why set boundaries

Why Set Boundaries (You Teach People How to Treat You)

Why set boundaries? Hopefully, you already know the answer to that. In case you don’t, the answer is to teach people how to treat you.

Think about how much time you have spent being angry because people push boundaries you feel they should’ve known. How much time do you spend being angry when it seems others aren’t respecting you?

It probably feels like people are constantly taking advantage of you because you’re nice and willing to help others when needed. Therein lies the problem.

Society Taught Us to Never Have a Boundary Set

Unfortunately, society taught us that we shouldn’t really have many boundaries. We are “supposed” to give and help others at almost any cost.

Not only that, but society also taught us we are being selfish if we set a boundary that results in us not being able to help somebody. So, when you set a boundary that somebody doesn’t like, you feel bad for setting that boundary.

You have guilt because that person “needed” you and you weren’t there for them. If you relate that, you need to read my post Over-Worked Rescuer.

Lacking Boundaries

I lacked healthy boundaries for many years. I had no clue that setting boundaries was the way you to teach people how to treat you.

When people would take advantage of my kindness, I would get so angry at them. As I began doing my own personal healing, I learned the anger I had should’ve been aimed at myself.

There were many times when I had a boundary set and it was ignored. I let people guilt trip me into allowing them to push boundaries as if there had been no boundaries to begin with.

I had a false, negative belief that nobody cared about me or cared about what was good for me. I told myself that nobody respected me.

That mimicked the same false, negative belief that was created in my childhood that I didn’t deserve for others to love me. If you want to learn more about how that kind of negative self-talk is created, click here to read my post Creation of Negative Self-Talk.

That was never the case though! It just took me a while to realize the truth of why I was not being respected and why my kindness was rarely returned.

You Teach People How to Treat You

As cliché as it is, it is still true that you teach people how to treat you. I spent many years teaching people that it was okay for them to use me.

The way I did that was never having a boundary set because I didn’t know when I needed to set one. I learned the secret to discover when I should set a boundary.

That secret is one simple word. That word is resentment. When you have resentment towards a person, that shows you that a boundary should’ve been set.

Allowing Others to Push Boundaries

For me, the biggest way I was allowing others to push boundaries was with my time. I was always available for others, even when I didn’t really have the time.

There were times when I needed to get work done, but a friend would call and say she needed to talk. It felt good for me to be the person that my friends always came to when they needed to talk.

I thought that meant my friends thought highly of me and that was why they chose me to be the one to talk to when they weren’t doing well. That may have somewhat been the case, but there was a much bigger reason than that.

Once I got really real with myself, I realized the reason I had so many friends “choosing” me as the one they always came running to was that they knew that I was always available. No matter what I had going on, I would drop it and be there for them.

Resentment After “Being There” for Others

Resentment would almost always set in after “being there” for my friends. I would resent them for taking so much of my time and for always dumping their problems on me without consideration for what I might have going on in my life.

As I mentioned, when resentment is present, that is your sign that you should’ve set a boundary. If you don’t teach people how to treat you in a healthy, respectful way, then you are responsible for how they treat you.

Wait. What? Yes! You are responsible for others taking advantage of you. You teach people how to treat you. When you teach them that they can take advantage of you, disrespect you and treat you poorly, that is what they will do.

Teach People How to Treat You the Way You Want

Think about how much time and energy you have wasted being angry or sad that people were taking advantage of you or not respecting you. Be honest with yourself. We have ALL done that.

There were times that I got angry and wanted to get rid of all of my friends because I felt they weren’t “true” friends. I thought that if they loved me, then they would not treat me like that.

Well, that is just simply not true. They could love me and still treat me the way that I taught them was okay.

It did not mean that they were bad people or even bad friends. They were probably not conscious of how I was feeling or how the ways they were treating me could be perceived.

Once I began realizing that I had allowed them to treat me that way, I had a decision to make. If I was going to have a boundary set regarding my time or anything else, I had to stick to it.

Being New to Setting Boundaries

If you are new to setting boundaries, you need to understand that people will push boundaries. They aren’t used to you having a boundary set.

Again, when they push boundaries you begin setting, do not get angry at them for seemingly ignoring your boundaries. Remember, you teach people how to treat you.

You taught them that you didn’t have boundaries for quite some. Now, you have to take the time to teach them when you have a boundary set and that you will stick to it.

Think of it this way. If you had a friend who went by the name of Anna and, after five years, she changed her name to Penelope, it would be so difficult to remember that she wants to be called Penelope instead of Anna. You want to respect her having changed her name to Penelope, but your brain still calls her Anna.

Your brain learned to call her Anna. That’s what you’ve been used to since you met her. So, changing that is hard to get used to for you, as it would be for anybody.

Now, apply that exact same thought to somebody all of a sudden setting boundaries. It will be hard for people to grasp that you have a boundary set now.

When we get used to interacting with somebody in a certain way and that changes drastically, that is a big adjustment. So, give them a little grace when they push boundaries you set.

It will take time for them to adjust when you have a new boundary set because they aren’t used to you having any boundaries at all. Just do not retract your boundary. You have to teach them that your boundaries are firm and that you will stick to them.

When Others Continue to Push Boundaries

Now, are you thinking about the people who will refuse to honor your boundaries no matter what? There are definitely people out there like that.

There are people who will push boundaries and completely disregard your need for setting the boundaries. When this happens, it can be really hard.

Taking a good look at whether this kind of person should remain in your life or not is not an easy thing. You have probably become so used to that person treating you the way that they treat you that you ignore what they are telling you when you set a boundary.

I’d bet that you’ve made excuses for their complete disregard for you and what’s good for you. That might sound something like, “Well, she’s just going through a hard time. I won’t always have to help her.”

I could give you more examples of that, but you probably have your own real examples. Just pay attention to how you are justifying other people’s behaviors and sacrificing yourself on a consistent basis for them.

If they continue to push boundaries, it might be time to assess your true need for them in your life. There will always be people who refuse to respect your boundaries.

I choose not to have those people in my life no matter what my connection to them may be. I value my mental health more than keeping somebody like that in my life.

So, if you are still wondering, “Why Set Boundaries?”, I’ve got you covered. Take a look at this list and you will find the answers.

Why Set Boundaries? (5 Reasons):
  1. Your time and energy are important and should be used in the way that you choose and that brings you peace.
  2. You respect and love yourself. Not setting boundaries shows the opposite.
  3. You deserve for others to respect you.
  4. You don’t have enough time to take care of everybody who needs you without suffering negative consequences.
  5. Your needs matter.

Think about a time you committed to doing something you didn’t want to do. How did you feel afterwards? While you were doing whatever that was, were you thinking of all of the things you could be doing instead?

If you answered those questions honestly, you should see why Reason Number One is important. Committing to something that you truly don’t want to do is very rarely going to benefit you.

Teach Others Your Boundaries

Remember how I keep saying that you teach people how to treat you? That’s why Reason Number Two is important. If you never set a boundary, you can’t possibly be communicating that you respect and love yourself. If you struggle with respecting and loving yourself, click here to read my post Love for Yourself (Learning How to Love Yourself More.)

Now, once you have respect and love for yourself, it’s important to set boundaries to show that to others. Having boundaries AND sticking to them is Reason Number Four and a very important one!

For all of you who are often saying that you don’t have enough time to do the things you want to do, then Reason Number Four needs to be tattooed on your forehead! You will certainly never have the time you need for yourself if you are always giving it away to others.

If you are struggling to believe that Reason Number Five is true, then I am begging you to read my post 5 Signs You Were Lacking Love as a Child. If you don’t believe that your needs matter AND that your needs matter more than anybody else’s needs, you were probably taught that as a child.

Trust me here, though, that is NEVER true. You simply cannot be the best for others if you are not the best for yourself. That is a fact. Think about the saying about putting your oxygen mask on first. That’s a saying for a reason!

Planning for Your New Boundaries

Hopefully, by now you understand a couple things about why you should set a boundary and how you teach people how to treat you by having boundaries. As I mentioned earlier, I want to again remind you that, when you begin setting boundaries, there WILL be people who push boundaries you set.

So, to stay ahead of that and have a plan, save this post or screenshot the reasons I listed. Read them often so they stick in your brain!

Also, remember that, if it were so easy to set boundaries, everybody would do it and there would be no need for me to even be writing this post. So, give yourself a little grace as you begin learning how to set boundaries.

I’d love to hear from you about how you’ve set boundaries or any struggles you’ve had doing so. I will always respond back to you and give you guidance as best I can.


This site is only intended for people who are truly willing to look at themselves with an open mind and have the ability to truly be vulnerable with themselves and others. Please understand that this site is in NO WAY THERAPEUTIC ADVICE. However, this site can be very beneficial in learning the causes of your Not Good Enough Stuff. This site is not intended to provide or replace medical or psychiatric treatment. Mary Beth HIGHLY RECOMMENDS finding a licensed therapist to help you process the information from this site and all that you learn about yourself. Visit Psychology Today to find a licensed therapist in your area.

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