Improving Boundary-Setting Skills: Anxious Attachment Style


In this course, Monica Amorosi (psychotherapist) shares her thoughts on how attachment styles impact our ability to set boundaries in relationships and how to improve our boundary-setting skills.

Please watch this video lesson, then move on to the resources we’ve created to help you implement her advice into your daily routine.

Anxious Attachment Style: Setting Boundaries Exercise

People with anxious attachment styles often fear abandonment, crave intimacy and closeness, and sometimes feel “too much” or “not enough.” They might struggle with setting boundaries because they worry about pushing others away.

An anxious attachment style, combined with possible past experiences of narcissistic abuse, can intensify the difficulty of setting boundaries. However, this awareness of your challenges can empower you to confront and surmount them.

Phase 1: Self-reflection & Acknowledgment

  • Identify Your Needs and Limits (Boundaries with Others): Spend a few minutes daily/weekly reflecting on situations where you felt uncomfortable, hurt, or overwhelmed. Write these down and note what you would have preferred in that situation.
  • Identify Personal Triggers and Over-extensions (Boundaries with Yourself): Recognize what behaviors or choices lead to feelings of regret, exhaustion, or self-criticism. This might be overcommitting to social events, procrastinating, or neglecting self-care.
  • Affirmation Practice: Repeat affirmations that promote self-worth and the importance of boundaries, such as, “I prioritize my well-being,” “It’s okay to say no to myself,” or “My feelings and needs are valid.” Make this a habit, so set aside each day to practice affirmations. 

Phase 2: Communicate Your Boundaries

  • Practice Scripts (Boundaries with Others): Write down potential situations where you’d need to set a boundary. Now, write down what you’d ideally say in these situations. Practice these scripts out loud.
  • Role-play (Boundaries with Others): Find a trusted friend or therapist and role-play these situations. This can help you get used to the feelings and potential reactions.
  • Write Down Commitments to Yourself (Boundaries with Yourself): “I will have one evening a week just for self-care,” or “I will not work past 7 pm.”
  • Visual Reminders (Boundaries with Yourself): Use sticky notes, alarms, or journal entries to remind yourself of these commitments.

Phase 3: Implement and Enforce

  • Baby Steps (Boundaries with Others): Start with smaller boundaries that feel safer to implement. As you get more comfortable, you can address more significant boundaries.
  • Stay Consistent: Consistency helps reinforce your boundaries. If someone pushes a boundary, calmly and assertively remind them of it.
  • Track Your Progress (Boundaries with Yourself): Have a diary or an app where you track how well you’re adhering to your self-boundaries. Celebrate your wins and reflect on any lapses.
  • Be Kind to Yourself: Remember that setting boundaries with oneself is a process. If you slip, don’t berate yourself; instead, understand why it happened and adjust accordingly.

Phase 4: Self-care and Review

  • Reward Yourself: Each time you successfully set a boundary, do something nice for yourself. This positive reinforcement can motivate you to continue.
  • Journal: At the end of each week, write about your experiences in setting boundaries. Note what went well, what was challenging, and what you learned. Also, review your self-boundaries: Are they realistic? Are they helping you achieve a sense of balance? Adjust your approach accordingly.
  • Reassure Your Anxious Attachment: When setting a boundary, it might help to remind yourself that a healthy relationship can withstand boundaries and that setting them can lead to deeper intimacy and trust.