Here’s an updated version of a popular post that could be called Boundaries Anytime. But the holidays are a time of heightened tension—a season full of decisions that are impossible to make while pleasing everyone. In other words, a perfect time to practice setting boundaries!
Setting Healthy Boundaries
Setting healthy boundaries means making decisions and expressing needs based on our personal values. Because it’s an individual process, it can be one of the most difficult (and lonely) things we ever do.
When you express a personal boundary, someone will inevitably disagree with your choice. Those closest to you—your people, your tribe, the place where you seek safety and belonging—will have slightly (or vastly) different boundaries. This can feel terrifying because of our natural need for acceptance and belonging.
For our own survival, our brains are wired to fear being cast out, abandoned, or rejected for disagreeing with the group. Therefore, boundary setting involves using our higher brain functions to override our primitive impulses.
Boundaries are challenging because they distinguish you as a separate, unique being with ideas, needs, and beliefs that others may not approve of, understand, or appreciate.
Boundaries invite judgment and healthy friction because they are clear and declarative instead of vague and passively pleasing.
If you were raised to be pleasing and conflict-avoidant like I was, setting boundaries will feel wrong and create a lot of anxiety at first.
But when you reach a point in your life (or face something you can’t sidestep) and decide to live based on your highest values at the risk of being judged or rejected, you’re being invited to become more YOU. It takes great courage, but it’s the pathway to living authentically.
Here’s a guarantee: you will be judged for your choices.
Boundaries involve judgment—making judgment calls about what’s right for you and experiencing the judgement of others when you assert those choices.
When you set a boundary…
- Someone may be disappointed, and it might feel like rejection.
- Someone may disagree/disapprove, and it might feel like shame.
- Someone may share opposing opinions, and it might feel like self-doubt.
- Someone may turn away from you, and it might feel like abandonment.
Instead of seeing that disappointment, disagreement, opposing opinions, or the turning away as indications that you did something wrong, the real transformation comes when you can see that they’re a good sign—proof of your own growth!
These painful experiences invite the spiritual question: Where do I seek comfort and reassurance when I feel rejection, shame, self-doubt, or abandonment?
If you choose to, seeking comfort and reassurance from your Creator can allow you to more easily see the reactions of others for what they are: humans grappling with their own natural fears. Their reactions aren’t even about you—they’re about them.
Others will always have opinions about what we say and do. Until we learn to rely on something greater to define us, we’ll give the opinions of others a LOT of power.
Using your voice to express yourself with clear boundaries means allowing those opinions to just be opinions. They don’t define you. God defines your worth and you define yourself.
To soothe the sting of displeasing others—a pain that is natural and valid no matter how deep your faith—you may want to practice a centering prayer like this one:
Listening to my inner voice when it would be easier to go along with others is a sign that I’m focused on pleasing you, God, not others. I can hold my boundaries AND feel compassion for others at the same time. Help me to withstand the pain of rejection and judgment when I remain true to myself. Help me to know that my worth comes from you and not from what others think of me.
Setting boundaries is an act of faith. It requires trusting in something deep within you to be trustworthy, a compass to guide you when you face the pressure to conform to something you don’t believe is right.
The holidays bring up important questions about how we’ll spend our precious and limited resources of time and energy. This is an excellent time to practice honing the powerful life skill of setting boundaries. Just imagine what you’ll be able to do when this season has passed!
May we be courageous.
May we be clear.
May we be kind.
Do you want to learn to set healthy boundaries? Learn more here!