Setting boundaries: 'You have to know what you're no longer willing to tolerate'

Setting boundaries means working out what you're no longer willing to put up with, writes Niamh Ennis 

The question of “who do I want to be?” can really feel like an overwhelming one. 

It feels very heavy with expectation and can actually force us into retreating rather than rising to the occasion of proffering a response. 

When was the last time you asked yourself that question and did you wait long enough for an answer? 


In order for us to know who we want to be, a good starting point is to eliminate what we know we definitely don’t want to be. 

Isn’t it funny how we find this question a little easier to answer? We are much more sure of who it is we don’t want to be, how it is we don’t want to show up, what it is we don’t want to have or even who it is we don’t want in our lives. 

Is this because we are more easily drawn to confirming the negatives and are a lot more hesitant when it comes to affirming our wants and needs? 

Or is it because when it comes to our vision, our dreams and desires, we actually already have the answers inside us but have let what we want slip down the line of priorities in terms of awareness? We just don’t allow ourselves dare to dream that we can have what we want or that we can be who we want to be! 

This has its roots of course in us not believing that we are worthy or deserving enough. Have you ever had any of the following thoughts? 

I won’t get that job. I’m just not good enough and they’ll see that.

I’m not one of those people who money just pours in for.


Lucky people are wealthy. I’m not lucky.

Slim people have their lives under control. I’m too chaotic.

Playing it small and not standing out is much safer.

I feel better not taking risks. Nobody will see me fail.

Are your beliefs that other people get to have what they want more than you do, even if you’re happy with your lot? Yet when you think of pushing yourself, aiming for more, for higher, do you find yourself saying ‘steady, don’t be getting notions now’? 

This is where your doubts, fears and worries show themselves but never in their true form. They disguise themselves as that little voice in your head whispering...  “Stay where you are and be thankful for what you have and nobody will see you fail, they won’t look at you and judge you or mock you for wanting more, to be more. Keep your head down and get very comfy in your comfort zone!” 

So now that you know where these thoughts come from, let’s look then at the importance of knowing what we don’t want. What are your non-negotiables? What are you no longer willing to accept or tolerate?


Are you fed up with the sometimes snippy comments from one of your friends about your lifestyle choices?

Does the fact that your sister keeps asking you, with an ‘apparent’ sympathetic tilt of the head, ‘how’s your little business coming along?’ really trigger you?

Is that feeling of being totally taken for granted by your family who always expect you to be available for them because you’re the single one really starting to irk and anger you?

At work, are you getting tired of your manager claiming your work or ideas as hers? 

These are some great examples of scenarios (albeit real situations) of where you might find yourself coming to the conclusion that you are not available for how this makes you feel anymore.

You might decide that the days of you tolerating being put down by your friends or your sister are coming to an end.

That you are ready to start saying NO to people, when they need you to do something and they just assume and expect that you are always available to them.


Or indeed this might be just the time you are ready to step into your own power at work and have a conversation with your manager about receiving recognition for your contribution. 

Building or rebuilding our confidence doesn’t happen overnight. We need to gather evidence along the way that will prove to us that we are able and worthy of changing our beliefs. 

Please remember that none of this is about you being selfish or stubborn or self-centred. This is about you being very clear as to what you are no longer willing to accept or to tolerate and honouring that.

We don’t suddenly wake up and think “enough, I’m changing everything, starting right now!” It would be great if this were true, but let’s be honest, it’s not realistic. 

But what we can start doing today, is thinking about all the places in our lives where we are no longer available to be treated in a way that doesn’t make us feel good about ourselves. 

You might start in response to an unnecessarily curt demand from someone close to you and gently, but firmly, decline on the grounds that you’re just not available that day. No apologies, no explanation and definitely no backtracking. 

Then observe how that makes you feel after it. 


Please remember that none of this is about you being selfish or stubborn or self-centred. This is about you being very clear as to what you are no longer willing to accept or to tolerate and honouring that. 

This is you setting out the parameters for which you are available and protecting your own energy in so doing. This is all about confidence building. 

Start with what you don’t want. Gather the evidence that you need to see just how much better doing this makes you feel about yourself and then you will be in a stronger place to hit your own RESET button and start focussing on what it is you do want and believing that you are worthy of having it. 

Niamh Ennis is Ireland’s leading Change & Transformation Specialist and Founder of The RESET System. Niamh works with women who are navigating change in their lives.

She is hosting her next online workshop ‘The RESET Workshop' on June 30th, 2000. Click here to register or visit 

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