woman in white long sleeve shirt standing near green leaf tree

How To Set Boundaries When You’re A Highly Sensitive Person

“We make it especially hard for others to observe our trait because we are so responsive to our environments that we can be something like chameleons when around others, doing whatever it takes to fit in.” – Elaine N. Aron

Highly Sensitive People are intuitive. They feel things more deeply than others, and they can be easily overwhelmed by their internal and external environments. While I believe being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is a wonderful gift, it does come with some challenges, and one particular challenge is setting boundaries.

As an HSP, one of our core characteristics is empathy for others. We can often sense someone’s emotions and pick up on subtle changes in tone of voice or body language that indicates displeasure or upset. In order for an HSP to avoid upsetting someone, they people please and accommodate requests from others despite being too tired or overwhelmed. We say “yes” to things when we really want to say “no.” Operating this way, however, leaves us feeling resentful, frustrated, depleted, and angry.

Healthy boundaries are an important component of self-care for a Highly Sensitive Person, as they help avoid burn-out, exhaustion, and emotional and mental breakdowns. Setting healthy boundaries can have many benefits, including the well-being of your mind, your heart, and your physical health. When you start saying “no” to what doesn’t serve you and “yes” to all that does, you will also find your level of confidence increases, as well as your self-esteem.

Here are six ways to set healthy boundaries.

1. Clarity Is Power

You can’t set healthy boundaries if you’re unsure what your own needs and desires are. So, the key is to get clear on what feels right for you and what feels wrong for you. How do you want to be spoken to? How do you want to be treated? What makes you uncomfortable, stressed, or anxious? These feelings will help you establish what your limits are.

​Start by making a list of your values, of what’s important to you; write down how you want to be treated, and from there, any time your values and boundaries aren’t being respected, you can communicate with more clarity and confidence because you have been clear on what you will and will not tolerate.

“Each time I honor my boundaries, I feel more and more confident to express my needs and create space for my desires.”

2. Learn To Say No

​The word “no” is a complete sentence, but the truth is, this simple two letter word can be quite daunting and stressful to say to others. This is because we have often been met with guilt and poor reactions when we have said “no” to someone who wants something from us. So in order to avoid confrontation and people thinking badly of us, we appease them and do something we desperately do not want to do. Then the resistance and resentment sinks in and we are left feeling depleted and disrespected. Maybe even taken advantage of.

We also feel frustrated with ourselves because we said “yes” when our heart was calling out, “NO!” Here’s something you need to know: When someone asks you to do something and you say no, they are going to move onto the next person. They may even forget they asked you in the first place. And when you actually start saying no, people will respect you IF they respect themselves. If they don’t, they don’t deserve your time and energy.

​Say what you really want to say and don’t feel the need to justify or explain yourself. If something doesn’t align with your energy or serve you, don’t do it.

“Setting boundaries is a normal part of my everyday life.”

3. Give Yourself Permission

​Guilt, fear, and self-doubt can often prevent us from standing up for ourselves and expressing our deepest needs. As a Highly Sensitive Person, we worry about how others will react and respond to our requests. This is one of the biggest things that stop us from setting healthy boundaries and receiving the respect we innately deserve.

​One thing that helps me greatly in many aspects of my life is the act of giving myself permission to do what I need to do. Because the truth is, we tend to wait for permission from others, for someone to tell us it’s okay to speak up, to say how we feel about something that doesn’t feel good for us. However it’s solely up to us to directly communicate our needs, because nobody knows what we truly need, only we do. So give yourself permission to set boundaries and know that you are not responsible for how others react, you are only responsible for your own actions.

“It’s safe for me to share my boundaries with others.”

4. Tune Into Your Intuition

​What is your intuition telling you? What is your energy saying? Your instincts and intuition can help you determine when someone is violating or disrespecting your boundaries. It’s also an indication to let you know when you need to set some boundaries. When you find yourself in a situation that doesn’t feel good, check in with your body and reflect on how you feel. Are you anxious? Uncomfortable? Is your heart rate up or do you feel a tightness in your chest?

​These are some of the many ways your body is communicating a message to you. Ask yourself what part of the experience and encounter made you respond this way and self inquire whether or not you need to set some boundaries, and what those boundaries will be.

​”I honor myself by honoring my boundaries.”

5. Make Self-Care A Priority

​We hear about self-care so often, but how does it relate to setting boundaries? Simple. If you aren’t caring for yourself, and respecting the needs of your own mind, body, and soul, you can not expect others to respect those needs. It’s important as a Highly Sensitive Person to take care of your own wellness and wellbeing, because when we do, we start to feel more confident and self assured in our choices. In turn we come to a point where we will not allow others to mistreat or disrespect us.

​Putting yourself first and nurturing your own needs will help you build the inner strength you may require when it comes to setting those healthy boundaries. And just remember, implementing boundaries isn’t selfish, it’s an act of self-love. When you say “no” to others, you are saying “yes” to yourself.

​Take care of yourself first and value your own self worth because when you value yourself, others will naturally value you.

“Each and every day, I’m becoming clearer and clearer about the boundaries that serve me best.”

6. Start Small

Like any new skill, expressing and communicating your boundaries takes practice and patience. Begin by setting a small boundary, one that doesn’t scare you too much or make you feel overly uncomfortable. Maybe it’s telling your clients that you’re only available between certain hours. Maybe it’s turning down an invite from a friend or family member, or perhaps it’s declining a favor someone asks of you that you know you will later resent doing.

​When you start small, you begin to build the boundary muscle, and eventually you become stronger the more you exercise and build this muscle. The more you say “no” to what doesn’t serve you, the more aligned you become with your own truth and your own needs.

“I am worthy and deserving of setting and maintaining boundaries that feel good and right for me.”

If you’re a Highly Sensitive Person, give yourself full permission to do what you need to do in order to keep your emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being healthy, grounded, and balanced.

About the author
Intuitive Energy Healer | Spiritual Life Guide | Bestselling Author Follow Vanessa on Instagram or read more articles from Vanessa on Thought Catalog.

Learn more about Thought Catalog and our writers on our about page.

Related