Meditation Training

A Guide to Building Healthy Boundaries in All Areas of Your Life

Copy of Blog Banners 2022 38

Even though we have accessibility to educational resources like fast track nursing programs online, it seems some information is still fairly slow to circulate. Despite the conversation around a healthy mind/work/life balance opening up significantly in recent years, some people are still afraid of one critical aspect of maintaining a healthy existence – setting boundaries.

When we talk about setting a boundary there can often be a little confusion as to exactly what a boundary is. Some people think it’s manipulation, other people think it’s being too harsh. Today, we’re here to talk exactly about what boundaries are, why they’re important, and how to go about setting them so that you can have the peace of mind you deserve.

brown concrete building near green trees and river during daytime

What is a Boundary?

When we say “boundary” our first instinctual definition is as something that keeps people out. A wall is a boundary, a shield is a boundary, and a “keep out” sign on a door is a boundary. However, while the definition fits it’s not conclusive, and in an emotional context, a “boundary” is a restriction on your behaviour, designed to set expectations, communicate intention, and most importantly, protect yourself.

Some people believe boundary setting is manipulative but that simply isn’t the case. When you set a boundary, it’s important to remember that you aren’t giving an ultimatum or attempting to control another person’s behaviour. You are stipulating what you will do if the other person continues their problematic tendencies.

For example, let’s say that your partner speaks to you in a way you find uncomfortable. It is your right to protect yourself from this discomfort by saying “Please don’t talk to me that way again.” If they continue to do so, you set the boundary, telling them something like “I have asked you before not to talk to me that way. If you do it again, I will be spending the night at my parents/siblings/friends’ house.” 

Notice how you haven’t presented them with an ultimatum? You haven’t said, “Either you stop this or we’re through.” You’ve stipulated the behaviour you don’t like, and you’ve made it clear that you will remove yourself from the situation if it happens again. You have asserted a boundary and left the choice of whether or not their actions are worth the consequences.

No Trespassing sticker on brown surface

Why We Need Them

Boundaries are so important because they help you empower yourself. They establish a protective barrier against unwelcome behaviour and pain. Many toxic, narcissistic, and manipulative personalities thrive on the crossing of boundaries. They enjoy the pervasiveness and the power it allows them to exert over their victims. Make no mistake, this is abuse, and it’s not okay. 

Communicating your boundaries is necessary to protecting yourself, and caring for your interests. However, it can be difficult for victims of the aforementioned behaviour to stand up for themselves and establish their boundaries. They are often gaslit into believing that if they establish a boundary then they are trying to dominate the manipulator, or imposing a toxic ultimatum. 

However, a true boundary does not control anyone, other than the person setting the boundary. It says “If this happens I will be doing [insert action] to protect myself.” It allows the other party to continue the inciting action if they desire, but they have to be prepared to take the consequences. 

Boundary setting is fairly new as a social practice, so it’s relatively common to be met with backlash when you start doing it. Some people just weren’t raised with the idea that protecting yourself is worth the hassle it causes. Others simply enjoy being dominant in a toxic power dynamic and will react angrily, possibly violently when you start to assert yourself. Be strong. You deserve to feel safe, and you deserve a happy, beneficial existence. 

How To Set Boundaries

As we’ve said before, setting a boundary is not an exercise in controlling others, it’s about making your actions and decisions clear in response to a behaviour. Boundary setting doesn’t attempt to restrict or stop someone from doing something, it lets them know what your reaction to their action will be.

This means that there are a few simple rules to follow when setting a boundary.

  1. Make the target behaviour clear

You can’t start setting a boundary by saying “I’m leaving” whenever something you don’t like happens without explaining why you’re leaving. Boundaries are about communication. You have to open with a phrase like “That word makes me uncomfortable” or “I don’t like being touched like that.”

  1. Don’t use accusatory or blaming language

People often push back against boundaries because they feel like they’re being called out. This is a whole other dynamic that could have its article, but to prevent as much backlash as possible, it’s impossible to avoid words like “I hate it when…” or “You always…” Instead, stipulate the action itself, rather than the person doing it. Instead of “Saying that is insensitive” say “That kind of language triggers me.”

  1. Stipulate what will happen

This is where the boundary setting of setting boundaries happens. Your reaction is your right and is designed to protect you. This should be how you end the sentence you use to establish your boundary. Acknowledge the behavior, state clearly how it upsets you, and finish with consequences: “I have a problem with that particular wording. It makes me sad and lowers my mood. I’m just letting you know that kind of phrasing comes up between us again, I have to leave the room for a while to collect myself and avoid the negativity with it.”

The Final Step, Self Advocacy

We’ve said before that you may come up against some pushback when you establish a boundary. It’s important to remain firm and not give up. Things might get uncomfortable for a while, but you deserve to have people in your life who don’t want to behave the way they do at the expense of your comfort or well-being. Therefore we’d like to end with some common arguments against setting boundaries and how to respond to them:

You never mentioned it before.
I didn’t feel safe to mention it before, but now I do. And also, the situation with [behavior] has become intolerable for me.

So you’re trying to control me/giving me ultimatums?

No, I’m not at all. You’re free to continue to do whatever you like, but I’m also free to remove myself from a situation I don’t like.

Don’t be so sensitive.

My feelings are my business, and I have a right to have those feelings respected. As my friend/family, you should care about my feelings rather than dismiss them.

You can’t take a joke.

A joke is only good if it’s funny to everyone involved. This isn’t funny to me, and I find it hurtful/offensive/uncomfortable. It makes me feel unsafe, and that shouldn’t be funny to you.

I’m always the bad guy.

Me setting a boundary isn’t blaming you, or making you out to be a failure or “bad.” I wouldn’t be sharing this boundary with you if you didn’t make me feel secure enough to do so, or if I didn’t think our relationship was worth investing in. Me sharing a boundary isn’t a sign of failure, it’s a sign that I see you as trustworthy and our relationship as worth the time and effort.

red white and blue round logo
A Guide to Building Healthy Boundaries in All Areas of Your Life
Scroll to top