The barriers to setting boundaries

The barriers to setting boundaries

While many of us will recognise the benefits of setting boundaries – whether it be in our work, our relationships or with family – so often we are held back by internal and external barriers that stop us from making them. We may not be aware of these barriers, and recognising them is the first step before we are able to set boundaries in our life.

Internal barriers

So let’s start with internal: internal barriers are the thoughts and feelings that get in the way of you setting boundaries. In my work coaching women at my practice in London, I often see how these challenges hold my client’s back from making change. They might be: 

  • Fear of response or confrontation: for example, being concerned about what someone says if you push back.
  • Other people’s perceptions: perhaps you’re scared of being perceived as not being a team player, or not pulling your weight.
  • People-pleasing tendencies: lots of us tend to want to please others, and do the best for others. This mindset is often created from childhood environments, especially for women.
  • Lack of self worth or self respect.
  • Not being sure of what the boundaries are that you need and how to articulate them. 
  • Never having had to assert them boundaries before: you might be used to working late, and others have become accustomed to this. You may have no idea where to start when you need to make boundaries and changes.

These internal barriers will create dialogue and inner thoughts in your head that stop you from putting a boundary in place. These can include:

  • “What will they say about me if i say no”
  • “What if they think I’m not a team player?”
  • “I don’t deserve to ask for that”
  • “I don’t want to upset them or cause a fuss”
  • “What if I don’t get invited next time?“
  • “What if this makes me look weak and I can’t handle my job?”

If you’re having trouble recognising your internal barriers, consider the above internal thoughts: next time you can start to notice something similar running through your head, question whether this is an internal barrier that’s derived from your own worries or lack of confidence and question that.  It’s useful to see if you should be changing your thoughts – when you start to change those thoughts, it becomes much easier to set a boundary.

External barriers

External barriers to setting boundaries are the external environment you’re working in or operating in (the following are focused on the workplace, but can be applied to personal life too in many instances):

  • Culture – “it’s the way things are done around here”
  • Competitive workplace – lots of type A personalities 
  • Manager’s work style or perspective – eg. they often work late and don’t have children
  • Global companies – expectations of availability across time zones
  • Your colleagues (or one colleague you may compare yourself too), who always seem to be on top of their work
  • Volume of work and number of deliverables you need to do vs the amount of time you have available (including number of meetings)

You may worry about setting a boundary around your working hours because your workplace culture sets an expectation that everyone does it; or perhaps your global company has become used to you dialling in to 9pm meetings on a Friday to join colleagues in the US. These external barriers can feel hard to challenge, especially if you fear that you’re going against how others at your company work. 

How to set boundaries

Once you’ve recognised the barriers that might have stopped you from setting boundaries, you still have to do the work to put the boundaries in place and one of the hardest elements is working out what to say.

It can feel challenging to simply say ‘no’, so here’s one of the example scripts that I share in my Setting Boundaries Masterclass:

“Hi, can I chat with you for a minute?

“Thanks for briefing me in our team meeting on that project. I can see it’s really important for our client, and so can I come back to you as to how I may be able to support?”

“As you know, I’m working across a lot of projects and so I’d like to figure out the best way to manage my time so that I can provide meaningful support.”

“For example, do you recall last year when I stretched myself too thin on X and Y projects, I didn’t deliver my best work and I got burnt out? I don’t want to do that again.”

“Can I come back to you in 2 working days to discuss how I can support, what resources we may need to deliver it and timelines? I’ll also share my other client priorities. Does that sound reasonable?”

Why this script works:

  • It practices clear communication and is solution focused.
  • You’re not saying NO, which for most of us, is too hard and not realistic in work situations – I get it.
  • It gives YOU time to carefully consider how you can support and what other resources you may need. We say yes to please others, but we violate our own boundaries.

Setting Boundaries Masterclass

If you’re looking for more support with setting boundaries, my Setting Boundaries Masterclass is available now.

This masterclass is an 40-minute audio recording that you can listen to anywhere, anytime, plus includes example scripts, a booklet with why we need to set boundaries and checklists. It will guide you on how to set boundaries with confidence and less anxiety, will teach you my proven method to setting boundaries effectively, in any workplace or situation.

You’ll receive:

  • Recorded Masterclass that you can watch anytime with qualified coach and former Executive Advisor. You can also re-watch it as you have ongoing access.
  • Struggle with what to say? My key messages will help you multiple situations. You can use these at work and home and as a basis for any situation to set boundaries. Also included: three example scripts and guide to tricky conversations.
  • Get my proven 6 Steps to Setting Boundaries checklist, alongside other materials including a tool to help boost your self worth.

Enrol now for £37: sign up here

Further resources

Blog: Three Ways Unhealthy Boundaries are Affecting You

Blog: Setting Healthy Boundaries at Work

Need more support?

In my coaching work, I help clients to overcome their barriers and set boundaries in place. The results? More confidence, more personal time, better self worth and less anxiety: you’ll be amazed at the positive effects these results can have.

If you are interested in one-to-one coaching, click here for more information or drop me an email:

Share this :