How Does a Lack of Boundaries Affect Highly Sensitive People?

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Setting boundaries is integral to self-care because it helps us take care of our responsibilities, manage our relationships, and protect our mental health and well-being.

Everyone needs to set healthy boundaries. But highly sensitive people are the ones who need boundaries the most.

What is a Highly Sensitive Person?

The term “highly sensitive person” was first used by psychologist and pioneer researcher of highly sensitive people Elaine Aron.

High sensitivity is a personality trait and not a diagnosable condition or disorder. It refers to increased responsiveness; the central nervous system is more sensitive to internal and external stimuli in highly sensitive people.

A highly sensitive person, or HSP for short, exhibits sensory processing sensitivity (SPS), “a personal disposition to be sensitive to subtle stimuli and easily over-aroused by external stimuli.”

In other words, if you are an HSP, your brain works differently than other people’s brains. As a result, you are more sensitive to small environmental changes, making it easier to get overstimulated by things inside and outside you.

According to research, about 10 percent to 20 percent of the population has high sensitivity traits.

A highly sensitive person is not just extremely attuned to their own and other people’s emotions. Both physical inputs like light, music, or energy and social stimuli like the expressions of others can affect them.

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Am I an HSP?

Do you identify as profoundly emotional? Do you go above and beyond to make other people happy? A lack of boundaries can make interpersonal relationships challenging if you are highly sensitive. For example, are you deeply upset by unfairness and violence? You may be a highly sensitive person if emotionally charged situations drain you more than they do those around you.

Besides this, you can be a very sensitive person if you:

  • Have difficulties handling criticism
  • Tend to overthink and worry
  • Are highly empathetic
  • Are very intuitive
  • Pick up on subtle social cues (body language, tone of voice, etc.)
  • Have a low tolerance to pain
  • Quickly feel tired and overwhelmed
  • Process environmental stimuli more deeply
  • Have more intense emotional reactions

Being a highly sensitive person can be challenging. Setting boundaries can help you take care of yourself and reduce stress.

What are Boundaries?

Boundaries are the limits we set for ourselves, others, and our experiences. Our limits communicate to others around us what we expect or won’t put up with. Mental, emotional, sexual, physical, material and spiritual boundaries are the filters that determine what you can handle, how you want to be treated, how you want to be held accountable, and what you will or won’t accept.

However, boundaries are not fixed – you can modify them depending on circumstances.

Why Is It So Important to Maintain Boundaries?

A lack of boundaries can mean poor self-care. Healthy boundaries are essential to self-care, especially if you are highly sensitive. They help reduce stress and anxiety, prevent burnout, and protect you from toxic people and relationships. 

Boundaries can help you establish your autonomy and specify what you will and will not hold yourself accountable for. For example, setting limits in relationships with other people can keep you from being manipulated or abused in different ways.

Setting boundaries can help you work on yourself. They can lead to better self-care, improved self-esteem, increased safety, and less resentment and anger.

Boundaries include sticking to your holiday budget to not accepting responsibility for your partner’s mood.

Having a Lack of Boundaries is an Issue for Highly Sensitive People

Being sensitive to other people’s needs is a beautiful thing. If you are highly sensitive, you are most likely perceived as a caring, compassionate, and warm person. However, you may put other people’s needs before yours if you are highly sensitive.

You may accommodate the requests of others even when they make you feel tired and overwhelmed. For example, highly sensitive women may feel the invisible load of juggling their many roles and responsibilities and ensuring everyone is cared for and happy. This can be mentally, physically, and emotionally draining.

Why Is It So Difficult for HSPs to Maintain Boundaries?

People who are highly sensitive can pick up on small changes in how other people act and change their own behavior to put others at ease.

They always worry that setting boundaries will lead to rejection or hurt other people’s feelings. Therefore, they avoid setting boundaries, as they see them as potential sources of conflicts and criticism.

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Tips for Setting Boundaries as an HSP

One of the most important things to learn is to say “no.” It can help you have good mental health, healthy relationships, and happier life.

Here are a few tips to get you started.

Learn to Say “No”

One of the biggest challenges of HSP is saying “no” to others’ needs and requests. Learn to say “no” without giving a reason. Learning that “no” can be a complete sentence will help you focus on what is important to you and prioritize your needs.

Accept Your Limitations

Despite your best intentions, there may be occasions when you cannot assist people. Remember that you are not a superhero, and avoid acting like one. Knowing your limits can help you take care of yourself by letting you relax and rest when you need it.

Pay Attention to Your Needs

Avoid getting overwhelmed by practicing self-care and paying attention to your needs. Realize that it’s not selfish to spend time away from family members, sleep in on weekends, and refuse unreasonable requests.

Get enough sleep and eat well to keep yourself healthy. In addition, stay on top of your fitness routine, yoga, or mindfulness.

Building Better Boundaries

Because HSPs are highly empathetic, they may struggle with setting boundaries, causing them to feel drained, resentful, and unhappy.

Setting and maintaining appropriate boundaries is a great way to reduce stress, express your needs more directly, and clarify your expectations of others.

The good news is that you can strengthen your emotional defenses and establish effective limits.

If you need more confidence in your abilities, hiring a personal coach can help you learn helpful self-care strategies, set boundaries, and thrive.

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Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood

Kamini Wood is a Certified Life Coach, and best-selling author. Her mission is to empower high-performing adults and teens to become resilient self-leaders by reducing stress and anxiety, overcoming imposter syndrome, working through trauma, and re-discovering their AuthenticMe®.

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