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Is it possible to have healthy boundaries while still helping people who are important to me?


Doing simple acts of kindness, helping people out in their times of need, showing compassion. These acts are beneficial to our mental health through decreasing our feelings of loneliness, and increasing our feelings of connectedness. Our stress decreases and improves our confidence and optimism. 

On the other hand, we have to strive that our compassion to others would not hinder their ability and willingness to perform their responsibilities and to answer to their own actions. Our help can boost their confidence in solving their problems, but it should not take away their independence. 

So how do we achieve this delicate balance between our healthy boundaries and our desire to help others? 

Strategies for psychological safety 

A study by a professor at Harvard Business School proposed that when we are able to create an environment where care and accountability are balanced, people feel safer to take risks, to treat mistakes as opportunities for growth, and to create more solutions.  

  • Understand the two extremes: show compassion, yet set healthy boundaries. 

When we start figuring out this situation, we may be on either of these two sides. We may be “too soft” and find ourselves becoming people’s rescuers, or a victim when we let people abuse our kindness. Or we may see ourselves as “too hard” where we hold people accountable for their actions while struggling to show them some compassion. 

First, we need to understand that we don’t have to be on either side, but we can set boundaries by knowing our own limitations, needs and priorities and responding to people’s needs based on our limitations and capacities. We can better decide what time, effort and resources we are able to give. 

  • Communicate expectations. 

Relationships between husband and wife, between manager and employee, between friends, and between family members. All of these require us to be clear of our roles and responsibilities through communication. 

A lot of misunderstandings and conflict occur in relationships because expectations which have not been clearly stated are oftentimes not met. 

When we sit down and express our goals for the relationship, then we can promote accountability instead of irresponsibility, professionalism instead of unprofessional behaviors, respect instead of disrespect, and empowerment instead of disempowerment.

One way we can apply this is by differentiating what constitutes crises (major illnesses, tragedy, etc) that need our assistance and compassion and what are events that require less. 

  • Practice self-awareness and self-compassion. 

Being altruistic is highly viewed as a positive and admirable trait, yet people who have not set healthy boundaries often push themselves too much to the point that they give up meeting their own needs and the needs of the people closest to them in the name of being compassionate to others. 

But as both ancient and modern philosophers have reminded us time and time again, those who cannot help themselves cannot truly help others. 

Increasing our self-awareness and self-care practices enables us to increase our capacity to reach out and aid others. This may mean taking a pause and resting from all the work we do for others to care for ourselves, or surrounding ourselves with adults who are also emotionally healthy. We refresh ourselves by maintaining social connections with people with similar values and priorities. 

  • Help through emotional support and practical assistance. 

Receiving adequate emotional support has been shown to decrease stress. Our help can be in the form of lending an empathetic ear and validating a distressed person’s feelings. 

Another way we can help is through offering to do some tasks or services. It can even mean giving them resources or linking them to our contacts who could give them the help they need. 

Setting healthy boundaries does not have to be a limitation to the compassion and help we offer to others. Instead, they provide us with realistic guidelines on our intentions and behaviors that will also bless and give value to those we help. 

Are you in search of your next fulfilling career in health care and in the field of mental health? Find out how you can connect with high-quality job opportunities across the US!  

Is it possible to have healthy boundaries while still helping people who are important to me?
Brandon Resasco