Setting Boundaries Protects Self-Esteem

June 3, 2020 Jessica Kaley

When you practice setting boundaries that protect your self-esteem, you are supporting yourself in many ways. It shows you love and respect yourself, and it keeps you from grief when others attempt to abuse you, intentionally or inadvertently. Whether it's between you and people you love and choose to have in your life or people you must interact with for your job or another requirement, creating a boundary that reflects your needs will strengthen your self-esteem.

But how do you do that without causing others pain or making your situation even less tolerable than it is now? Here are some thoughts about setting good boundaries to protect and build healthy self-esteem.

My Poor Boundaries Led to Poor Self-Esteem

I learned about how to set better boundaries in a course I took on time management. The class offered a unique perspective on the subject. Instead of trying to fit more into each day, I learned to be selective about the things I allowed on my schedule.

Perhaps you are like I was back then. I was smart and capable, and I loved deeply. These characteristics led me to believe that I had to do everything that anyone asked me to do to show my support. I thought that since I was able to do things, I must do things. I never put myself first because I thought that was selfish. And I allowed other people's opinions of me to color my self-image, which was poor. I recognized that I was smart and capable, but I never felt like I was enough.

Does Your Self-Esteem Need Better Boundaries?

There are several ways to recognize if poor boundaries are contributing to your poor self-esteem.

  1. Your safety is threatened. First and foremost, taking care of your health and safety is essential to healthy self-esteem. Prioritizing your wellbeing is a sign of self-love and loving yourself is a bottom-line requirement for building self-esteem. Taking care of yourself allows you to be there for others if it helps to think of it in a way that doesn't feel selfish.
  2. Your schedule is taken over by others' requests for your time. An important concept I learned in that time management class is that time is our most valuable asset because it can never be replaced. Therefore, we need to guard our limited supply of time against commitments that do not support our personal vision of success. The teacher, Dr. Donald E. Wetmore, taught us 17 ways to say "no" to requests that we can't or don't want to fit into our schedule from his article "Just Say No."1 Practicing these statements helped me build self-esteem by finally learning to manage my calendar successfully. When I stopped failing because of a shortage of time caused by over-committing to others, my self-esteem blossomed.
  3. Other people's opinions of you make you feel less worthy. There's a saying that goes, "Your opinion of me is none of my business." It's not an easy concept to accept when your self-esteem is poor. I learned to create life goals in Dr. Wetmore's class that defined my personal vision of success, and that made it easier for me to celebrate my uniqueness and believe that I didn't need to live up to other people's expectations. You are the only one whose opinion of you matters. This doesn't mean that you have to ignore the input of those you value, but you must learn to judge whether it is meaningful when held against your vision of what you want your life to look like. This picture is bound to be different from theirs because we all have our own journey based on our life goals and our personal set of talents and challenges. Accepting your individuality is a sign of strong self-esteem.

You deserve to be treated well and respected by everyone, starting with yourself. Setting boundaries that support and protect your safety, success, and happiness will build self-esteem that is stronger and healthier. What are your personal boundary issues? Do you allow people to treat you poorly, or do you put other people's needs before your own? Learning to set good boundaries was one of the most important lessons for improving my self-esteem.

I look forward to reading your comments about your boundaries with others. What are you ready to try to change today?


  1. Wetmore, D., "Just Say No." The Productivity Institute, 2018.

APA Reference
Kaley, J. (2020, June 3). Setting Boundaries Protects Self-Esteem, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 18 from

Author: Jessica Kaley

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Lizanne Corbit
June, 3 2020 at 1:29 pm

Yahoo for this wonderful read! I think this is one that just about everyone could benefit from reading because it's so easy for us to overlook, or simply not realize, certain behaviors are promoting a lack of boundaries. For example, this point: "I thought that since I was able to do things, I must do things.", this is a concept that gets applied to so many things and when we stop to realize that just because you can doesn't mean you must. I love that you identify a strong sense (and appreciation) of individuality with self esteem, how true this is.

June, 4 2020 at 4:30 am

Lizanne, I love the "yahoo"! I think accepting our uniqueness is a huge part of building self-esteem. I have never been a follower of the pack and I always went my own way, but at the same time, I measured my value using other people's yardstick. It took a lot of work to reconcile allowing myself to be different and loving and esteeming that difference. Thank you for your comment.

Don Wetmore
June, 3 2020 at 1:06 pm

Very insightful article. Readers applying these suggestions will enjoy increases in their personal productivity both on and off the job and have less stress by creating a reality in their days that matches their expectations rather than those of others.

June, 4 2020 at 4:25 am

Don, thank you for your comment. Productivity has always been a way that I measured my self-worth, and I learned so much in your class that allowed me to relieve the stress of having to over-perform and bring reality to my life, my calendar, and my self-esteem. Best wishes!

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