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  • Writer's pictureHollie

Better Boundaries

There’s a lot of talk these days about the benefits of setting boundaries in our interpersonal lives, and there’s a good reason why. Boundaries are the cornerstone of a healthy relationship - they protect our wellbeing while at the same time offering opportunities to build trust and safety with others. Healthy boundaries also help to ward off burnout and stress, all the while improving our autonomy and capacity for self-care.  Although it can be tricky, learning to communicate your boundaries is certainly a skill worth investing in because without them, we end up feeling taken advantage of, rundown, and resentful. I don’t think that’s how most of us want to live our lives, but it’s often a lot easier said than done. 

For starters, much of the advice today centres -solely- on being able to convey our boundaries to others, but in reality, the foundation for effective boundary-setting comes not only from how or what we communicate, but from the realm of self. Knowing who we are, understanding our values, and what’s important to us, allows us to have a real sense of clarity about what is okay, and what is not okay. That self-awareness serves as a compass and guides us in both our beliefs and behaviours.  Self-acceptance, on the other hand, gives us the courage to stand up for those beliefs. On a basic level, if you believe that you and your values (your time, your energy, your physical space, your safety, your needs), are worthwhile and equally as important as another’s, then it becomes a lot more difficult to tolerate poor and inconsiderate behaviour. 

You see, boundaries are not for other people, they are actually for yourself. What kind of treatment are YOU going to allow, and what are you not? How are YOU going to respond, or maybe…….how are you not? Awareness and acceptance of self means that you’ll spend a lot less time and energy on self-doubt or trying to decide if your needs are reasonable. Setting boundaries becomes significantly more manageable when anchored by that strong sense of self. 

Another challenge in setting boundaries, particularly in toxic environments, is the resistance or disregard from those around us.  It gets taken for granted that trying to establish boundaries in relationships with habitual line-crossers is quite tricky to navigate. There is often push-back, gaslighting, or further attempts at manipulation which can make the task seem daunting and futile. It can cause us to feel even more timid and meek. However, when we shift the focus from trying to impose our expectations onto others, to developing a robust sense of self within, the environment around us changes. We start to respect ourselves enough to not remain surrounded by people who try to take advantage or victimise us. Instead, we choose to foster relationships with others who understand and appreciate values such as honesty, self-reflection, and accountability. Generally, these kinds of people are really easy to set boundaries with. They are usually safe, secure, and sensible - we don’t have to keep reestablishing or reminding them about the guidelines for interacting with us.  Effective boundary setting often lies in the company we keep. 

Learning to advocate for ourselves or not give in to people-pleasing tendencies is about much more than simply learning to communicate boundaries. It’s taking a different approach - one that requires a shift from the inside out. Rather than attempting to control the behaviour of others, we must work on cultivating respect and resilience within ourselves. Boundaries don’t work without first changing that primary relationship to yourself. After all, worth is not determined by the other. It’s determined by inherent authenticity. Know thyself and to thine own self be true. The rest will follow suit (and if they don’t, you’ll know better than to stick around).


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