Practice Boundary-Setting to Build Self-Esteem

October 14, 2020 Jessica Kaley

Boundary-setting is an important skill set to practice when you are on a journey to build stronger self-esteem. Like any other new activity that seems challenging in the beginning, your mastery will improve every time you try it.

There is a beautiful quote by Prentis Hemphill that says,

"Boundaries are the distance at which I can love you and me simultaneously."1

To me, it describes exactly what practicing this skillset is all about. Wouldn't it be great to learn how to show your love for all the people in your life while still feeling love and respect for yourself? Here are a few thoughts about boundary-setting for self-esteem that I've learned on my own journey.

How to Practice Better Boundary-Setting

When you want to improve any skill, it's easier to succeed with a plan that you put some thought into. Try following these steps if you want to work on setting better boundaries to protect and build your self-esteem.

  1. Choose one person to begin with. I like to start with easy changes first, so think about all the people who challenge your self-esteem. Who would be most open to a change in your behavior and potentially in theirs? Who would allow you to talk about the changes you want to make without dismissing your concerns? Who would give you the most benefit every day if you had better boundaries defined?
  2. Think about the specific outcome you want to achieve. What is it about this person that causes your self-esteem to suffer? Whether it's something said or done, think about how you would prefer that person to act and why the way that person does now affects you negatively. Visualize clearly to yourself the way you wish your interactions would occur and imagine how good you will feel when this happens.
  3. Practice your response to future encounters. I believe in scripting and practicing responses until they feel comfortable in my head, mouth and heart. Come up with a line that expresses your displeasure when the person ignores your boundary request and one that shows your appreciation when that person tries to adapt to your needs. Include your facial expressions and body language to strengthen your message. Use a mirror or video if it helps you in your practice.

Make Big Changes in Baby Steps When Setting Boundaries

Whenever you are making major changes to your life, such as setting new boundaries, try to allow yourself to take baby steps. When your self-esteem is low, it's hard to change your behavior with people you care about because you tend to put their wishes ahead of your own. One baby step you might choose is simply to tell people that you are working on building self-esteem. Another might be to notice others practicing good boundaries and discussing the topic with them. There is no one right way to do this, as long as it feels comfortable to you and brings you any small amount closer to your desired outcome.

Change happens easiest when we are aware that we want to change and why it's important to us. Asking others to change will be easier if they too understand the motivation behind your request because that builds their own awareness of your need. Be prepared for some negative reactions because most people resist change. The people you love and respect will react well if they love and respect you in return. They may not see the value or know the right way to do what you ask, but if they are willing to try, they're keepers.

This can all be scary to think about because you may learn there are people you need to let go of in order to take the best care of you possible. Go back to the visualization step to remember why this is important to you.

Who would you like to set better boundaries with, and why? Share your story in the comments so we can all learn from and support each other on our journey to healthy self-esteem.


  1. Hemphill, P., Quote. HealthyPlace, Accessed October 13, 2020.

APA Reference
Kaley, J. (2020, October 14). Practice Boundary-Setting to Build Self-Esteem, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 24 from

Author: Jessica Kaley

Find Jessica on LinkedIn.

Lizanne Corbit
October, 14 2020 at 11:55 am

This is such an important thing for everyone to give some time and thought to, especially those working on self-esteem! It's so easy for us to think of boundaries in negative terms, we worry about how people will respond to them, but the truth is that boundaries are actually mutually beneficial. If people do not respect your boundaries that is a reflection of them, not you. Wonderful read.

October, 15 2020 at 5:36 am

Thank you, Lizanne. I agree that it's part of building self-esteem that often trips people up, as learning to say "no" or even "not right now" to other people is hard when your confidence is low. Like anything else we want to learn, breaking it down into tiny steps will make this new skill easier as time goes by.

Leave a reply