The Book of Boundaries
Book: The Book of Boundaries, Melissa Urban Ok so if you’re a people pleaser, if you had controlling parents, if you feel dread talking to or meeting certain people, if you feel indecisive, scared and would often rather just not engage at all and be alone: this is for you. This is the book I WISH I had years ago. I first had the concept of boundaries explained to me in February of 2022 - which is insane. Before then I had some vague notion of ‘what I want vs what they want of me’ and I knew I sometimes disagreed with others or felt uncomfortable doing or sharing things, but I had NO IDEA just now well-established and clear this concept already was. This book was amazing in explaining and giving actionable sentences, phrases and concepts around what boundaries are to those adults who need to teach self-respect to themselves (heya). It reads like a blog post (kind of like my book lol) and is a bit repetitive, but I’d definitely recommend it - you’d be able to read it all in 1-2 days if you like. Here’re my favourite bits:
Boundaries are NOT controlling. They do NOT tell people to change their behaviour or how to behave, so we shouldn’t be worried about establishing them. What they do is help us plan and communicate our response to what other people say or do. - Hence when seeing boundaries we should keep them personal: what we want and don’t want, what we will do in each situation - not asking someone to change their opinion or perspective.
Boundaries allow those who care about us to support us in the way we want to be supported. They provide a clear line between the helpful and the harmful, so people don’t have to try to read our minds. Setting boundaries therefore requires that we get to know ourselves better too.
If you’re setting a new boundary with someone and they complain that ‘you’re changing’ or ‘you used to be ok with this’ you can say that you used to accept it in the past, but you are also hurt and resentful over it. And that you don’t think that’s a healthy place for you to be. That you’d rather not have those feelings about the person and you’d now expect the change.
When you establish limits to make the relationship a healthy space for you, and someone repeatedly refuses to respect those limits, it’s time to end the relationship.
The Relationship Golden Rule—Say what you mean and trust your partner to do the same. It is a lot easier if there is a common agreement amongst partners that they are honest with small things too: when they are hungry, when they want to leave, when they need to sleep, when they don’t like something. The sooner both partners can get to a place of accepting the other’s needs without personal insult and are comfortable saying the same themselves, the healthier and happier both would be.
If you can’t think of ways you’d like someone to help you (you’re a bit too self-sufficient maybe?) try to schedule the task between you and the other person: one week you do it, one week they do it.
Try to not rehearse disaster, often, we build up these potential conflicts in our heads until we’re having fights with people about things that haven’t even happened. And will likely never happen.
Over-explaining and boundary makes it harder to maintain: “I can’t stay late because I have to work in the morning” allows space for people to negotiate with their importance vs work. It’s easier to say “I’m afraid I’ll be leaving early today” and follow up with “I’m not feeling like staying longer” if asked instead.
You can divide the need for boundaries into three categories: green - low risk, you can use gentle language and assume that the other person didn’t realise they were over-stepping and wants to respect your boundaries; yellow - firmer language if green isn’t respected or if historical interactions indicate the threat is higher; and red - most direct language because your health, safety or the relationship are in jeopardy.
Setting a boundary is an expression of power and a privilege. As a child, it’s not your fault for not having the opportunity to set them with overbearing/controlling parents. As an adult, if you’re part of a minority group, you still might not be allowed the opportunity to set and maintain firm boundaries by some of those around you.
Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.
A boundary doesn’t tell someone else what to do, it tells them what you will do.
There’s nothing that snaps me back to unhealthy communication styles, coping mechanisms, and behaviours faster than being around my parents.
People reacting this badly to your boundaries means you’re revoking a privilege they were never meant to have.
People don’t need to understand or agree with my boundary to respect it.
PS. If you'd like to see me talk through my (very unfiltered and rambly) thoughts, lessons and summaries of books, I host a raw-book-club video series on Nebula. The cheapest deal to get it is through Curiosity Stream, and you can get yearly access to both for under $15 a year with this link: https://curiositystream.com/elizabethfilips