Do you feel burdened by the constant demands of those around you? If so, you may be grappling with boundary issues. In this book, licensed therapist Nedra Glover Tawwab explains what boundaries are, and how you can establish healthy boundaries to enhance your relationships and well-being. These insights are valuable for anyone seeking to enhance their mental-emotional wellness, or to overcome codependency, power struggles, anxiety, depression, or burnout. In this free version of Set Boundaries, Find Peace summary, you’ll learn about the types of boundaries, how to set and maintain healthy boundaries, and deal with boundary violations.
What is Set Boundaries, Find Peace about?
Boundaries define roles, expectations, and acceptable behaviors in relationships. They ensure that your needs and expectations are met, and you feel secure and comfortable in your relationships.
As a therapist, Tawwab finds that one of the most common problems in relationships and mental health issues is the lack of clear boundaries. Often, we don’t set boundaries for fear of upsetting others. Yet, the lack of boundaries leads to draining, one-sided, or even abusive relationships, to create mental, emotional, and physical pain, exhaustion or burnout.
It’s better to face the short-term discomfort of setting boundaries, than to pay the long-term price of unhealthy and dysfunctional relationships.
Types of Boundaries
Broadly, there are 3 types of boundaries:
Porous boundaries are vague or ill-defined. You often say “yes” when you want to say “no,” leading to overexertion, anxiety, and unhealthy relationships. Common signs include: emotional entanglement, fear of rejection or disapproval, oversharing, people-pleasing, over-reliance on external validation, and even tolerating abuse.
Rigid boundaries are strict rules intended for self-protection. However, you may end up shutting people out, disregarding others’ needs and feelings, and isolating yourself. Signs include: distancing yourself, having unreasonable expectations, refusing to share or compromise even when it’s necessary.
Healthy boundaries are based on self-awareness, not emotional baggage. You know your physical, mental and emotional capacity, and can communicate your needs and expectations clearly to balance intimacy and a healthy sense of self. Signs include: clarity of values, appropriate sharing, willingness to be vulnerable with those you trust, and the ability to say and accept “no.”
Signs That You Need Healthier Boundaries
You cannot build a healthy relationship with rigid or porous boundaries. Here are several signs that you need clearer boundaries:
• Self-neglect: You prioritize others’ needs over your own, to the point your physical, mental, and emotional well-being suffers.
• You feel perpetually overwhelmed and often wish to escape it all. Yet, you keep trying to add more to your endless to-do list.
• You feel angry, frustrated and resentful of others’ requests because you feel underappreciated and exploited. Your anger might be directed inwardly (e.g. self-blame) or outwardly (e.g. tantrums or apathy) to hurt your relationships and mental health.
• You avoid certain people so they can’t load you with new requests, e.g. you avoid picking up their calls or postpone/cancel your meetings in hopes that person/problems will just go away.
• You experience mental health issues like severe anxiety or symptoms of burnout.
There are 2 key parts involved in setting and maintain boundaries:
- You must explicitly communicate your needs and expectations, rather than expect people to guess what you’re thinking or feeling. For example, you can say, “It’s important to me that you honor our plans. If you need to make changes, please call or message me a few hours in advance.”
- Then, you must uphold your boundaries consistently with action. In the example above, if your friend tries to change plans at the last minute, decline and reschedule it 1 week later.
In our complete 14-page version of the Set Boundaries, Find Peace summary, we will elaborate on additional insights, with specific tips and examples on:
• Why we fail to set boundaries, and where our perceptions and approach to boundaries come from;
• Types of boundary violations, including (i) micro vs macro boundary violations, and (ii) 6 areas of violations (physical, sexual, intellectual, emotional, material, time);
• How to set and maintain boundaries effectively, including: communicate your needs and expectations clearly, uphold your boundaries consistently, deal with boundary violations, address the discomforts of setting boundaries, and build self-discipline and self-respect; and
• How to apply healthy boundaries to various aspects of life, including: the family, romantic relationships, friendships, work, and technology.
For now, let’s take a quick look at a few useful ideas you can start applying in your life.
Communicating Your Boundaries
The best way to convey your needs is to be assertive. State your needs respectfully, clearly, and precisely, keeping your tone calm and your language simple. Use statements that begin with “I need,” “I want,” “I expect,” or “I would like.” Don’t offer any reasons for the boundary nor apologize for it.
After sharing the boundary, immediately address any discomfort you may feel, such as sadness, remorse, or guilt. Face the feelings rather than deny or dismiss them. Engage in self-care activities like meditation, journaling, or walking. And, try reframing boundaries as positive tools to empower yourself and build healthier relationships.
Be prepared for resistance from others. In our full Set Boundaries, Find Peace summary, we explain how to handle various types of resistance including: push-back, testing your limits, ignoring your request, challenging your request, being defensive, ghosting you or giving your the silent treatment.
Upholding and Maintaining Your Boundaries
Consistency is key. Uphold your boundaries without apology or compromise. Over time, both parties will adapt. In our full summary, we address various ways to identify/manage boundary violations, speak up and restate your boundaries, deal with repeat violations, and cope with existing mental health issues (which can amplify boundary problems, and vice versa).
You must respect and honor your own boundaries before expecting others to do so. Learn to build self-discipline through healthy self-boundaries in various aspects of your life, including financial boundaries, time boundaries, self-care boundaries, internal boundaries, and interpersonal boundaries. Constantly refresh and restate your boundaries as you grow and evolve.
Applying Healthy Boundaries in Life
You can set healthy boundaries to all aspects of life, including family, romantic relationships, friendships, work, and technology/social media. Let’s take a look at the example of the family.
Example: Setting Healthy Boundaries at Home
Set boundaries respectfully with your family members, including: parents, in-laws, siblings, and children.
Many adults find it hard to say “no” to their parents because they don’t want to disappoint them. Yet, misunderstandings and conflicts can arise from a lack of boundaries around personal space, privacy, participation in family events, or respect for your parenting style. Learn to verbalize your boundaries, e.g. “Sis and I are both adults. Please let us resolve our own conflicts.”
Parents should also respect children’s boundaries.
• You can define limits and acceptable behaviors while recognizing their personal preferences. If your child dislikes certain food, clothing, or people, give them some healthy options instead of forcing them to your will.
• Don’t ignore their requests when they say things like: “Can you stop saying nasty things about Mum?” or “Why are you always on your phone when we talk?”
• Keep discussions age-appropriate. Don’t burden children with adult problems.
• Role-model healthy boundaries by displaying self-care, self-discipline, and the ability to say/receive “no” as an answer.
Family boundaries also extend to other areas including holiday arrangements (frequency, accommodation, time spent together), or interactions with siblings, uncles/aunties, grandparents, and other extended family members.
Do check out our complete summary bundle for similar insights on romantic relationships, friendships, work, and technology!
Getting the Most from Set Boundaries, Find Peace
Remember: You can’t control others’ actions, but you can control how you react and what you tolerate. Boundaries in healthy relationships work both ways: you must set and enforce your boundaries while respecting others’. If you’d like to start applying the ideas above to enhance your relationships and your well-being, do check out our full book summary bundle for more details, tips, and examples. This bundle includes an infographic, 14-page text summary, and a 24-minute audio summary.
The book comes with many real-life examples, suggested words/phrases you can use, and checklists of behaviors and things to look out for. Each chapter comes with questions/exercises for reflection, and the book ends with a self-assessment quiz and a list of commonly asked questions. You can purchase the book here or visit nedratawwab.com for more details.
About the Author of Set Boundaries, Find Peace
Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself was written by Nedra Glover Tawwab–an American mental health therapist, social worker, and writer. She holds an undergraduate degree and master’s of social work degree from Wthe ayne State University. Tawwab began her therapy practice in Detroit and relocated to North Carolina where she opened Kaleidoscope Counseling. She’s best known for her work on relationship health and boundaries.
Set Boundaries, Find Peace Quotes
“Boundaries will set you free.”
“People don’t know what you want. It’s your job to make it clear. Clarity saves relationships.”
“People do not have to like, agree with, or understand your boundaries to respect them.”
“We can’t create more time, but we can do less, delegate, or ask for help.”
“Healthy relationships are not one-sided. The needs of both individuals are equally important.”
“Self-discipline is the act of creating boundaries for yourself.”
“Having uncomfortable conversations can save relationships.”
“We don’t naturally fall into perfect relationships; we create them.”
“Our relationships are a reflection of our boundaries or lack thereof.”
Set Healthy Boundaries to Regain Peace and Balance in Your Life!