9 signs your boundaries are too rigid and limiting, according to psychology

We all have boundaries, whether we’re aware of it or not.

The idea behind setting boundaries is that we communicate to other people what we feel comfortable with. This is sometimes verbal and it’s sometimes implied, such as when we expect people to give us physical space.

It’s healthy to have boundaries and to maintain them, but it’s also possible for our boundaries to become too strict and for them to hold us back in life. When that happens, we have a problem.

But how can we tell when our boundaries are too rigid and limiting? Let’s take a look, shall we?

1) You tend to isolate yourself

A lot of people with rigid boundaries tend to isolate themselves from other people so that they don’t have to bring their boundaries into play in the first place.

This can make their lives feel a lot easier, but it also comes with a whole host of negative effects such as the fact that it can lead to loneliness and even the end of relationships.

When you isolate yourself from other people, they tend to move on with their lives and can forget all about you. Even if they don’t, your relationship will never be the same.

And so while you might be able to maintain your boundaries, you have to ask yourself whether the cost is prohibitively high.

2) You struggle to express your desires

If you find it difficult to express your desires to people, it may be that you’ve set a boundary that you’re struggling to break through.

For example, if you’re being careful not to get too close to other people and you’re setting boundaries to stop you from over-sharing, you might also find that you’re unable to speak about what you actually want.

Now, it should be obvious to anyone that if you can’t express your desires, you’re reducing the chances of those desires being met.

After all, if you go into a restaurant but can’t communicate what you want to eat, there’s a good chance you’ll end up with something that you don’t like the taste of.

3) You’re bad at asking for and accepting help

One of the interesting things about boundaries is that as well as setting them for other people, we can also set them for ourselves.

A lot of people set an artificial boundary in which they refuse to ask for help. They feel as though it’s a sign of weakness or as though people are going to judge them if they do so.

Because of that, if you’re bad at asking for and accepting help, it could be a boundary issue. If you’re too strict with yourself and artificially limit your ability to accept help, it will quickly become apparent.

We all need help from time to time. If your boundaries stop you from accepting it, you’re going to lose out in the long term.

4) You feel overwhelmed by your interactions with other people

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re interacting with other people, especially if you’re an introvert or someone who generally tends to struggle when dealing with people.

At the same time, your chances of feeling overwhelmed are exacerbated if your boundaries are too rigid and limited, and this happens for a number of reasons.

Perhaps the most notable is that it can leave you feeling on edge whenever you’re speaking to people because you’re constantly expecting to have one of your boundaries breached.

As a result of that, you can never quite relax into a conversation because you’re forcing yourself to stay on your guard. That makes interacting with other people much more draining than it might otherwise be.

5) You hold on to grudges

The first thing to say here is that it’s never a good idea to hold on to grudges. That’s how people end up with enemies.

Now, if you are the kind of person who holds on to grudges, there’s a good chance that it’s because you set yourself rigid boundaries and refuse to give people second chances. If people break a boundary that you set, you hold a grudge.

Depending upon the barriers you set, there’s a risk that you’ll end up holding grudges against dozens of different people. Often, those grudges could have been avoided if you were a little less rigid.

I find that you have to be willing to vary your boundaries depending upon who you’re dealing with. That can help to make grudges a thing of the past.

6) You struggle to cope with change

not making the right changes to your career 9 signs your boundaries are too rigid and limiting, according to psychology

Very few people actually like change. As human beings, we’re hardwired to be wary of it because when we were cavemen, change could mean death.

But some people struggle to cope with change more than others, and it’s usually those with rigid boundaries who struggle the most. And that makes a lot of sense.

After all, if we’re rigid with our boundaries then we’ve basically set a bunch of rules that dictate how we want to live our lives. When change happens, the goalposts shift and suddenly our rules are no longer applicable.

That means that when we’re faced with change, we have to rethink all of our boundaries and we’re forced to make them less rigid. It’s out of our hands.

7) You don’t tolerate uncertainty

Change and uncertainty go hand-in-hand.

In fact, the uncertainty that we have to deal with is often caused by change, and external change in particular. We just have to look at the uncertainty and change that came about as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

People with rigid and limiting boundaries tend to struggle with uncertainty because their boundaries make it difficult to react to changing situations. It’s like trying to navigate ever-changing traffic without the ability to apply brakes.

And so if uncertainty strikes fear into your heart and you find yourself unable to deal with it, perhaps it’s time to revisit your boundaries.

8) You avoid confrontation

A lot of people avoid confrontation because let’s face it, confrontation is unpleasant.

Still, there are times in life when confrontation is the only viable option, and when that’s the case, avoiding confrontation is the worst possible thing you can do.

You can think of it as being like a boxing match. If you avoid confrontation, you’re effectively allowing the other person to come out on top by default.

And so if your boundaries don’t allow you to confront people or be confronted, you can end up allowing other people to live your life for you.

9) You struggle to forgive yourself and other people

Forgiveness doesn’t come easy at the best of times, but if you’ve set super rigid boundaries then you’re going to struggle more than most.

The problem here is that we need forgiveness when people break our boundaries in the first place. Otherwise, we become those people where someone does something minor that upsets them and they hold a grudge forever.

Just because forgiveness can be difficult, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bother. Instead, we need to find ways to overcome our boundaries and to forgive people in the situations where we think they deserve it.

That doesn’t mean you should forgive everyone, though. Just make sure that you flex your forgiveness muscles often enough that it’s always a viable option.


Now that you know how to spot whether your boundaries are too rigid and limiting, you’re in the perfect place to do something about it.

Each of the signs that we’ve looked at is a red flag that you might want to worry about, but the good news is that by targeting these red flags and trying to reduce their impact, you can change your life for the better.

In other words, by attacking the symptom, you’re also effecting a cure. The real question at hand is how many of the symptoms you’re dealing with.

Good luck, and I hope that this helps you to set healthier and less limiting boundaries.

Picture of Dane Cobain

Dane Cobain

Dane Cobain is a published author, freelance writer and (occasional) poet and musician with a passion for language and learning. When he’s not working on his next release, he can be found reading and reviewing books while trying not to be distracted by Wikipedia.

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