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Have you ever felt there just wasn’t enough time in the day to get everything done? Or felt if one more person asked for your help, you just might explode – or better yet - crawl into your bed and hide? These feelings are most likely a result of a need for better boundaries. In her book Set Boundaries, Find Peace, Nedra Glover Tawwab defines boundaries as, “expectations and needs that help you feel safe and comfortable in your relationships” (p. 5). Tawwab says expectations in relationships help us stay mentally and emotionally well and learning when to say yes and when to say no is an essential part of feeling comfortable when interacting with others.

Tawwab gives several signs that point toward our need for healthier boundaries:

  • You feel overwhelmed.

  • You feel resentful toward people asking for your help.

  • You avoid phone calls and interactions with people who might ask for something.

  • You make comments about helping people and getting nothing in return.

  • You feel burned out.

  • You frequently daydream about dropping everything and disappearing.

  • You have no time for yourself.

A boundary is a cue to others about how to treat you. Our family histories as well as our own personalities help determine how much (or little) we utilize boundaries in our relationships and how willing we are to accept the boundaries of others.

Tawwab defines three types of boundaries:

  1. porous = weak or poorly expressed boundaries (ex. Oversharing, people-pleasing, inability to say no)

  2. rigid = keeping others out to keep yourself safe (ex. Never sharing, building walls, enforcing strict rules)

  3. healthy = having an awareness of your emotional, mental, and physical capabilities, combined with clear communication (ex. Listening to your own opinion, being comfortable saying no, being clear about your values)

Identifying and setting boundaries is not easy and fear about how others might react could easily hold us back. Communication and action are two necessary steps toward setting boundaries. People cannot read our minds so it is important to clearly state what we expect from them. But the process doesn’t end with communication. We must uphold what we communicate through our behavior. If someone violates our boundary, we need to reinforce it with action. It is your responsibility to follow through on your set boundary. But be ready for some pushback. People are generally resistant to changes in a relationship but if they respect you, they will respect the changes.

Tawwab, Nedra Glover. Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself. New York. Penguin Random House, 2021.

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