When you think about having to set a limit, draw a boundary or make a request with someone in your life, how do you feel? 

Stressed? Anxious? Like you want to avoid it at all costs? I totally get it. The thing is…healthy, robust personal boundaries are the key to living a fulfilled, empowered, self-directed life. 

So if you’re anxious about boundaries…it’s time to do something about it! It is possible to learn how to set limits and make requests with grace and less stress, I promise you.

In this week’s episode, I’m covering why you might be feeling this way and what you can do to overcome feelings of unease or anxiousness so you can become better at boundaries! 

First, let’s get clear about what having healthy boundaries looks like in practice so we all have the same working definition (clear communication for the win!).

A boundary boss knows their preferences, desires, limits, and their dealbreakers. Healthy boundaries means having the ability to effectively communicate those things in your personal and professional relationships when you so choose. 

It’s saying no when you mean it and sticking to it, it’s speaking up to let someone know what is and what isn’t ok with you, and it’s allowing yourself to be truly known by sharing your authentic preferences and desires.  

For so many of us, it can be incredibly anxiety-provoking. So why is it so stressful to communicate and advocate for ourselves?

1. The “Disease-To-Please”

Maybe you are someone who doesn’t want anyone to get upset, angry, or disappointed, so you tend to say yes when you’d rather say no. The thought of conflict might make you cringe, so going along to get along might just seem easier. Do you prioritize everyone else’s needs above your own? If you identify with being a people-pleaser, setting a boundary can kick up anxiety for you. 

“The disease-to-please”, a phrase coined by renowned psychologist and women’s issues expert Dr. Harriet Braiker, describes compulsive people-pleasing behavior and she found that it is a “self-defense camouflage” that can have far-reaching emotional consequences.¹

You might just think of yourself as a “nice” person who always puts others first, but, take note: if you are making decisions based on fear and what you think other people want from you, you’re not representing your true self or being honest.

Inside the downloadable guide, I’m giving you some questions to help you gain clarity around “the disease to please” and your boundary baseline because you’ve got to understand where you are right now before you can make any lasting changes! 

Here’s where you can grab the guide. 

2. Codependency

The second big block around effective boundary setting is codependency. If you are doing more than your share and overfunctioning in your relationships, you might have codependent tendencies. This can also create anxiety around flexing your boundary muscles. 

Codependency is a dysfunctional behavioral pattern in which you are overly invested in the feeling states, decisions, and outcomes of other people to the detriment of your own life or self-care. 

We all care for and love our people, but if what’s going on for others is more important than what’s going on with you and you feel a compulsion to fix everyone, take an honest look at your behavior. Check your urgency. When we are behaving in a codependent way, it is really a covert or overt bid for control. 

Feeling overly responsible for the people in your life will definitely create a lot of anxiety around setting limits because you don’t want them to feel pain or make a mistake, so you end up overextending yourself to “save” them. For a codependent, there are no limits, and that, my friend, is the definition of disordered boundaries. A codependent person will position themselves to be indispensable to the people around them so they “can’t be” rejected. 

Codependent behavior can compromise your internal peace, physical wellbeing, and even your financial state. If you think you might be codependent, check out this blog to learn 7 ways to recognize a codependent relationship here, (‘cause knowledge is power, people).

3. It’s New 

Setting boundaries is a skill and like any skill, it takes practice! So if advocating for yourself and authentically sharing your boundaries is creating anxiety for you, it might be because it is new to you. And that’s ok. The more you do it, the easier it gets. 

I have heard from so many of you things like, “I didn’t even know I had a choice!” You always have a choice and you absolutely have a right to healthy boundaries. We are responsible for our own feelings, our own situations, and our own side of the street, and understanding our boundary rights is key.  

If you could use more clarity, I’ve included the Boundary Boss Bill of Rights inside this week’s downloadable guide. Grab your guide here now! 

When boundary setting is new to us, there can be a lot of anticipatory anxiety. 

When you begin to make decisions to set limits, make a simple request, or share a preference with the people in your life, you might start future tripping about how the person is going to react or respond negatively. 

You can handle this and you can learn how to control your mind and regulate your emotions. You are more resilient than you think and so are the people in your life. Allow yourself to have an uncomfortable moment with someone knowing everyone is going to be ok. 

Once you really understand you have a right to ask for what you want and express what you don’t want, and you learn how to do so in a calm and less emotionally charged way, it becomes less anxiety-provoking. It’s ok to go slow and to start small. You don’t have to change everything all at once. 

The last piece of this is people don’t have to acquiesce to what we want. You can expect some resistance and that’s ok too. Being a boundary boss means we can be accepting of ourselves and of others, even when we don’t agree. 

Your healing and your growth are in the asking and sharing. Because if the people in your life don’t know…

Your preferences

Your desires

Your limits

Your deal breakers (non-negotiables) 

…they don’t really know YOU. 

And you are so worth knowing. The age of silently suffering needs to be over

As you continue your boundary boss journey, I want to encourage you to really up your self-care, because you need to expand your bandwidth to keep moving forward in this process. So please, take amazing, amazing care of yourself. 

I really want to know what your thoughts are about this, so drop me a comment here or connect with me over on Instagram @terricole and let me know: what resonated with you? Do you feel anxiety around boundaries?  What are your aha moments about this process? 

I hope you have an amazing week lessening any anxiety about drawing boundaries and as always take care of you.

¹https://www.harrietbraiker.com/the-disease-to-please

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  1. Amen Terri. This came at the right time.
    My impulse to help others first is always there.
    Many years in therapy but still everyone else around me gets the royal treatment – except me. When it comes to my own needs, I am always so ‘sloppy’.
    A recent example of feeling guilty is when I want to set a boundary or ask for something is that I work from home, doing a part time, and ‘forgot’ to ask for a fee for using my home as a base for their business, including having paid the large winter electricity & gas bills. I sent the email (twice!) and was feeling that I will be called greedy… But I did ask for it, no matter how late, which means I am willing to look at how I treat my life and myself and make adjustments.
    RK x

  2. Love your book.
    Slowly realizing codependent behavior after watching your videos and reading your book. Thank you.
    The problem is I feel that I am also the one that also crosses boundaries when others do not reciprocate. I think the one crossing boundaries are also codependents due to not having enough self worth and limits?

    1. Hi Genie,
      I’m so glad it’s resonating for you! And yes, co-dependents (along with pretty much everyone) can definitely be boundary violators. It’s good that you’re aware of this behavior and can try to bring it to your consciousness so that you can interrupt this pattern. ❤️

  3. Hi Terri,

    I love your wisdom and so appreciate your clear and loving energy. Thank you for your work. So helpful.
    Linda

  4. I just finished the work in Boundary Boss and had a big aha moment after “ok/not ok” lists and the family blueprint writing that I did. It made space around my judgments of my mother who I lost last year and now I am recognizing her strengths and bad ass boundaries that she had around my fathers alcoholism. Suddenly her weakness became a strength and I may have inherited some of her skills that I am very proud of now. This lessened my victim stance, was able to find acceptance around what simply was, and feel empowered now to make choices that are aligned with who I am today. This work pays off, a great personal investment to have these tools to navigate life. Thank you !

    1. Hi Michelle,
      I LOVE that you found what you previously thought of as a weakness to be a strength in your mother and in yourself! I’m cheering you on as you continue to do this work ??

  5. Thank you Terri for reminding us that sticking to boundaries takes practice. I’m proud of myself for recognizing my internal anxiety early enough to remove myself from a threatening verbal attack before I react. Any attempt to address a conflict with my husband can start a fire, regardless of how thoughtfully or respectfully feelings are expressed. Last night I expressed how his verbal attacks made me feel and his response was “you’re a hard woman!” I asked if he could rephrase that using feelings instead of an accusation and he repeated defiantly, “you’re a hard woman.” I stood up, told him I was taking a break and when he could state his feelings I would be ready to listen. Needless to say, the discussion ended.

    The important thing is I recognized from the first words he spoke, he’s not respecting my boundary. I’ve made my boundary clear and he acknowledged “when we’re in conflict if I start feeling uncomfortable, whether you recognize your bad behavior or not, I’m leaving the room. I’m not staying in your line of fire.”

    Many times I’ve just silently listened to his narcissistic monologue of verbal abuse while seething inside. He knows how to keep pushing me until there’s a firestorm. My first uncomfortable feeling is my best clue to exit before I’m flooded with anxiety or anger. It doesn’t solve the problem but it keeps it from escalating. Now if I can manage my internal turmoil from all the unresolved issues…

    1. Hi Darra,
      I’m so glad this resonated for you! I love that you are doing the work it takes to stick with your boundaries. This is certainly not easy work and I’m cheering you on as you continue to battle your own internal monologue (you’re not alone!). ❤️

    1. Hi Agota,
      That’s so true! I think a lot of people will find that children respond well to boundaries if they are consistent and healthy ❤️ Thank you for sharing and for being here!

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