There are many things that put people off setting boundaries and many attitudes about boundaries that I want us to debunk right now so that these don’t sabotage this opportunity for growth.


There are many ways of defining different types of boundaries and we are going to use a conception that I think is particularly helpful that offers three types of boundaries; Porous, defensive and healthy boundaries.

Porous Boundaries
  • Porous boundaries indicate a tendency to overstep your personal limits and go beyond your capacity, taking on responsibilities that aren’t yours.
  • For example, overworking can indicate allowing too much in and out and can leave you feeling emotionally drained and exhausted.
  • Burnout is often the result of porous boundaries as there has too much external influence and a lack of proper discernment of your needs.
  • People with porous boundaries may struggle to say no, feel worried about what other people think and therefore feel guilty for pushing back and saying no as they are trying to please others.
  • They may also provide unsolicited feedback and rely excessively on others’ opinions to make decisions.
  • I’m sure you can think of someone in your life who is super indecisive and goes around asking everyone for their opinion! Ultimately, porous boundaries can result in resentment towards oneself and others.
Defensive Boundaries
  • Defensive boundaries represents someone who keeps others at a distance, and doesn’t let anyone in. They exhibit rigidity and inflexibility.
  • They reject offers of assistance and refrain from seeking help themselves. They stubbornly adhere to their own decisions regardless of the impact on others.
  • They struggle to be vulnerable and express their needs and often experience feelings of loneliness and isolation.
  • Their rigid boundaries prevent them from embracing new perspectives and concepts.
Healthy Boundaries
  • Healthy boundaries safeguard you while allowing a relationship to flourish. A healthy boundary involves being able to voice your opinions and express your truth while respecting the other person’s perspective.
  • You input your boundaries respectfully and implement and maintain a fair boundary, regardless of whether the other person approves and receives the boundary well, because the other person’s reaction is not your responsibility.
  • When you implement healthy boundaries, you stay connected to yourself while being protected from other external expectations that do not align with your views and needs.
  • You draw a line of separation between self and other, acknowledging which views, expectations and emotions are yours, while also acknowledging the views, expectations and emotions that do not belong to you.
  • You know when to say no.


There can be a dance between all three of these. For example, you may find that you have porous boundaries and say yes to a lot of requests and demands on your time and energy. After a while you find yourself exhausted as you dash from one thing to the next in an attempt to please others. You may feel resentful and used and you may snap. You decide that’s it, you’ve had enough and you swear off that behaviour. Instead, you swing to the other end of the spectrum and hold very rigid boundaries that keeps everyone out! You end up living in the extremes, neither of which satisfies your needs.

Action Step

Journal and reflect on the following to clarify what type of boundaries you have and to prepare for the next topic:

  1. Which boundary type do you identify with, porous, defensive or healthy? Do you find yourself shifting between all three depending on the circumstances?
  2. At one time or another, have you had porous boundaries and said yes to everything until you reached breaking point and then suddenly became changed to defensive boundaries? This pattern is common and something I come across within my 1:1 Psychotherapy .
  3. Take a moment to consider situations where you might not be assertively expressing your boundaries. Are you allowing others to treat you in ways that make you uncomfortable out of fear of their reaction? Are you keeping people at arm’s length to avoid revealing your true self, whether at work or in relationships?
  4. Reflect on and write about instances where you might be disregarding your own boundaries. Do you set intentions to finish work at a reasonable time but find yourself working late into the evenings? Do you plan to prioritise self-care activities like yoga or exercise but consistently push them aside? Do you aim to maintain a positive internal dialogue of compassion and kindness but slip into negativity?