Be True To Yourself: How To Set Boundaries

Medically reviewed by Julie Dodson, MA
Updated May 14, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Without boundaries, others in your life might try to take advantage of you and succeed. They can withdraw too much energy, time, money, or resources. If you notice that someone about whom you care has been acting this way toward you, it might be beneficial to learn how to set boundaries without ending the relationship altogether unless you believe that is the healthiest option.   

Want to be true to yourself—without being cold-hearted?

What is the benefit of self-care? 

Self-care includes essential self-maintenance, hobbies, and activities that bring joy to your life. In addition, self-care can include prioritizing your mental, emotional, and physical wellness by putting yourself first. If you have a busy schedule or spend a lot of time with others, you might overlook self-care or consider it a special favor. 

However, self-care is a crucial part of being personally responsible. Focusing on your priorities can remind you (and others) that you and your needs are valuable. If you don't care for yourself, you might struggle to have profound connections in your relationships or enjoy your daily responsibilities. Part of self-care can include drawing boundaries around your well-being before offering help to others. 

Creating boundaries with loved ones 

Loved ones may unintentionally cause challenges in your mental health or emotional well-being by asking too much or asking you to put them first. Even if it's unintentional, they might use your connection against you. Negativity can be contagious, and sometimes it can be valuable to take space.

Breaking away or distancing yourself from family or friends may not be what you want, but it may be necessary. Just because you've known someone for years doesn't mean they have a beneficial influence on your life. Saying "no" or creating boundaries with loved ones can be difficult, but it may offer you the space to reevaluate your connection. 

Below are a few questions you can ask yourself to know whether it might benefit you to set boundaries with a loved one: 

  • Does this person cause you to feel pessimistic, depressed, or exhausted?
  • Do you feel emotionally drained after having a conversation?
  • Does this person demand immense amounts of your time?
  • Does this person always ask you to do something for them that you don't have time to do?
  • Does this person consistently ask you to pay for them when you go out? 
  • Does this individual try to push you into events you don't want to attend? 
If you said "yes" to one or more of these questions, creating boundaries and saying "no" may be vital for your well-being.

How to set boundaries

Setting boundaries might sometimes feel "cold-hearted" if you've never done it before. If you're hesitant to try it, think of this practice as being "warm-hearted" toward yourself, and really toward others as well, since it allows you to have more to give others when appropriate. It isn't necessarily unhealthy to focus on your needs first. 

Setting those boundaries means prioritizing your time, possessions, emotional energy, body, mind, and relationships, in order to responsibly care for yourself. Below are a few examples of boundaries you can set:

  • Turning down a dinner invitation to focus on work
  • Saying no to sex
  • Not attending to a phone call or message until you're ready
  • Ending a relationship 
  • Saying no to food or water at someone else's home 
  • Asking someone not to push substances on you 
  • Saying no to an outing with friends 
  • Telling someone you need to leave the room if they continue to speak inappropriately with you 
  • Saying "no" to people and events to take time for yourself is also a form of self-care. Others may perceive boundaries as cold-hearted if they're not used to being told no. However, note that what someone else thinks about your limits doesn't define you, and it does not automatically make them correct. If you feel healthiest setting boundaries, do so. 

If you are struggling with substance use, contact the SAMHSA National Helpline at (800) 662-4357 to receive support and resources. Support is available 24/7.

Want to be true to yourself—without being cold-hearted?

How to find support 

You might perceive that setting boundaries is complicated, or you could be unsure of where to start. Opening up and talking to a professional might help you learn research-backed methods of setting boundaries and prioritizing self-care. Once you have the tools to help you prioritize yourself, your body and mind may feel healthier. 

If you're feeling unsure about therapy, know that there are many formats you can try. Studies have found that online platforms like BetterHelp can be adequate resources for providing therapy for those experiencing a wide range of challenges, including those related to a lack of self-care or relationship boundaries. 

According to one broad-based report on the effects of online therapy, researchers brought together the results of studies that examined online mental health interventions (92 total). The study concluded that online therapy is an effective alternative to face-to-face therapy. 

Online therapy platforms can provide several resources that foster self-care and help individuals maintain healthy relationship boundaries. These can include interactive exercises, lessons, and counseling sessions, all guided by a licensed mental health professional. In addition, you can take control of your experience online, choosing between phone, video, or live chat sessions depending on your needs. If you're struggling to say no to someone in a specific situation, you can send a message to your counselor and receive a response, often within 24 hours. 

Counselor reviews

"Blaire has been amazing. She's super supportive, empathetic, and kind. She has helped me gain confidence in myself and learn that it is okay to enforce healthy boundaries in my relationships."

"Rachel has been a big help in getting me to set and stick to boundaries. Most of the people that I know seem to expect me to be available to them 24/7. Rachel is the only person who says that I have every right to say no and to take time for myself."


Self-care is often essential for wellness, and setting boundaries in relationships helps you build in time to practice self-care. If you need help putting yourself first, consider contacting a therapist online or in your area to discuss your relationship goals and receive further guidance and support.
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