The Power of Setting Healthy Boundaries: A Path to Personal Happiness

Setting healthy boundaries is a crucial aspect of personal well-being and happiness, yet many people do not realise that their unhappiness often stems from a lack of boundaries. Inadequate boundaries can lead to feelings of frustration, resentment, and exhaustion, affecting various aspects of life, including relationships, friendships, and work.

This blog post explores the reasons behind people-pleasing behaviour, its roots in trauma, and the impact of poor boundaries. It also provides practical examples of setting healthy boundaries to promote personal happiness and highlights the role of therapy in this transformative process.

The Hidden Cost of Poor Boundaries

Many individuals remain unaware of the extent to which their dissatisfaction and stress are linked to inadequate boundary setting. They may feel overwhelmed by the demands of others, constantly putting others’ needs before their own. This behaviour often originates from a deep-seated need to please others, seeking validation and approval at the expense of their own well-being.

People-Pleasing: A Trauma Response

People-pleasing behaviour often originates from traumatic experiences, particularly in childhood, where individuals learned that love and approval were conditional. For instance, a child who received affection and validation only when they met their parents’ expectations or made them happy might internalise the belief that their worth is contingent on pleasing others. This environment fosters a deep-seated fear of rejection and a strong desire to avoid conflict, leading to a habit of constantly putting others’ needs before their own.

As these children grow into adults, the pattern of prioritising others over themselves becomes ingrained. They may find it difficult to assert their own needs and boundaries, often feeling guilty or anxious when they try to do so. This behaviour is an attempt to secure love and acceptance, but it comes at the cost of their own well-being. Over time, this self-neglect can lead to emotional exhaustion, resentment, and burnout. The relentless pursuit of approval and the fear of disappointing others trap them in a cycle where their own needs are perpetually sidelined, ultimately eroding their sense of self and happiness.

Understanding this origin is crucial, as it highlights that people-pleasing is not just a personality trait, but a coping mechanism rooted in past trauma. Recognising this connection can be the first step towards healing and establishing healthier boundaries. Therapy can play a vital role in this process, helping individuals uncover the roots of their people-pleasing tendencies, address the underlying trauma, and develop strategies to assert their own needs without guilt or fear.

Poor Boundaries in Different Contexts

Understanding the impact of poor boundaries in various aspects of life is crucial for fostering healthier and more fulfilling relationships. Whether in romantic relationships, friendships, or the workplace, inadequate boundaries can lead to significant emotional distress and dissatisfaction. Below, we explore specific examples in each context and discuss how setting healthy boundaries can improve personal well-being and happiness. 


In romantic relationships, poor boundaries often lead to co-dependency and a lack of personal space. Take Sarah and John, for example. Sarah always agrees with John to avoid conflict, even when she disagrees or feels uncomfortable. Over time, this leads to a loss of her own identity and growing resentment. Sarah should have expressed her own opinions and needs, fostering open and honest communication. Setting boundaries helps both partners respect each other’s individuality.

Similarly, Tom allows his partner, Emma, to dictate all aspects of their social life, from whom they spend time with to how they spend their weekends. As a result, Tom feels trapped and unhappy. Instead, Tom should communicate his own preferences and negotiate a balance that respects both partners’ needs and desires. This approach would create a more equitable and satisfying relationship dynamic.


In friendships, poor boundaries can result in one-sided relationships and emotional exhaustion. For instance, Lisa frequently lends money to her friend, Mike, despite feeling uncomfortable and financially strained. She fears that setting a boundary will damage their friendship. Lisa should communicate her financial boundaries clearly, explaining that while she values their friendship, she cannot continue lending money. True friends will respect and understand these boundaries, strengthening the relationship.

Another example is Mark, who feels obligated to listen to his friend, Peter’s, problems for hours on end, even when it disrupts his own work and personal time. This leaves Mark feeling drained and resentful. Mark should set limits on the time he spends on these conversations, suggesting a mutually convenient time to talk and encouraging Peter to seek professional help if needed. This way, Mark can maintain his own well-being while still being supportive. 


In the workplace, poor boundaries can lead to burnout and exploitation. Jane, for example, regularly stays late at work to help her colleagues with their tasks, neglecting her own projects and personal life. She feels overwhelmed and underappreciated. Jane should establish clear boundaries regarding her availability, prioritising her own tasks and communicating her limits to her colleagues. By doing so, she can manage her workload more effectively and maintain a healthier work-life balance.

Similarly, James consistently takes on additional projects assigned by his boss, fearing that refusal will jeopardise his job. This leaves him feeling overworked and stressed. James should have an honest conversation with his boss about his workload, expressing his capacity and suggesting alternative solutions or delegating tasks. Open communication about workload and boundaries can lead to a more sustainable and productive work environment. 

Promoting Personal Happiness Through Boundary Setting

Setting healthy boundaries is essential for personal happiness and well-being. It involves recognising and respecting your own needs and limits and communicating them clearly to others. Healthy boundaries allow you to maintain your identity, reduce stress, and foster more balanced and respectful relationships.

A therapist can provide invaluable support in this journey. They can help you identify areas where boundaries are lacking, understand the underlying trauma that contributes to people-pleasing behaviour, and develop practical strategies for setting and maintaining boundaries. Therapy offers a safe space to explore your feelings, build self-esteem, and learn to prioritise your own well-being. 

Setting healthy boundaries is a powerful tool for improving personal happiness and well-being. By understanding the roots of people-pleasing behaviour and recognising the impact of poor boundaries in various aspects of life, you can take proactive steps towards a more balanced and fulfilling life. Therapy can provide the guidance and support needed to navigate this transformative process.

If you struggle with setting boundaries and feel overwhelmed by the demands of others, reach out for professional guidance. Therapy can help you heal from past traumas, develop healthy boundaries, and reclaim your happiness.

Read more:

A Guide to Healing After Losing a Relationship

Overcoming Self-Doubt: Building Self-Confidence and Resilience in Counseling

The Consequences of Ignoring Depression: Why It Shouldn’t Be Taken Lightly

Normalising Depression Symptoms in Midlife

Media contact: Cathlen Fourie, +27 82 222 9198,,

More about Guidance to Grow

Guidance to Grow is a South African-based therapeutic consultancy that provides professional counselling and life coaching services. Guidance to Grow, under the leadership of Social Worker in Private Practice, Jeanne van den Bergh, has a focus on supporting individuals who are experiencing grief, bereavement, and trauma. They offer a range of services that are designed to help clients process and manage their emotions, including one-on-one counselling, group therapy, and workshops.

At Guidance to Grow, Jeanne takes a compassionate and personalised approach to each client’s unique needs. She works closely with clients to understand their challenges, provide guidance and support, and develop customised strategies to help them move forward and find a sense of peace and fulfillment.

Guidance to Grow’s commitment to providing exceptional therapeutic services has earned them a reputation as one of the most trusted and reliable counselling and life coaching providers in South Africa. If you or someone you know is struggling with grief, bereavement, or trauma, consider reaching out to Guidance to Grow for compassionate support and guidance.


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