by Jennifer Gerlach LCSW

It’s more about self-love than self-control.


  • Setting boundaries with ourselves means holding ourselves accountable and treating ourselves with respect.
  • Building effective boundaries with ourselves involves consistency and patience.
  • Meaningful boundaries with ourselves is more about self-love than self-control.

A lady used to tell me the worst things. She would shout my fears as I tried to enjoy myself with friends. She’d order me to go buy another dress as a distraction.

Her name is Jen, and she’s me. We needed to set some boundaries. (Although I still love my dresses!)

Boundaries are the limits that bind what we will allow for ourselves. We usually talk about boundaries about relationships with others; however, boundaries are equally important to ourselves. These are some areas where boundaries with ourselves count.

When to Address Things (And When Not To)

Have you ever found yourself awake in the middle of the night, trying to figure your whole life out? You know, of course, that it’s not the most productive time for this. Still, worry has a way of crossing this line.

Without boundaries, anxiety can permeate every aspect of our lives, making it difficult to focus on anything else when a worry presents itself. Dedicating a certain time to planning is important for peace of mind. When worries come up outside that time, you can reinforce this boundary by reminding yourself of the time you’ve put aside to work on this and taking a quick note to address it then.

On Critical Self-Talk

It is so easy to fall into a pattern of critical self-talk, and breaking this pattern can be equally difficult. People tend to talk to themselves much more harshly than they would anyone else. Setting boundaries regarding self-talk can start by acknowledging when you say something unkind to yourself and replacing it with something more reasonable.

Related: Get Simmering Love in Your Life

For example, after making a mistake like locking yourself out of your car, you might say something like, “I’m so stupid,” out of habit. Catch that thought and switch it to something compassionate like, “I locked myself out. This is stressful, and I’m going to figure it out.” Compassionate self-talk looks like talking to yourself with the same level of encouragement you would give someone you love, such as a friend or sister.

Setting Time Limits

This is a tricky place to set boundaries with ourselves. Clarifying limits in terms of time means scheduling times for activities and keeping those activities within those time limits. A common place to over-run this boundary is with work. We can get so caught up in all there is to do that we end up spending more than our assigned work hours on these things. Outline how much time you can give to something and practice sticking to that as best you can. You might find yourself more productive within that timeframe knowing that a break is coming.

Self-Care for Well-Being

Self-care means a million things to a million people. It’s much more than getting your nails done or having a sweet coffee. Self-care includes acknowledging and meeting anything within a spectrum of needs we have.

Aspects of self-care can include time alone, connection, physical self-care, emotional expression, and more. Even tasks such as regular visits with a dentist fall under the heading of self-care. Take note of what you need to be at your best, and schedule it. For example, if you know that exercise is important for your well-being, you might write a certain time on your calendar each week to make sure that happens.

Live by Your Values

Clarifying and living by our values is a major component of setting boundaries with ourselves. How well we match our values in our actions is a measure of self-respect. Consider what matters to you. Do you care about kindness? How about achievement? If you are having difficulty identifying values, you can try this exercise; if you had unlimited ability, time, and money what would you do with it all? This can give you a sense of your priorities.

When something crosses your moral compass, or would otherwise compromise your self-respect, notice that and take action. Making and keeping commitments with yourself is another way to engage in this particular brand of self-care.

In Conclusion

While boundaries are often talked about in relationships, we rarely think to apply such limits to ourselves. Yet this is key to our well-being. Acknowledging and respecting our boundaries takes practice, but it is well worth the effort.

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