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How To Set Clear Firm Healthy Boundaries [Step #1]

It may not be a surprise to you that one of the most frequent issues I mentor my mom and mompreneur clients on is in the area of setting boundaries. As caregivers, we struggle with drawing lines, setting limits, and taking time for ourselves.

In my recent post “How To Set Clear Firm Healthy Boundaries Without Feeling Guilty” I shared my 5 steps to setting a boundary: see it, study it, say it, share it, and seek support.

Setting boundaries help us have healthier and happier relationships with others and it helps us solidify our identity and define our personal territory. Today we are going to focus on the first step: SEE IT.

SEE IT: Recognize Where You Lack Boundaries

With boundaries, as in any healing journey, self-awareness is the first step to transformation. Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know and it is what keeps us stuck. Sometimes it’s our unwillingness to act on what we already know or to unlearn what we think we know but doesn’t serve us.

[Tweet “Self-awareness is the first step to transformation. #mindsetformoms #elaynaquotes”]

I “had to” learn a lot about the concept of boundaries before I could even realize that I didn’t have any. Many of us have been there:

  • We say yes when we really want to say no.
  • We tolerate abusive behavior
  • We go against our own desires and goals, settling for someone else’s sake.

Simply put, we dull our own shine because of a disease to please. We lose ourselves in someone else’s idea of whom they believed we should be. Sometimes it isn’t until we hit rock bottom that we decide to draw a line and say “enough!”

self-awareness is the first step to transformation ~ Elayna Fernandez The Positive Mom

Justification is just a fancy word for denial. We simply cannot change what we don’t admit. And sometimes, even when we are painfully aware of what causes us misery, we just can’t bring ourselves to change.

You change because you learn enough that you want to or because you are hurt enough that you have to.

[Tweet “You #change because you learn enough that you want to, or hurt enough that you have to. #mindsetformoms”]

One of my dear friends, Les Brown, who is a bestselling author, master motivational speaker and the mentor who inspired me to become a public speaker, often tells a story of a dog and an nail to illustrate how we settle for pain just to avoid change:

“There was a man who had to pass many dogs who would bark at him as he walked home. One day, one dog in particular caught his attention – and his curiosity -, because instead of barking, he was sitting on the porch whimpering as if he were in pain, though it wasn’t obvious why. The next day, all the dogs bark, except this same dog, who was now moaning… and the man just didn’t get why. The week went by and the dog was still groaning on the porch and he couldn’t figure out what the deal was.

The man decided to find out what was happening, so he knocked on the door:
“Yes, how may I help you?” said the man who opened the door.
“Good morning, Sir, is this your dog?” he asked
“Yes, that’s my dog.”
“What’s wrong with him?”
“What do you mean ‘what’s wrong with him’?”
“Well, he’s the only dog on my walk home who doesn’t bark and instead whines, whimpers, moans, and groans. Why is that?”
“Well, he’s actually sitting on a nail,” the dog owner replied.
“What?! Your dog is sitting on a nail? Why doesn’t he get off?” He asked in an alarming tone.
“Well, it just doesn’t hurt him enough.”

I’ve been that dog sitting on a nail a lot of times. Have you? 

Whether the nail is a toxic relationship, a disempowering situation, a place you outgrew, an addiction, unforgiveness, or simply a mindset that causes you suffering

Les Brown quote: Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears

We sometimes tolerate painful situations because they are familiar to us and it would be very uncomfortable, and sometimes temporarily excruciating, to move toward freedom. 

In reflecting about my own experiences, I can see that a common pattern for me has been not wanting to give up after investing so much time, energy, and money on something, but more especially on someone. 

A common saying I heard in my childhood and youth about a partner is: “es mejor malo conocido que bueno por conocer,” which meant that it is better to be with “a bad one you know” than to gamble on one you don’t know yet. 

This may work for someone else, but in getting to know who I truly am and in pursuing who I’m meant to be, I am not one to settle. Settling is in direct conflict with my core values, so as much as that mindset was preached to me and ingrained in my subconscious, it will never really work for me.

3 Ways To Identify Areas Where Boundaries Are Needed

Let’s explore how we can become aware of the nails we are sitting on. It is not an easy journey but one that can liberate us, because the truth sets us free.

These are just a few tools I use in my mentoring sessions with moms that are simple enough to get you started.

The Positive Mom check

Write a “boundary wish-list.” Yes, I did make it up, so now it’s a thing. A boundary wish-list is a list of everything you hold dear, defining what you wish to protect about it.

For example, if time with your kids is important to you, start thinking about how you could protect the time you want to spend together. Make the items as specific as possible by considering every possible scenario in all areas of your life: career, home, relationships, health, finances, spirituality, and any other areas that matter to you.

I’m your typical “mama bear” so writing the ways I wanted to protect my kids was eye-opening because I never really connected it with protecting myself. When I saw that my lack of boundaries was affecting them and how, that nail got more painful and it had to get out.

The Positive Mom check

Write down your standards to get clear on what your limits are. Make a list outlining what you will no longer tolerate in life, what you stand for, what you expect.

For example, a mom I mentored a few years ago felt demoralized by her husband’s desire to look at a certain type of publication (that I won’t specify to repel showing up on those searches).

She decided to step away from that relationship and now she enjoys an amazing marriage with a man who holds her same Christian values and considers those practices to be infidelity. 

[Tweet “”Those who stand for nothing, fall for anything.” ~ Alexander Hamilton #mindsetformoms”]

The eloquent Alexander Hamilton said it well: “Those who strand for nothing, fall for anything.” It takes a great deal of courage to stand for something with steadfastness because we feel we risk standing alone, but in the end, it’s the only way to live in integrity and to step into the role you were called to play in this mortal plane.

The Positive Mom check

Evaluate your interactions. A great way to discover your limits and boundaries is to ask yourself these questions about your day to day interactions with others:

  1. What causes you to feel uncomfortable, stressed, disregarded, disrespected, unheard, frustrated, resentful, or pressured to do something that wasn’t “part of the plan”?
  2. What are some things that make you want to cry?
  3. What drains your energy or personal power?
  4. What gives you tension, anxiety, or forms a “knot in your stomach or throat”?
  5. What are some areas in your life where you could use more space?

I encourage you to spend some time with yourself, use a notebook or journal to write the answers to these questions, so you can learn what boundaries need strengthening in every area of your life.

It’s time to get off that proverbial nail and discover what we can change, so we can find hope, healing, and happiness. If you are breathing, you deserve it!

Using the 3 methods above, do you SEE any areas where moms need boundaries? Share your story with us!

PS. This is the second post in my “Boundaries In Motherhood” series. Stay tuned!

Elayna is a single mom of 4, an award-winning Storyteller, Story Strategist, and Student of Pain. She’s a bestselling author, internationally acclaimed keynote speaker, and 4x TEDx speaker. Founder of the Positive MOM® and creator of the S.T.O.R.Y. System: a blueprint to craft and share powerful stories that will transform your results, so you can have the wealth, opportunities, and freedom you deserve. Connect with Elayna Fernández at thepositivemom.com/keynote-speaker and follow @thepositivemom. To receive a gift from Elayna, click HERE.

Be Positive and You Will Be Powerful ~ Elayna FernandBe Positive and You Will Be Powerful ~ Elayna Fernandez ~ The Positive MOMez ~ The Positive MOM
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7 Things You Need To Let Go Of To Be Happier And More Positive In Life ★ Elayna Fernandez ~ The Positive MOM ♥

Sunday 12th of January 2020

[…] is too short and hard to do what we don’t want to do or is uncomfortable and I set boundaries to respect myself and not to offend anyone. Like offending people could even be on our list of priorities with […]


Tuesday 13th of August 2019

Elayna: While I am able to see - this post gave me additional insight into why I allow myself into being manipulated into saying yes to things I clearly want to say no to. Thanks for laying it out so clearly.


Tuesday 13th of August 2019

Elayna: The See It - I got this one. In every area of my life, I can see the boundaries I need to set. But it has taken me years and years to get here. Sadly, I allowed myself to do anything anybody needed from me for most of my life. Thankfully, I read several books in the last 10 years about setting boundaries and I have moved beyond Step 1.

Christine G

Monday 12th of August 2019

I think this post brings to light how common it is to assume that boundaries are set only outside our home, but we need boundaries in every facet of our lives. All relationships need boundaries and this post taught me that we are all responsible for making the boundaries known and enforced.

Elisha Fernandez

Monday 12th of August 2019

I love that you tell us to recognize what exactly makes us feel uncomfortable and disrespected. That is really eye opening because it helps us realize what we should be doing and where boundaries need to be put in place. I have been in several relationships where I was the giver, yet I did not have boundaries in place, so they were unhealthy. I am glad to say I have improved a lot since ending those relationships.