What Does It Mean If You Feel Bad for Setting Boundaries


So you’ve set a boundary, and now you feel worse than you did before the boundary was set. You did this to help yourself feel better, right? So why is it that you now feel worse? Don’t worry; experiencing negative emotions around setting boundaries is completely normal.

Here are a few explanations as to why we may feel bad for implementing boundaries.

What Are Boundaries? 

First, let’s define what it means to set boundaries. Boundaries are verbal communication techniques we use to set limits, expectations, and responsibilities for ourselves and others. Boundaries are also a form of self-care, stating clearly how you would like to be treated. They can be physical (not wanting to hug a person you just met), emotional (not wanting family or friends to speak down to you), or time and space-orientated (not wanting people in your house when you are not home).

While we set these limitations to keep ourselves safe, we cannot control how others will respond. Not everyone will like or understand your reasons for setting boundaries. Some may even respond negatively. You may feel guilty, experience self-doubt, or feel the need to accommodate others. 

Why do we feel this way? Well, there could be a couple of reasons.

How to Deal with Negative Emotions About Boundaries

Remember the Purpose of Boundaries

If you are setting personal boundaries for the first time, it can feel awkward and uncomfortable. Starting in childhood, we are taught to be considerate of how other people feel. Because of this, putting our needs before someone else’s may seem selfish. As a result, we feel guilty for doing so. This is called “unearned guilt,” and while it may seem contradictory, this feeling is a part of the process for setting healthy expectations in relationships.

Setting boundaries can also feel like we are rejecting people. For example, telling someone not to speak to us in a certain way, or not to do something that makes us uncomfortable changes the dynamic of the relationship, which in turn can present as rejection.

These negative thoughts about ourselves are a form of self-punishment because we feel we did something wrong. This is normal, and it is important to acknowledge these beliefs, but not let them take over. Keep reminding yourself that you are making a good decision that is intended to keep you safe.

Practice Clear Communication

Remember that clear communication is important when discussing personal limitations. Use “I” statements, such as “I feel…” and “I need…” to avoid blaming others and to provide reasoning for your boundaries. Explaining that these stipulations are being put in place for your own well-being, and not at the fault of the other person can help with the feeling of rejection.

We may also experience disappointment in ourselves or others for our boundaries. If someone you care about is having a negative reaction to an expectation you are setting, you may break this boundary in order to accommodate how they are feeling. This can lead to disappointment in yourself and ultimately make you feel worse.

It is also common to feel disappointment towards those you are setting the boundary for, especially if you feel they are not respecting you and your choices. At the end of it all, we can only care for ourselves, and empower others to take care of their own needs.

Next Steps

Remember, it is normal to feel bad after setting boundaries, and it simply means that you care about the relationships of those you are setting boundaries for. However, it is not our responsibility to comfort those who may have a problem with our personal limitations or expectations.

Boundary setting is a skill, and like any other skill, it takes time, effort, and practice to fully master. 

If you are struggling with setting boundaries or managing your emotions due to boundary setting, our skilled and experienced therapists can provide you with support and guidance.

Reach out to Onyx and schedule an appointment with a therapist today!