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What are Internal Boundaries & How to Set Them

The importance of internal boundaries in managing pain cannot be overstated. Chronic pain is often intertwined with emotional and mental factors, making it crucial to understand and set internal boundaries effectively. In the realm of pain management, a comprehensive approach is vital.

Traditional methodologies often concentrate solely on alleviating symptoms, overlooking the intricate interplay between the mind, body, and soul. This is where holistic pain management steps in, offering a broader perspective and addressing the person as a unified whole.

What are Internal Boundaries?

what are internal boundaries

Internal boundaries refer to the emotional and mental limits we set for ourselves. It is defined by the separation between our thoughts, feelings, and needs from those of others. These boundaries are like an invisible fortress guarding our emotional and mental space.

Internal boundaries are those we set within ourselves, governing our thoughts, emotions, and actions. They are like an invisible shield, crucial to protect ourselves from the impact of external influences.

What are the Different Types of Boundaries

To effectively set internal boundaries, we need to understand the various types they can manifest as.

Understanding internal boundaries requires a grasp of the different types they can manifest as. Two primary categories are internal and external boundaries. Internal boundaries pertain to how we protect ourselves emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, while external boundaries involve how we interact and protect ourselves from others.

Internal versus External Boundaries

Let's take a more in-depth look into the intriguing realm of boundaries, specifically distinguishing between the internal and external dimensions.

External Boundaries: Guarding Your External Space

Think of external boundaries like setting the limits of your personal space concerning how you interact with the world. It involves asserting preferences, saying "no" when needed, and communicating your limits effectively. External boundaries filter outside influences and guide how the world engages with you.

Internal Boundaries: Protecting Your Inner Realm

On the other hand, internal boundaries serve as the cornerstone for safeguarding your emotional and mental well-being. These invisible boundaries define how you treat yourself within your thoughts and beliefs. This involves recognizing and honoring your emotions, understanding your needs, and challenging harmful thought patterns. Internal boundaries ensure a healthy relationship with yourself, emphasizing self-respect and self-care. Clear internal boundaries act as a compass, guiding you in navigating interactions with the external world and enabling you to assert your needs, desires, and limits with confidence and clarity. Internal boundaries can range from recognizing and validating our emotions to challenging irrational thoughts.

In essence, external boundaries manage interactions with the outside world, acting as a shield, while internal boundaries cultivate a sanctuary within yourself, fostering mental and emotional equilibrium. Striking a balance between these boundaries is vital for a fulfilling and harmonious life.

People that experience “people pleasing” may think they need to work on setting external boundaries first, but if they set internal boundaries first it would make it easier to set the external boundaries because they would recognize and honor their needs instead of letting other people challenge them.

By first gaining clarity on your internal boundaries, you establish a solid foundation upon which to build and enforce external boundaries. This foundational work empowers you to assertively communicate your limits, ensuring that your interactions with the world around you are more authentic, balanced, and fulfilling. Balancing the two types of boundaries is a dance of self-discovery and assertion, pivotal for achieving a harmonious and enriched life.

The Relationship Between Internal Boundaries and Chronic Pain

relationship between internal boundaries and chronic pain

The relationship between internal boundaries and chronic pain is profound. Chronic pain can often blur the lines between self-care and neglect, especially if one is prone to people-pleasing or prioritizing others' needs over their own. Establishing clear internal boundaries is akin to drawing a line in the sand, enabling an individual to prioritize their well-being without guilt or external pressures.

Understanding and implementing internal boundaries can profoundly impact how individuals experience and manage chronic pain. Chronic pain often leads individuals to push past their limits, disregarding their well-being for the sake of meeting external expectations.

How to Set Internal Boundaries

Setting internal boundaries is not only about acknowledging them but actively implementing and enforcing them in your daily life. Here are actionable ways to set internal boundaries effectively:

Validate Your Emotions

Begin by acknowledging your emotions without judgment. Understand that your feelings are valid and worthy of recognition. By accepting your emotions, you take the first step in setting boundaries that honor your inner world.This may be a paradigm shift for some people because when you validate your emotions and honor your boundaries, you may recognize how you have been letting yourself down and others by not actually honoring your boundaries.

Taking Responsibility for Your Actions

Recognize that you have the power to make decisions and take responsibility for the actions you undertake. This involves understanding the consequences of your actions and being accountable for them. By doing so, you shape your boundaries based on your choices.

Saying "No" to Yourself When Needed

Learning to decline your own impulses or desires is crucial in establishing internal boundaries. This means saying "no" to actions or behaviors that might harm you in the long run. It's about understanding when to prioritize your well-being over momentary desires.

Keeping Promises to Yourself and Others

Developing trust within yourself is fundamental. Honor the commitments you make, whether they are to yourself or others. When you keep a promise to yourself, you also build trust and self-confidence. You are telling yourself that you are capable and that you can accomplish your goals. Consistency in keeping promises builds a sense of reliability and stability, enhancing your inner boundaries.

Forgiving Yourself

Grant yourself forgiveness for past mistakes and imperfections. Holding onto guilt or self-criticism can hinder the establishment of healthy internal boundaries. Forgiveness is an act of self-compassion that allows you to grow beyond your errors.

Identifying Your Own Limits

Take time to understand your physical and emotional limits. Recognize when you need rest, when a situation becomes emotionally draining, or when you need personal space. Knowing your limits allows you to communicate them effectively and protect your well-being.

Challenging Irrational Thoughts

Work on challenging negative or irrational thoughts. When you encounter self-doubt or harmful beliefs, question their validity and replace them with more empowering and constructive perspectives. A rational and positive mindset contributes to strong internal boundaries.

By integrating these practices into your life, you gradually cultivate and reinforce internal boundaries, promoting a healthier relationship with yourself and the world around you.


Holistic pain management is not just about treating the symptoms of chronic pain. It's about addressing the person as a whole—mind, body, and soul. Internal boundaries play a pivotal role in this approach, empowering individuals to prioritize their well-being, set limits, and advocate for themselves effectively. By understanding and implementing internal boundaries, one can navigate the complex journey of chronic pain more effectively, ultimately leading to a life of improved health and joy.

Take Control of Your Health and Well-being

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1 - Beautiful Soul Counseling. (n.d.). Internal vs. External Boundaries. Retrieved from

2 - Magee, H. (2022, May 25). Internal Boundaries: The Recovering People Pleaser's Hidden Power. Retrieved from

3 - Pollock, A. (2021, May). How to Begin to Set Internal Boundaries. Psychology Today. Retrieved from

4 – Semi-Together. (n.d.). How to Set Internal Boundaries [Audio podcast episode]. Retrieved from

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