How Do You Know When You Need Boundaries

The holidays are coming, y’all, and with them can come family, friends, travel, obligations, budgets, and stress. So this month we are going to focus on how you can create beautiful boundaries in order to have truly happy holidays.


We talk about having healthy boundaries all the time. Parenting books, magazines, and websites are full of tips and tricks for boundary setting. But how do you know when you need to set a boundary?

Merriam-Webster defines a boundary as something that indicates a fixed limit or extent. It is a dividing line. Those of us of a certain age may find it helpful to think of it as “This is your dance space. This is MY dance space”. Boundaries serve two functions - they keep something out and keep something in.


Ok, now that we know what they are - how do we figure out if we need one? Or need a new one? Here are some questions that can help you.

  1. Do you have time and space to listen to yourself? Can you clearly identify your wants/needs/desires above the noise of the rest of your life?

  2. Can you clearly communicate them?

  3. When do you communicate them, are you heard?

  4. If you are heard, do folks respond to you in a respectful manner or a manner you find appropriate to the situation?

  5. Where do you feel overrun, cramped, talked over, or pushed aside in your life? In your family? With your friends?


These are the types of issues that boundaries can help you address. But in order for this to work you are going to have to get specific. You are going to have to get really specific about what it is that you want.

When you answered the questions above - how specific were you? How many more layers can you dig down?

“I want a nice family visit” is not specific.

“I want him to stop being passive aggressive” is better, but is still not as specific as it could be.

“I want my brother to stop commenting on my weight” - BINGO! That is super specific.

And yes, that last example may be small. There may be 1, 876,932 other things that your brother does during the holidays that drive you straight up the wall. But when you are getting started with boundary setting you want to be clear, specific, and actionable. You want to eliminate the opportunity for pushback as much as possible. “Stop being passive aggressive about my looks” is a boundary that you can set, sure. But your brother could comment on your plate size “because I’m worried about your health” and even if you restate your boundary clearly you can see how the conversation could spin quickly.

So we keep it specific and clear.


Did you answer the questions above with negatives or with positives?

“I don’t want to feel like this anymore” or “I want a happier visit home”.

Boundaries have two sides, but the only side you can control is the one you’re standing on. So what is it that you DO want? Take some time to dig down and see what it is that you want out of the holidays that are coming.

How do you want to feel?

What do you want to do?

What experiences do you want to have?

Building your boundaries around what you do want will take care of the don’t. So instead of “I don’t want to feel rushed and stressed out running everywhere” you state, “I want time and space to enjoy the season”. When you take these positive statements and get even more specific about them, you’ll have clear needs and be well on your way to setting beautiful boundaries that you can hold with grace.

Graeme Seabrook