Why are Boundaries Important in Your Personal Life?

Dec 18, 2023
Alison Arth and Kimberly Belle clinking Champagne coups

I got boundaries wrong for years, and fully expect to be honing this essential leadership practice for the rest of my days. 

What helped me most in the beginning was to remember what a boundary IS NOT, and I wonder if it might help you too: 

  • A boundary is not a demand of someone else. 
  • A boundary is not an idle threat. 
  • A boundary is not an ultimatum.
  • A boundary is not what you’d like someone else to do or say or be. 

 And this last one’s for you recovering people-pleasers out there:

  • A boundary is not the same as learning to be more truthful about what you do and don’t want to do. I have a lot of clients who think they need to be setting more boundaries, when really, they need to stop saying “Yes” when what they mean is “No.” 


A boundary is always a particular course of action YOU take to care for your own needs when a particular circumstance arises. Boundaries are one of the most effective ways of setting clear expectations in relationships, and they are required when someone has violated your physical or emotional property.

An interpersonal boundary is very much like a property boundary—it delineates where I end and you begin.

It’s a way of drawing a circle around ourselves and our behavior, just like the edge of a lawn marks where someone’s house ends and the sidewalk begins. 

Healthy personal boundaries promote self-responsibility and empowerment, they lead us out of the helplessness of victim consciousness and controlling behavior and into closer relationships with others. 


If you’re feeling resentful, confused, or disrespected in your relationships, you might benefit from naming clear boundaries. 


There are two parts to setting a boundary with someone else:

  1. THE REQUEST: Asking someone to start or stop doing something that infringes on your property (literally or emotionally)
  2. THE CONSEQUENCE: Telling that person what you will do if they do not comply with your request, or simply taking action 

A boundary names what you will do when someone chooses not to honor your request. It identifies an empowered action you will take when someone fails to meet your need.

Boundary setting IS about naming what you need so that you’re able to take responsibility for the results you create in your life and in your business (read our post on Healthy Boundaries at Work for a deep dive on workplace boundaries). 

Healthy boundaries always come from a place of love to promote self-kindness and kindness towards others, because as Brené Brown reminds us, “Clear is kind.” 


Boundary setting is a skill like any other skill. 

If you decided to pick up tennis tomorrow, you would expect it to take many hours on the court, tons of mistakes, and helpful guidance from a coach before you were able to play a game with ease and some level of mastery. 

You’d persist through all those learning curves because you want the end result: having a new hobby that brings joy and connection to your life. 

Learning to set boundaries in your life is no different. It’s a practice, and you won’t get results overnight, but staying consistent with this skill stands to bring deeper connection, better health, and more access to your highest self if you stick with it. 

These 4 reasons outline exactly why the juice is worth the squeeze when it comes to naming and maintaining boundaries!

REASON 1: Setting personal boundaries teaches others how to love and respect you so you can stop crossing your fingers and just hoping they get it right. 

You might think that it’s the responsibility of those around you to behave in a way that makes you feel respected and cared for. 

You might think that how you’d like to be treated is simple common sense. 

You might think that asking for what you need takes more time and energy than not asking. 

None of those beliefs are true. And thank goodness they’re not! Because…

  • We can’t control anyone else’s behavior other than our own
  • We’re all entitled to define what we uniquely need to feel loved and respected in our relationships 
  • Nothing takes more energy than trying to control other people’s actions and then dealing with the pile of negative emotions that show up when it inevitably doesn’t work

It is your responsibility to express your needs, and it is also your responsibility to take action if someone you’re in relationship with chooses not to honor those needs. 


Boundaries give you a clear and kind framework to express what’s true for you and invite the respect, love, and care you deserve.

REASON 2: Setting personal boundaries improves your performance at work. 

I waste so much energy every time I falsely believe that someone else should know what I need to feel supported and at peace, and that it’s their responsibility to make me feel a certain way. 

For years, my mom would call me repeatedly until I picked up the phone. One of two things would happen: 

  1. If it wasn’t a good time for me to talk, I would keep doing whatever I was engaged in while silently simmering in my own anger and frustration that she does this. 
  2. I would eventually interrupt my work and answer the phone in an effort to avoid her negative feelings and my own guilt that would come up when I would ignore her. 

Both of these responses were distracting, disruptive, and energy-sucking…sometimes for many hours, many times per week, and both absolutely affected my professional presence and the quality of my work. 

What was missing was NOT my mom deciding not to call me repeatedly. She’s an adult, and she gets to do whatever she wants. 

I can’t control her (trust me, I’ve tried!). 

What I ultimately decided to do was set a clear and loving boundary that sounded like:

“Mom, when you call me repeatedly, I experience it as disruptive and distracting. I’d like to request that you stop doing that and instead, leave me a message or send me a text when I don’t pick up to let me know what you need. I’ll call you back when I’m able to connect. If you choose to keep calling me repeatedly, please know that I won’t answer the phone no matter how many times you call.”

After setting this boundary, my mom did sometimes choose to call me repeatedly, and I would choose not to pick up, exactly as I told her I would. 

The difference is, after setting a clear boundary, I didn’t feel resentment towards her or frustration with myself because I was taking responsibility for my needs…not passively expecting her to do that work.

Clear personal boundaries give us back the time, energy, and attention we need to do our best work.

REASON 3: Setting personal boundaries improves your health.

You know what else came out of the example above? Exhaustion. 

Before I learned how to set personal boundaries and then leaned on my courage to practice sharing them, I was tired all the time because I was constantly spinning my wheels wondering why people weren’t acting the way I wanted them to, trying to coerce them to change, and allowing other people to take my time, energy, and attention when I didn’t want to be giving it. 

Exhaustion is one of the best fertilizers for illness.

There are few things more frustrating than waking up day after day with a headache, a cold that won’t quit, or chronic fatigue that stops you from showing up with a full gas tank, ready for whatever comes your way. 


Learning to set personal boundaries is essential for our short term and long-term health. 


REASON 4: Setting personal boundaries improves the quality of your relationships.

At Salt & Roe, we believe that the heart of love is honesty. We don’t believe that we can be in connected, kind relationships where we make ourselves vulnerable to being seen and known without giving our people the gift of truth. 

When someone else violates your emotional or physical property and you do not assert a boundary, you are not being honest. 

It was not kind to my mom or to me when I chose not to say anything to her about my experience of her repeated phone calls. 

All that frustration and resentment I felt towards her created a tension in our connection that disappeared when I asked for what I needed, and then followed through with the clear and kind consequence of not meeting my request. 

Giving my mom the opportunity to show up in a way that felt more supportive to me was the essential first step to change. 

In the instances she chose to meet my request, I experienced peace. In the instances she chose not to meet my request, I still experienced peace because I knew what action to take to protect my energy, and I knew that she was expecting that response from me. 

Saint Augustine said, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” 

Setting clear personal boundaries stops the crazy-making cycle of drinking our own poison and hoping for the other person to change. 


There are as many types of boundaries as there are circumstances. Here are 11 different types to get your wheels turning, including an example for each that is NOT a proper boundary, and an example that is. 

Type of Boundary

NOT a Proper Boundary
(Demand of Someone Else)

A Proper Boundary
(Request of Someone Else)


“You should come to our house for Christmas Eve dinner this year because I came to your house last year.”

“I am hosting Christmas Eve dinner this year, and you are welcome to join us. Please let me know if you can make it.”


“I don’t want to gossip about our friend behind her back.”

“I'm not comfortable with this conversation. Can we change topics or would you rather talk some other time.”


“Please don’t do drugs while you’re with me.”

“If you choose to do drugs while you’re with me, then I'm going to leave.”


“Don’t send me emails over my weekend.”

“If you choose to send me emails over my weekend, I won’t read or respond to them until I return to my desk on Tuesday.”


“Stop texting me about your schedule.”

“If you choose to text me with schedule requests, I won’t read or respond to them.”


“Stop asking me to volunteer more time and give more money to your organization.”

“I’ve already committed as many resources as I’m able to commit to this. Feel free to continue asking, but if I’m tapped out I will respectfully decline.”


“You can’t spend our money on that.” 

“If you choose to keep making large purchases without consulting with me, I will separate our finances.”


“Stop listening to podcasts while I’m working.”

“Can we collaborate on quiet times to work from home? I want to spend time with you, but if you turn on a podcast while I’m working, I will have to move to another room or go work from a cafe.”


“You can’t drink anything tonight if you’re going to drive me home.”

“If you choose to have a drink tonight, I’ll be taking an Uber home and encouraging you to do the same.”


“You can’t keep sending me calendar invitations without checking to see if I’m available first.”

“If you keep sending me calendar invitations without checking to see if I’m available first, I will decline them.”


“Please don’t invite creepy Uncle Jacob to your Hunnakah celebration.”

“If you invite Uncle Jacob to the celebration, me and my family won’t attend.”



I hope by now, it’s starting to feel crystal clear why it’s valuable to build this skill and practice that releases you from wanting to control other people and frees you up to show up for your day with energy and internal groundedness.  

So why can it be so hard to set boundaries when we trust the payoff is so worthy? 

REASON 1: You don’t want to follow through on the consequence.

Following through on any consequence you name is essential. 

If you don’t follow through, you’ve actually haven’t set a boundary, you’ve only made an idle threat, and that hollow action stands to diminish your self-respect and theirs for you.


Remember, it is not someone else’s job to respect your boundary. It is your job to respect your boundary.


Truth is, following through with consequences often feels bad. 

It’s uncomfortable, and our human brains are wired to avoid discomfort, so it’s your work as a leader to overcome your brain’s red flags and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

REASON 2: You don’t want to feel the discomfort of witnessing someone else’s negative response.

This one is especially loud for us hospitalitarians. 

Bringing joy and happiness to other people is what we live for, and when it comes to boundary setting, you have to release your desire to people-please and embrace the discomfort of disappointing others. 

If you don’t, you’ll run out of steam and put yourself at risk of serving others from a place of exhaustion, resentment, and burnout.

REASON 3: We’re not willing to let someone else be wrong about us.

Sometimes you might avoid making a request or stating a need because you worry about what the other person is going to think of you. 

For example, if you choose not to attend or contribute to a fundraising event because you need to prioritize rest, you might worry that your colleagues and friends will think you’re not generous or involved enough in the community. 

And you’re right, they might think those things. You can’t control that. 

Setting boundaries demands that we get comfortable with letting other people think things about us that aren’t true…and letting that be okay, so long as we trust our own truth.

REASON 4: We forget to invite collaboration.

Sometimes we neglect to set boundaries because it feels like doing so might move us farther away from something that’s really important to us. 

The sample Environmental boundary in the chart above is from my own life, and for a long time I avoided setting a boundary that sounded like, “If you choose to listen to a podcast while I’m working, I will move to another room or go to a Cafe,” because I was afraid to rock the boat.

It’s as important to me to spend time with my partner when we’re both at home as it is to be able to get my work done, so arriving at a clear commitment for how to negotiate our shared space required me to lead an uncomfortable conversation to create a negotiated result we could both live with. 

Remembering that inviting collaboration can be a part of boundary setting can support you in getting your need for connection met, alongside your need to protect your focus, presence, and peace. 


In Brené Brown’s seminal work on daring leadership, she defines leadership as follows: 

“A leader is anyone who has the courage to take ownership of their influence. Leadership is not limited to the workplace. Parenting, partnership, and friendship are all arenas in which we can choose to lead, and we are all certainly the leaders of our own lives.” 

At Salt & Roe, we agree. 


There will only ever be one of you. It is your work in this lifetime to be whoever it is you are, and lead like hell from that one in 7.9 billion self. 


You can’t do that if you’re surrendering your physical and emotional property out of a desire to please other people. 

You can’t do that if you’re depleted, resentful, and exhausted because you’re more afraid of disappointing other people than you are of disappointing yourself.  

Leaders who sit at the top of the org chart at work and outside of it have a responsibility to themselves and those around them to show up for their lives and work with energy and groundedness. 

That starts with respecting your own wants and needs and making it clear to other people when they’re in violation of them.

Setting personal boundaries is the heartbeat of leadership.


We know that a boundary has two parts: a request + a consequence that you will take action on if your request isn’t met. 

Sometimes it’s necessary or helpful to share our personal boundaries with our people. 

Returning to the example between me and my mom, I chose to share that personal boundary with her because I realized I would be shifting my behavior after years of picking up her calls, and I didn’t want her to feel surprised or worried when I stopped. 

Sometimes, there’s no need or benefit for you or the other person to share your boundaries out loud. 

For example, if someone on social media is making rude comments on your posts or you don’t want to see content from a recent ex-lover, you might choose to take action in this space by blocking folks who are infringing on your emotional property and there would be no need to state that boundary out loud. You’d just do it!

If a family member starts celebrating political values in a way that crosses a boundary for you, you might choose to finish your drink in another room and make conversation with someone else. No excuse necessary!

In the spirit of supporting connection for everyone at the gathering, you could take that empowered action without stating out loud that you’re going to do it. 

I’ve done a lot of evaluation around my relationship with alcohol in recent years and have set a number of personal boundaries around this slippery substance. 

I find it helpful to share my boundary with friends and colleagues as an accountability measure, and as an act of kindness so that my people don’t feel surprised or even disappointed by my choice when we arrive at shared dinners and events. 

There are many other times when I don’t share this boundary out loud; I simply don’t drink and don’t feel compelled to share that choice. 

That being said, organizational and workplace requests are great examples of boundaries that almost always need to be shared out loud to support reliability and accountability amongst your team by taking responsibility for setting clear expectations. Read our post on Healthy Boundaries at Work for more guidance on this.

A great question to ask yourself when deciding whether a boundary needs to be shared is: will sharing this boundary be helpful or hurtful to me and the other person involved?


Why is setting and respecting our own boundaries around the holidays so dang hard? 

There are SO many reasons! Here are just a few: 

  1. Being with our families of origin can take us right back to our 2 or 12 or 15 year old selves. When we get pulled back to our child selves, our boundaries can go right out the window because we don’t think we’re allowed to have them!
  2. Spending time with in-laws or members of our blended, modern families can bring our people-pleaser to center stage. When we’re hoping to offer olive branches, seek approval, and build connection, it can be especially scary to stand up for our needs, knowing they might not match up with what others want and need. 
  3. We are told over and over again that the holidays are meant to be a joyful, celebratory time of year. This marketing pitch can lead us down a path of bypassing our own hard emotions or feeling extra cautious about doing or saying things that might prompt a hard emotion for someone else because, well, it’s not on brand for the holiday season. 
  4. The holidays can be an incredibly busy time in the hospitality profession, and an especially taxing one as guests come through your doors with family baggage, high expectations, and minimal patience. Setting personal boundaries as a hospitality professional can feel like one more thing on a never ending to-do list that you have less energy than usual to execute.

The holidays are a time when “should’s” and “it’s always been this way’s” tend to make us forget that our choices about how to celebrate and with whom are always ours to make. 

To support you in making this a holiday season that fills you up instead of draining you out, here’s your Salt & Roe issued permission slip to support you in protecting your peace and respecting yourself at this most challenging time of year:

  • You have permission to evaluate and claim how and with whom you want to gather and celebrate this year, and every year after. 
  • You have permission to change your mind. 
  • You have permission to ask for what you need, even if it disappoints someone you love.
  • You have permission to have a vision for the holidays that doesn’t align with what other people want (and they have permission to do something different).
  • You have permission to rest. 

Whatever season you’re in, remember that you’re not bad at boundaries. You just were never taught how to name them and keep them. 

We hope you’ll find comfort in joining us in walking together in the lifelong practice of developing this essential leadership skill. 

If you’re longing for the transformation that lives on the other side of building this skill and you’d like guidance, support, and accountability to get there, I hope you’ll check out our Leadership Development Program. Boundary setting is just one of many, many essential leadership skills that will help you feel more confident and whole. 

You got this, and we got you. 


We've been called wise big sisters and restaurant whisperers. 
Want a regular dose of our actionable industry insights to overcome overwhelm,
gain confidence, and build a life and livelihood you’re in love with?

Add our newsletter to your inbox.

We won’t send spam. We promise.

Website and photography created with assistance from Wildly Creative
Privacy Policy | Terms + Conditions | Disclaimer
© Salt & Roe 2024