10 Signs You’re Bad at Setting Personal Boundaries

10 Signs You’re Bad at Setting Personal Boundaries


By Jolene Underwood

Over ten years ago, I received a book about boundaries. I read it and decided it didn’t apply to me. I passed it on to a friend without hesitation.

Since then, I’ve purchased another copy, read more on the topic, and realized just how much I need this message.

Poor boundaries contributed to a lot of pain in my life. I took on the weight of the world, which was never mine to bear, and it crushed me.

In my limited and simplistic understanding, I thought boundary-less people said yes too many times when asked to serve: when you’re asked to bring meals, teach a class, organize a group, go here, go there, and do all the things. If you can’t say no and limit your activity, you struggle with personal boundaries.

Living with healthy boundaries is so much more than saying no to the next thing someone asks of you.

Personal boundaries have to do with internal structures that belong to you and not other people. Your feelings, thoughts, actions, attitudes, desires, opinions, and beliefs are yours. Each of us has our own. Boundaries help us define what belongs to us, especially the things which impact our heart, mind, and soul.

Hopefully, these ten signs will provide better awareness if this is an area you struggle with.

Once we know, we can grow.

1. You Abandon God’s Plan for Someone Else’s

God’s plan is always better than ours. We can live stuck when we expect God to adapt to our plan.

A person without good boundaries will quickly and frequently abandon something they have decided to pursue because of what someone else thinks should be done.

If someone says they shouldn’t do the very thing God has been stirring in their heart, they quit. They let someone else’s thoughts, motives, and desires encroach upon their own.

They are not deciding for themselves.

2. You Tolerate Harm

Harm towards your personhood comes in many forms. It can come through the words and actions of others, including disrespect, minimization of actions, blame-shifting and other ways someone may try to protect themselves at your expense.

If someone harms you and you avoid letting them know that you are not okay with it, you are tolerating harm.

You might feel worse for another person’s pain than you do for how their words and actions impact you. You might choose to make them feel better instead of dealing with your own fear of rejection.

3. You Believe You Make Others Feel A Certain Way

A lot of nice people don’t stand up for what they need or desire. They believe that if they say no to another person, they will make them angry. Likewise, if they do something nice, they will make the other person happy.

While our actions do impact others, we do not have enough power to make them feel a certain way. We can do nice things and they may still be mad. We can say no and they may still get angry. 

4. You Are Not Sure Who You Are

You are a uniquely designed reflection of the image of God. However, when you don’t set good boundaries you let others decide what you should think, feel and believe. This may happen directly or indirectly.

If you look at what another person has or does, rather than pursuing the things God has put in you to do, you may be setting poor boundaries. Your lack of confidence about the things that make you who you are can cause you to be tossed to and fro. You act and think differently based on whom you are with.

5. You Allow Bad In and Keep Good Out

Setting good personal boundaries means choosing what to allow in and what to keep out. You get to choose what you are okay with.

Without good boundaries, you are more likely to let activities and distractions eat up your time. You may let another person’s chaotic life impact you to the degree your life has become chaotic and destructive as well.

Sometimes God gives us the grace to do more than we think is possible, and sometimes it’s not there. It is our job to steward the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional energy we have to give. 

6. You Love Without Limits

Giving to others and helping them is a good thing. However, this one good thing can sometimes become damaging for them and for you.

It’s easy to think of love as the absence of anything hard or painful, but as long as we live in this broken world, we will make broken choices. Those choices come with natural consequences.

Loving other people well means wanting what is best for them. When we help another person who may be unwilling or incapable of making healthy life choices, we might be crippling them from living their own life well.

7. You Don’t Take Responsibility For The Right Things

Good boundary setting means not owning what another person says or does as if you are responsible for it.  If they are hurt because you had to say no, you can care about how it impacts them without taking responsibility for their response.

It also means owning what is yours to own. If you feel hard feelings coming to the surface, it is your responsibility to deal with it. When the Holy Spirit convicts your heart of ways you need to change, it’s your responsibility to respond.

8. You Say You Want One Thing and Do Another

Many caring people want good things. They want to do good and have good in their lives. What they say they want though may not be in line with what they actually do. This can be a sign of poor boundary setting. If you want to achieve a goal in life, you must recognize limitations and live within them.

Actively tending to your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and desires means facing the reality of where you are, where you want to be, and what needs to change within yourself to make a difference.

9. You Act on Assumptions

When we make assumptions about what another person needs or wants, and then do whatever it takes to provide for them, we are living without boundaries or wisdom.

What we think they want may not be what they need. What we think they need may not be what’s best for them.

10. When Someone Else Says No, You Are Hurt

When other people say no, you feel hurt. You might feel sad or angry because they didn’t want to be a part of something you are a part of. It could be that it has nothing to do with you. They are choosing to live healthy lives within limits.

If you don’t have healthy boundaries set for yourself, you will react negatively to the boundaries others set for themselves.

If just one of these signs helps you consider an area of growth when it comes to setting boundaries, I am glad.


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