The Subtle Art of Setting Healthy Boundaries


By Umu Jalo

Pause for a moment. Imagine a world where everyone had healthy boundaries in all their relationships and interactions with fellow human beings in every sphere of their life. Bliss right? The world would be indeed more peaceful than it is and there would be fewer conflicts between mankind. This is how much of a difference healthy boundaries can make when exercised correctly in our individual lives. We however need to understand what healthy boundaries look like, what are the benefits and how to enforce them in our lives.

As there is no particular order in where to start when it comes to enforcing personal boundaries, a great place to start may be when it comes to sharing personal information appropriately. You should make sure that it is neither too much nor too little when it comes to sharing about yourself to your friends, acquaintances and even colleagues at work. I have come to learn this the hard way, after experiencing a lot of hurt from what I shared about myself when I was younger, that was ultimately used against me when things fell out with the friends and acquaintances I had in the past. Oversharing makes you be an open book, an easy target which exposes you to interpretation by anyone with this information about you, and this may end up hurting you in the long run. Under sharing makes you seem suspicious in your circles, as people feel that they don’t know you well enough to be easy and warm up to you. Striking a balance is therefore key in creating healthy boundaries.

Understanding your personal needs

Another aspect in your quest to creating healthy boundaries is trying to understand your personal needs and wants and know how to communicate them. This calls for a lot of introspection in defining our wants and needs, without the noise that society and modern life brings. No man is an island, so the saying goes and true to this, our individual survival and thriving depends on how well we communicate our personal needs and wants to the outside world. A good example may be on the need to be independent and be able to pay for personal bills in a timely and efficient manner. This calls for understanding that one now needs to look for meaningful employment, get a job so they can earn a living that will make them self-sufficient. Communication of this need to potential employers is important and needs to be done in the right way, ensuring healthy boundaries. They not only keep the bad out, but also bring the good in, in a great way.

Value your own opinions

Next on, healthy boundaries mean that you value your own opinions, as much as you value those from others. Remember, charity begins at home, and your opinions about yourself, others and life are as valuable as those you would receive from someone you would respect. It shows a high regard for self, which will automatically spill over into your high regard for others, thus living a peaceful and respective life as the conflicts with fellow humans will be fewer. It will also demonstrate that you are a well-rounded, opinionated human that can healthily engage in conversations and arguments without them turning into conflicts all the time. This is indeed an important life skill that is the basis of other skills that we need to develop over time.

Finally, healthy boundaries also mean that we learn to say ‘no’ and accept when others tell you “no” as well. It is a give and take, where everyone needs their boundaries set up for self-preservation in society. As we learn to say no, when requests and suggestions that don’t serve us come from people around us we build a figurative backbone that helps us stand our ground and become valuable members of society. Industry and thought leaders of our time have mastered the skill of saying no often without feeling guilty. It actually works to their advantage as they now focus their finite energy and resources on things and people that they value and this in turn gives them joy and purpose in life. This is in comparison to those that still haven’t learnt the skill of saying no and being people pleasers, who end up spreading themselves thin in the name of keeping their word, after saying yes to every request and suggestion that comes their way.

Healthy boundaries are a relatively new concept, especially in our African cultures as we have been conditioned to be very open and inviting to our friends, families and neighbors, holding nothing back and keeping nothing out. Those that have mastered skillfully building healthy boundaries have reaped the immense benefits that come with it and have become free in living their best life with no judgement of self and others. The question is, have you learnt to cultivate healthy boundaries for yourself?


Umu hails from Nairobi, Kenya and is an avid communicator. She runs a business communications consultancy, Diallo Communications Ltd, which focuses on providing communications solutions ranging from document translations, meetings and conference interpretation, simultaneous interpretation equipment hire and conference technical services, among other services in the events industry. Together with her team of professional linguists and technicians, she makes both regional and international meetings run smoothly on the communications front.  She works with organizations that are aligned to the sound goals within Africa’s development vision and focus on people led initiatives for development.


She is also a student at the United States International University – Africa working on her Bachelor of Arts in International Relations, concentrating on Development Studies. She is also a Toastmaster, currently finishing her Level 5 on her educational path of Strategic Relationships.