn’t feel any different than past abusive relationships, but these are my parents and they want the best for me but they don’t make me feel good and don’t take criticism well at all 🙁

  • Melanie

    Tiny Buddha is how I start my morning!

  • Lynas

    I think I’d find that book to be extremely helpful, and I’d share it with others who would feel the same way. In that way, I’d be paying your generosity forward! I’d love to win the book.

  • Jason

    I would be very interested in reading your book. I’m a big fan of self-care, and I think it would be good to learn from your thoughts on the subject.

  • JLR

    It’s uncanny how timely almost every TinyBuddah article seems to be! Please count me in for the book giveaway

  • TenaciousLizzy

    This article was a God send. Confirmation for the particular season I am in. I am not going to lie it was very difficult to read because I am a recovering people pleaser and the struggle is real everyday. But my take away from this article was to first take time out for myself because it is the gateway of clarity and understanding of my world and myself. Second be ok saying no and setting limits. This has always been a struggle for me but one day at a time and the serenity prayer is going to have to work for me!

  • Cherie

    Have you read the boundaries book by Henry Cloud? The dance of anger is also a good one…

  • Aimee Mangher

    No I haven’t, but I did it mentioned in the post. maybe I can give them a try and it’ll help solve my problems. thank you so much for replying to me

  • Dylan Montanez

    Growing up with a father that constantly violated my physical boundaries and a mother who wouldn’t allow me to have emotional boundaries, I have felt an extreme amount of anxiety and responsibility for filling everyone’s needs. Later in life, I found myself in an abusive relationship and I am just now attempting to set boundaries because I am completely depleted of all my energy and passion. I’d love to be considered for the giveaway! Thanks for the awesome post!!

  • Holly Rae

    Slowly working on setting better boundaries in relationships. I have always found myself changing to match the likes of a significant other, when I really need to just be myself 🙂

  • Crystal

    Great article!

  • Leslie Voorheis

    I’d love to be considered for the giveaway. I could use some help when it comes to self love!

  • pacharbor2

    Excellent article – Friday’s are special with tinybuddha’s email – always something to look forward to

  • Karen McCullough Ray

    Mr. George, you are a very wise and insightful man. Thank you for the excellent article.

  • Talloolla

    This could not be more timely.

  • Katerina

    This article couldn’t be more timely! I am trying to put boundaries in place for the first time in my life and what I have just read has really resonated with me. Thank you!!

  • LaTrice Dowe

    There’s nothing wrong with setting boundaries, because it prevents you from becoming someone’s emotional punching bag and a doormat.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I enjoyed reading your article.

  • Fil

    a very helpful article – boundaries are something I’ve struggled to understanding end up snapping at people and feeling genuinely unwell when I don’t get time to myself. Thanks you. I’d love to read more.

  • Cheryl Barron

    Hi ! Count me in for the give away. Good article on boundaries

  • Stacey A

    I would love to be entered into the giveaway! What a great piece, I enjoyed it very much.

  • Perfect timing 🙂 Excited for a chance to win a copy

  • Christy W.

    This article couldn’t come at a more appropriate time. I am having issues in my relationship with my BF in regards to schedules, up until now my schedule was more flexible. Saying no is scary because I feel like if I’m not available he’ll leave. I know that if that happens it is probably for the best. Anyway, boundaries are hard to set for us sensitive people-pleasers and it is always a good reminder.

  • Kelly Johnson

    Great article, count me in

  • SojournerR7

    Well said!

  • vanessa lane

    Great article. Thank you

  • Amber

    Definitely needed to read this

  • CK

    Just what I needed to hear today! thank you

  • dandy574

    Thanks for the article. Must learn to set boundaries myself and stick with them but always end up caving to please those around me. At 44 you would have thought I would have learnt by now. Still struggle with the hurt of people close to me who take advantage of my good nature, and can understand the resentment that brings.

  • Katelyn Hughes

    Loved this article! I am obbessed with Brene Brown! I liked the whole concept of this article. Please include me for the book giveaway!

  • So glad to hear Katie. Good luck with the giveaway!

  • So inspired by the courage you had to do the hard thing Juanita. It’s true, boundaries = freedom. Like most spiritual principles and truths, this is a paradox.

  • Lol – isn’t that the truth!

  • Yes! Knowledge is no good if it’s not applied. So happy for you and the positive changes you’ve experienced because of this blog – that’s why I love writing for it 🙂 Good luck with the giveaway!

  • Ester

    This theme is very important. I need to learn more. As an empathetic I have trouble with this….. Thanks for sharing your wise words.

  • Amanda Nicole Hall

    I would love to be considered for the book

  • Hi Aimee, so sorry to hear about your struggles with your parents – it’s one of the hardest places to set good boundaries. I would certainly recommend the book as well. I think the principles taught there will help you. I wish you well on this difficult journey.

  • I hear you – I am a recovering people pleaser too – and I certainly nowhere near being completely recovered! When I feel like I’ve let someone down by having to say no, it hurts, a lot. But I know too that it hurts even more when we say yes just to please. I hope this article helps you.

  • Your courage inspires me Dylan. Your story powerfully illustrates this truth – It’s never too late to start setting boundaries. May you continue to find strength and courage.

  • You’re very welcome Karen 🙂

  • You’re welcome Katerina. It’s never too late to start!

  • Bronwyn Weekes

    Think the book would be good for me

  • You’re right Christy – I’m also a sensitive people pleaser and I know how much it hurts us to say no. I hope the two of you can work things out together. Please take good care of yourself 🙂

  • You’re welcome. This is a hard lesson to learn – it one that we must be willing to relearn anew every single day. I know this is true for me. We’re never done with the work or the journey, but we can help each other along the way. And if you’re just starting, know that it’s never too late.

  • Katarina

    Great article. I used to say agree to everything and got burned out. Now I am learning how to say “no.” Please consider me for the book giveaway – I would love to read it.

  • Brandé Pronounced Branday

    As an empath, it totally sucks.

  • Feebee

    I can so relate to this article! Thanks for sharing and I would love a copy of your book!

  • Mary

    Thank-you for posting the article. It was interesting and this was an issue that I have struggles with for a long time. I hope to share it with others in my discussion group.

  • Cathy Green

    Empowering & passing on to my family members. Thank you.

  • Trina Summers

    I bookmarked this, because I am going to need to come back to it frequently.

  • Jane McIntyre

    Great article! Yes, please count me in for the giveaway

  • Lydia DelaTorre

    Very helpful article! Count me on for the giveaway please.

  • Miesha

    Excellent post. I am indeed ready to be set free from bitterness and resentment! I truly appreciated your words of wisdom, thank you.

  • jean shabkie Fessenden

    very informative article….count me in for book giveaway!!

  • You’re welcome Miesha 🙂

  • panoptic

    Boundaries are so hard for me!! I totally struggle with number #3. Would love to enter the giveaway

  • Nancy Ingersoll

    I too am an empath and have been working on this issue for a long time. Thank you for the encouragement.

  • J. Verreault

    Not having a good foundation about what my true values are (and sticking to them as a result) has been awaken I’ll use the expression in me. This thing about boundaries is another piece of that puzzle.
    Nothing like growth to let me know how much I don’t know…

  • Angel

    I love the simple explanations here. Boundary setting can be so difficult to describe and understand. Thank you for this easy to learn and apply guide!

  • charlene

    wow. this explains a lot of what i’ve been struggling with my whole life!

  • Melanie

    What a great article! I would LOVE to read Cylon’s book!

  • Stephanie

    Thank you for this article! So helpful and appeared at a good time in my life.

  • TenaciousLizzy

    It has! Thank you!

  • Rachel Warner

    Very timely that I came across this. Family boundary’s have become blurred and is currently becoming a huge ‘issue’.

  • Mary Banks

    Count me in please!

  • Ania

    Please count me in for the giveaway ❤️

  • Laura Stafford

    Brilliant read 🙂

  • Carly Thompson

    Self-care all over, I’d love to read more! Thanks so much for your post ☺

  • buddhafan

    Oh dear, I definitely need that book! That article was like lo
    oking into a mirror…

  • Caroline Varenne

    Very clear helpful article about a subject that for me at least is eternally work in progress…very helpful in identifying the responses that often come when setting boundaries as they do not always suit others.
    Please count me in for the draw for the book

  • Julie C. Perry

    Count me in! I’d love to read your book. There’s always room for improvement in everything and loving yourself is one of them!

  • Ari

    I’ve always struggled with saying no to my family. They live their lives and I now I’m stuck because my good years were wasted running around pleasing them. Now that I’m trying to set boundaries it’s hard and I feel guilty for not answering my phone or texts every hour on the hour. And I get told “oh I miss hearing your voice” when I know they don’t, they just miss dumping all their negativity on me and asking for me to do something for them. Well I’m glad I read this article, it is helping to reinforce what I’m learning to do. Thank you for your words of wisdom.

    Ari

  • Shelly Stadther Holt

    Setting boundaries is what I am consciously working on this year. It’s getting easier!

  • Paris

    Count me in please!!

  • Heather

    Very helpful and affirming. Count me in for the giveaway!

  • minkari

    Many of us live in a culture that supports the idea of being overly helpful, even to our own detriment. I look forward to reading your book!

  • Michelle Landry

    Please count me in for the giveaway! If the article is any indication, this will be a great read.

  • Michele Gibson

    Awesome Post, very well written … Would love to be considered for the Self Love: How to Love Yourself Unconditionally 🙂

  • Catherine

    This was so well written. Count me in for the giveaway!

  • Kathy

    Great article. Would love to read the book.

  • jules

    I need to reinstate boundaries with my nearest and dearest, do I tell them what I’m doing and invite them to work with me? Or work quietly and let them learn from the changes as they happen?

  • Alison

    I wish it were easy to follow these wise words, they resonate with me so much. Start small and bravely is perhaps the way to begin. Thank you.

  • Anja Borondić

    Many thanks on this article! It inspired me and led me to find your book about self-love..I would love to read it – count me in for a giveaway! <3

  • Nancy

    Very insightful about boundary setting. I’m interested in the giveaway. Thanks

  • Hope Evey

    count me in for the giveaway!

  • Fiona de Wolfe

    A good reminder – count me in!

  • My life has improved dramatically by establishing boundaries. You have to be the great protector of you.

  • shadywhereyabeen

    Count me in for the giveaway!

  • Luana Gomes

    I’m really thinking about settting more boundaries in my daily life. This article was helpful.

  • Lizzy949

    I am coming to terms with how my family upbringing contributed to flimsy boundaries and resulting anger in relationships. This article was very helpful. I am interested in you book. Thank you 🙂

  • Regan

    Nice article. Would love a copy of that book!

  • Courtney

    I really resonated with setting boundaries being helpful for you AND the other person. “Because it’s not just about protecting yourself from others, it’s also about protecting others from your own potential toxic behaviors that may unconsciously occur when your needs are not being met.”

    Yes yes yes!
    I’m getting better at setting boundaries for my own needs but it’s nice to also know they can help the other person/people as well.

  • Victoria Cluett

    It amazes me how often these articles align perfectly with my own, and many other’s, lives. Thank you Tiny Buddha community for shedding light on these universal problems and providing a space for people to talk about them <3

  • Lisa

    Thank you for the giveaway!

  • Content Writer

    Count me in for the giveaway!

  • Lori LeClaire

    Excellent. I’d love to win.

  • Quail Düsseldorf

    That was very helpful and relevant to me. Thanks!

  • Amy C

    Great artical, very relevant to my life at the moment. Please count me in for the giveaway! Thank you

  • Lauren Meeks

    I love this! I’m a huge proponent of boundaries, and this article is spot-on on dispelling some of the more common myths of boundaries. Thanks for sharing!

  • MelodyofLife

    This is a wonderful article, and definitely something I needed to hear. I’m trying to set boundaries right now with a toxic abuser and struggling so hard with a lot of your points. Thank you for writing this~

  • karen

    Count me in for the giveaway .thanks

  • This is a very detailed and “spot on” post – setting boundaries for myself is paramount to my happiness. It is something I need to work on daily with my family – but it is getting better.

  • Jessi Lee Mraz

    Fantastic piece! Count me in for the giveaway.

  • rm

    Great article

  • Erika

    Great article. Count me in on the book giveaway.

  • Tameeza

    Really useful article which came at the right time for me, thank you.
    Please count me in for the book giveaway. Thanks.

  • CM

    Count me in for the giveaway! Loved the article. Could definitely use a copy of the book to learn to set boundaries.

  • Mike

    I don’t know why boundaries are so hard for me.

  • Val Kowalewich

    Count me in — Always get great content here at TB!!!

  • Very useful post Cylon, and I think some really important lessons about boundaries there that we can all afford to learn.

  • Gretchen Phoenix

    I agree that boundaries are important and necessary. I wish people would be honest, direct and clear in their communication. The boundary is for them, not “us”. When someone puts a fence in the backyard are they thinking about how the neighbors will feel? No, they care about protecting whatever kids, animals. I feel the same applies to boundaries. They don’t want some behavior so they establish a boundary. People want to feel in control of their surroundings.

  • Kushi Nagar

    Fabulous