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Setting boundaries is an essential aspect of maintaining healthy relationships. Still, many people struggle with it, especially if they are prone to people-pleasing. People-pleasing is a behaviour pattern that involves prioritizing others' needs and wants over one's own, often leading to neglecting personal boundaries. In this article, we'll explore boundary-setting in the context of people-pleasing and how those focused on others can set clear boundaries.

What are Boundaries?

Boundaries are the limits we set for ourselves in relationships to protect our emotional, mental, and physical well-being. These limits include expressing our needs, establishing personal space, setting boundaries around time, emotional support, and other aspects of our lives. Boundaries are crucial for healthy relationships. They help us maintain our identity, build self-esteem, and respect our feelings and values.

What is People Pleasing?

People-pleasing is a behaviour pattern that involves sacrificing one's own needs and wants to satisfy others. People-pleasers often avoid conflict, seek validation, and fear disappointing others, leading them to take on more than they can handle or endure toxic relationships. People-pleasing can be detrimental to personal relationships, career, and mental health.

How to Set Boundaries When You're a People Pleaser

1. Understand your needs and values.

One critical step to setting boundaries is understanding your needs and values. Ask yourself, "What matters to me?" "What am I comfortable with?" "What are my priorities?" This self-awareness will help you identify when someone is crossing your boundaries.

2. Start small.

Setting boundaries can be challenging, so start with small things. For instance, say "no" to a request you don't have the time or energy to fulfil. This will help you establish healthy habits of assertiveness and boundary-setting.

3. Communicate clearly.

When setting boundaries, communicate clearly and assertively. Use "I" statements to express your needs and feelings, such as "I need some time alone right now" or "I don't feel comfortable with that." Avoid being defensive or apologetic, and keep your message concise and straightforward.

4. Recognize and manage guilt.

People-pleasers often experience guilt when setting boundaries. It's essential to recognize this and manage it healthily. Remember that setting boundaries is necessary for your well-being, and you're not obligated to do things that don't align with your values.

5. Practice self-care.

Taking care of yourself is essential for maintaining healthy boundaries. Prioritize activities that help you recharge and manage stress, such as exercise, hobbies, or meditation.

Setting boundaries can be challenging, particularly when you're a people-pleaser. However, it's essential to establish healthy boundaries to promote positive relationships and protect your well-being. You can set and maintain healthy boundaries by understanding your needs and values, starting small, communicating assertively, managing guilt, and practicing self-care.


Boyes, A. (2019). Setting boundaries when you're a people pleaser. Psychology Today.

Grossman, S. (2021). Boundaries: What they are and how to set them. American Psychological Association.

  • Writer's pictureJessica Condon

Perhaps it will surprise you to learn that the fit with your counsellor is the best indicator of success in counselling.

Take a moment and think about that for a second.

If your relationship with your counsellor is an indicator of how counselling, something you have probably contemplated for months or years, is going to go, should you really just be happy with whomever you may find?

In my opinion, no.

Dr. John Gottman’s decades long research tells us that couples will wait an average of six years from the moment they contemplate counselling to actually making the appointment. That is a long time for resentments, troubles, and unhappiness to build. For both couples and individuals, finding that moment that everything lines up and counselling seems doable can feel like lightning in a bottle. How can you best capitalize on that moment and make sure you match with the best counsellor for you?

With so many counsellors advertising their services, how do you know who will be the best fit? I want to help you navigate this, frankly, overwhelming process. There are so many counsellors to choose from, especially now that so many have moved to teletherapy, and this is exciting! You are no longer limited to who is nearby; you can extend your search and cast a wide net.

When you have found a few counsellors you are interested in, it is time to reach out to them. I suggest finding 3-5 counsellors rather than just reaching out to 1. Remember that counselling profiles you see online are limited and really cannot demonstrate what we can offer you, and to mitigate that you can ask for a short 10-20 minute meeting, or consultation, to assess the fit. You would try on clothes or take a car for a test drive, why shouldn’t you get the chance to get to know your counsellor before setting up a session?

The Consultation Tips

This is your opportunity to determine if what the counsellor offers is what you need. Put some thought into what you are looking for before the consultation. One way to do this is to think about a past counselling experience or a time where you felt heard and validated. What did you like about that experience that you would like to see in your counselling?

It’s natural to be nervous but remember that you are interviewing the counsellor not vice versa.

Have an idea of what you are wanting to get out of counselling. You will likely be asked this question so the counsellor can tell you whether or not they can be of help to you.

Most importantly, ask questions. I cannot stress this enough. You are investing your time, energy, and money into this experience so advocate for yourself. Here are some questions I always appreciate getting from potential clients:

a. Based on what I am looking for how do you think you can help me?

b. Do you ask for feedback from your clients?

c. How do you know whether or not your clients are making progress?

d. If I feel that you are not the right fit for me what are the next steps?

e. If something changes and I am struggling financially will you be willing to adjust my fee?

f. Do you require a minimum commitment up front or am I able to discontinue counselling at any time?

You are embarking on something very exciting by reaching out to counsellors; you are making the first step towards the life you want to be living. As counsellors, we are just lucky enough to walk beside you for a period of time.

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