How to Set Boundaries and Not Feel Guilty (Five-Step Plan to Create Boundaries)

Boundaries are the limits you set in relationships. They define what is acceptable for you and what is not permitted.  Creating and maintaining boundaries is essential for our well-being.  Unproductive guilt can create conflict that keeps us from stating to others what we find unacceptable.  This article will discuss adaptive and maladaptive guilt, restructuring thoughts, and a five-step plan to create boundaries and not feel guilty.

Boundaries are necessary for yourself care- when boundaries are defined, they serve as a protective measure for our well-being.  If you value your wellness and peace of mind, you create, maintain, and keep boundaries that cross the limit of what you want for yourself.

 If you feel guilty about setting a boundary, it indicates that you are likely struggling with beliefs that become an obstacle to acting.

Guilty or Not Guilty

Guilt is a normal emotion when we have done something against our moral code or our standard of behavior. Adaptive guilt serves to teach us to do better.  Maladaptive guilt creates the slanted perception that develops from one or more of the following: cultural teachings, religious teachings, childhood experiences, and highly critical self-thinking. Guilt that is not adaptive creates complicated outcomes. 

Adaptive Guilt

For example, Let’s say your standard is not to harm others. Feeling guilty for speeding that resulted in a car accident causing someone harm because of your speeding is normal and necessary. Then guilt serves to bring you to remorse and to make amends. 

Adaptive guilt, where we are aware of our responsibility for our wrongful actions, helps us learn and adapt our behaviors to keep our standards.

 Are we Guilty?

Maladaptive guilt is often a result of what is learned either culturally, through religion, self-critical thinking, or childhood.  Maladaptive guilt hurts our sense and well-being. It also feels uncomfortable. When guilt is maladaptive, it is biased towards negative ideas.

But then there is guilt that arises out of anxiety and self-critical thinking. Second-guessing your decisions and then thinking about them repeatedly.  You may often question yourself to a rigid standard. You may feel as though you must always be available for someone no matter what.  Thinking in this way usually means your standards are way too high, which is to your detriment. 

You may struggle with the anxiety of what you will or won’t do.  You may question yourself about what you did or said.  Second-guessing can only encourage your feelings of guilt.

What if I did that?  What if I don’t do this thing that is so important to someone

What if I do that? You end up feeling guilty for things you haven’t even done or said.

As a child, you may have learned guilt, learning you did something wrong and were to blame for how others felt.  If this happened, you likely realized it was your responsibility how others think.  

This process leads to believing you are responsible for how others will react.  Ask yourself if the responsibility is truly yours?  Can you make anyone feel anything? 

Everyone is responsible for their reactions and their feelings.

You may also have learned cultural expectations with certain behaviors. 

For example, there are cultural expectations to be loyal no matter what the circumstances, cultural expectations of caring for others regardless of the physical and emotional cost it has on the individual caregiver. Feelings of guilt naturally arise when you no longer follow learned cultural norms. Perhaps you experience maladaptive guilt because of deciding you no wish to follow the strict guidelines of right and wrong of your religion.

You may also struggle with anxiety and self-critical self-talk. Unchecked negative self-talk and second-guessing what you are doing or did is a trap that keeps you from acting.  Progress happens when we restructure thoughts by checking in with being objective with our self-reviews.  Look for inconsistency and dispute by making accurate statements.

In terms of setting boundaries without guilt, it is essential to recognize that you are only responsible for yourself and not the reactions of others. Suppose you have a friend 

that has your boundaries by telling others your information without permission.  You think about telling her your boundary that she respects your privacy. You would like her to keep your information private and ask you if you are ok with her sharing it with others.

Time for Restructuring

If you are inclined to use an exaggerated critical lens of yourself, you may judge yourself as selfish, unkind, rude, or mean. You may feel guilty that your friend will feel bad; you should not have rules or worry this makes you a bad friend.  Any critical negative self-talk that causes maladaptive guilt will foil your efforts,.  Restructuring, in this case, would be to dispute the negative thought with an accurate statement about yourself.

Try this instead rather than linger in the negative thought or guilt about not being a good friend.  Remind yourself of the following statements that would apply to your specific ideas. 

I am entitled to my privacy. 

 I am a good friend. 

 Good friends can talk to each other openly and honestly.  

I am still a good friend if I ask her respectfully not to share what I tell her to others. 

 Disputing by recognizing what is accurate will help you combat problematic thoughts to move forward more healthily. 

Five-Step Plan to Set Boundaries and Not feel Guilty

  1. Examine your values and beliefs regarding your role in relationships. If you’re being alerted, there are some glitches in your views. Your body may alert you with anxiety, feeling exhausted, confused, and overwhelmed- or you may frequently be second-guessing your decisions. Combat guilt by restructuring your thoughts.
  1.  Meditate, journal, and or speak to a trusted friend or professional and process your beliefs.  Do the self-talk, remind yourself that your needs are essential, valuable, and loved.
  1. Permit yourself to attend to your needs compassionately.  We are not mean or selfish when we say no; it makes us wise. Start slowly by resurrecting your assertiveness skills. Decide to speak your voice despite your fear of repercussions. 
  1. Create a plan for your boundary. Healthy boundaries are clearly stated, easy to remember, and can be able to adhere. Think of two types of boundaries, your boundary for yourself where you decide what is essential and staying true to valuing your needs. Your boundary in relationships is your ability to keep your wellness value lined up with your behaviors with others.  You say yes when it works for you and no when you want to. 
  1.  Extend kindness and respect as you would to a dear friend. Treat yourself no less than how you would treat your friend. Remind yourself you are doing the best you can and be generous with self-grace.  When your boundary is respected, let the person know your appreciation. 

Boundaries are necessary for healthy relationships.  Creating and maintaining boundaries is essential for our well-being.  Unproductive guilt can create conflict that keeps us from stating to others what we find unacceptable.  This article discussed adaptive and maladaptive guilt, restructuring thoughts, and a five-step plan to create boundaries and not feel guilty.

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