Why You Feel So Guilty When You Set (And Enforce) Your Boundaries — And How To Make It Stop

The first step is learning to let go.

woman feeling guilty for setting boundaries fizkes / Shutterstock

Boundaries aren’t always easy to navigate or define for ourselves. 

It often feels incredibly uncomfortable to enforce boundaries with those in your life, yet the act of setting them becomes easier with practice.

There’s a specific reason why you feel guilty when you set and enforce boundaries.

According to a “Former people-people pleaser and recovered alcoholic” named Nick Pollard, feeling guilty about setting boundaries means you aren’t quite free from your people-pleasing behavior.


Still, he believes there are actionable steps to stop people-pleasing and set boundaries in a way that doesn’t feel bad.


The reason you feel guilty when you set your boundaries is pretty simple. Investment usually is equal to the amount of grief experienced. If you want to start making changes click the link in my bio and download my free guide. You can also sign up for my new course opening in June. https://stan.store/nickpollardexperience/ Learn to:
Set Boundaries Design the life you want Find meaning in your day-to-day life Enjoy more freedom Discover your Passions #peoplepleaser #boundaries #selfcare #discard #addiction #sober #narcissist #npd #traumahealing #stoppeoplepleasing #grief

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RELATED: 4 Phrases People Pleasers Can Use To Set Boundaries With People Who Take Advantage Of Them, According To A Therapist


Pollard responded to a comment from a follower, saying, “As I improve my ability to communicate boundaries respectfully, I feel a sense of guilt.”

In approaching the question of why setting boundaries makes people feel guilty, Pollard said, “First, you have to understand that you’re still trying to use other people to make you happy.”

He shared his perspective on people-pleasing, calling it “A habit of external validation.” He went on to describe people-pleasing behavior as “Using the acceptance of others to get a dopamine response to make you feel safe.”

“Until you stop using other people to make you feel good, setting boundaries is gonna feel super uncomfortable, because it creates a dip in your dopamine levels,” he explained. “No one’s required to like it when you express your boundaries, except for you."


The reason people feel guilty for setting boundaries is simple: They’re not fully comfortable with themselves.

Pollard maintains there’s only one way to get over the guilt of setting boundaries: Stop caring what others think.

This attitude might come off as nihilistic or narcissistic, but the essence of not caring what other people think is rooted in feeling worthy, in having a sense of self-confidence that doesn’t rely on anything outside of yourself.

In a separate post, Pollard shared the main concept to help you change your people-pleasing ways.

“People-pleasing is not a behavior. It’s a category of behaviors,” he said, including conflict avoidance, dishonesty, over-commitment, over-giving, and having no boundaries.


People-pleasing is not a behavior; it is a category of behavior, and in that category are: Having no boundaries Saying yes when you want to say no Lying Conflict avoidance Giving to get love Covert contracts (These suck) Creating resentment Addiction (All kinds) And much more. This means you have to be willing to take on each of these one by one over a long enough timeline to eliminate the behaviors in the category. While boundaries are important, PATIENCE is the key. #addiction #peoplepleasers #boundaries #patience #life #happiness

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RELATED: 9 Things You Are Absolutely Not Responsible For — No Matter How Guilty You Feel

“Each of those behaviors needs to be dealt with piece by piece, which means if you want to stop being a people-pleaser, it’s not just about the boundaries,” he explained. “It’s about patience.”

Shifting deeply ingrained habits isn’t the easiest thing to do, which is why Pollard urged patience.


“Try to remember that if you’ve been living this way for decades, you’re probably not going to change it overnight,” he said. “So, give yourself a long enough timeline and be patient because the longer you’re at this, the easier it gets.”


The reason I hate the idea is that "the more you do it, the easier it gets."When you realize that this is true about almost everything, then you can apply it to boundaries. And learn to set bulletproof boundaries.#growth #recovery #success #Boundaries #burnout

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Learning what our own boundaries are and learning how to express them to other people is part of a life-long journey to knowing ourselves better.

Part of setting boundaries is understanding that we can’t control anyone else’s behavior but our own. If someone gets angry at a boundary you set, that reaction says more about them than it does about you.

Sitting with the discomfort of changing the way we interact with the world is always a challenge, which is why it’s important to remember that no feeling is permanent.


The more we love and accept ourselves for exactly who we are, the more we can show up as the people we want to be without worrying about anyone else’s reaction. 

RELATED: 8 Simple Ways To Start Setting Boundaries You Can Actually Keep

Alexandra Blogier is a writer on YourTango's news and entertainment team. She covers social issues, pop culture and all things to do with the entertainment industry.