Is Setting Boundaries Selfish? Here Is The Difference

The line between setting boundaries and being selfish with people around us is very blurry, it’s easy to be perceived as selfish while you are setting boundaries.

In this article, we will discuss about the difference between being selfish and setting healthy boundaries at work, with friends, family, and so on.

Is setting boundaries selfish?

Setting healthy boundaries with people around us might seem selfish to some of them, but it is actually healthy and an essential thing to do for a happy and respectful relationship with people around us.

Setting boundaries is different from person to person, while some of them might be very strict and restrictive, others might be more casual and accept more things from other people around them. So it is easy to perceive someone as selfish if they want to set boundaries more than you do.

Also, there are some people/personalities that seem to accept everything and never say no, but they like being more clingy and that is fine for them. Imagine what happens when those persons interact with someone who knows exactly what they want to do and what not and who they want to spend time with.

So no, setting boundaries is not selfish, but you have to make sure that you are setting boundaries and not being selfish since there is a fine line between those two.

Before going further, it is important to know more about the different types of personal boundaries you have to set, but that would be a long discussion, so here is a good article that will help you know what boundaries to set with people around you.

boundaries at work

How to know if someone is setting boundaries, or is it just selfish?

People setting boundaries treat others around them as they expect to be treated. If you set some healthy boundaries, there is no way you don’t realize that you are crossing those boundaries when it is your turn to interact with people around you, and if you are still doing it, you are most likely selfish.

If you don’t want to share what is yours with other people, but you expect others to share with you, then you are just selfish, that is not setting boundaries.

Also, ignoring people around you and being interested only when you have an interest is another sign of selfishness.

I grew up with a brother close to my age, and we shared everything(food, clothes, appliances), so it was really hard for us to understand my wife and her style, she seemed way more selfish than us, but in time I realized that I hadn’t had any boundaries with my brother. So I know that it is hard not to be perceived as selfish when you have boundaries, but it is much healthier for you.

One thing that helps is to set boundaries as soon as you can since it’s easier to respect the boundaries that a person has even before meeting you rather than the ones they set after a while. There are some situations where you have to set new boundaries along the way when you get to know the people around you better, but them identifying you as a person with well-defined boundaries will help in respecting the new ones.

Read Also: Is Following Your Dreams Selfish?

Who should we set boundaries with?

Boundaries should exist with everyone in your life, from coworkers to your parents and spouse. They might differ from one person to another, but some boundaries must be set for everyone.

Boundaries set with friends and family are the hardest ones to set because you live with them throughout different life stages, and it is quite hard for people around us to accept that we’ve changed and we have different expectations from them.

I have two articles, one about setting boundaries with friends while in a relationship and one about boundaries with parents after marriage. Those are two very important new boundaries you must set with people you care about. So make sure you read those articles if you have a hard time setting new boundaries with people you already know.

Most of the time, we have to set new boundaries when we enter another life stage, like marriage or having kids. Time boundaries are one of the most important personal boundaries that are constantly changing with meeting new people or entering a different life stage.

When it comes to coworkers and school colleagues, there are different boundaries that you have to set. The time you spend with them is fixed by someone else, so it is not as important here. Of course, you have to choose with who you spend time at work or school even if you are there with everybody.

But emotional, physical, workplace and material boundaries are very important in those situations. You don’t have to become someone else psychologist, bank/provider, or best friend that can have his physical space invaded all the time, but without setting healthy boundaries, you might end up in those situations.

Workplace boundaries are related to the capability of doing work without someone interrupting you with personal stories or anything else that is not work-related and important for you to do your job better.

We have to set boundaries even with people we meet for the first time since some people don’t have their own boundaries and might not understand that they are crossing some boundaries.

Read Also: 5 Differences Between Gossip And Sharing Information


The sooner you set boundaries with people around you, the better, and it lowers the chances of being perceived as selfish.

The first rule in setting boundaries is that you have to respect the boundaries of other people and respect the boundaries you want to set for yourself when it comes to others.

Make sure you set your boundaries to have a better and more respectful relationship with people around you, not because you heard someone that you should have this and that boundary.