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Why Boundary Setting Should Start With You

Boundaries are important, and are often hard to set if you’ve experienced trauma or you’re a recovering people pleaser. Knowing how to say “Don’t treat me like this,” in whatever framing of words is so crucial for healing and growth. 

If you’re not familiar with boundary setting, here are a few of my favorite Mighty stories surrounding them:

Setting boundaries with others is definitely something we should do, but boundary setting should, in my opinion, definitely start with ourselves. 

We know ourselves. We know what makes us click. Setting boundaries for ourselves and honoring them shifts the responsibility from others, to ourselves.

For example:

Let’s say you don’t like getting phone calls or texts in the middle of the night. It disrupts your sleep schedule and that’s already something that’s hard to manage. You have two options.

  1. Tell people not to text you past a certain time, and only do that.
  2. Turn your phone on “Do Not Disturb” mode, so you don’t get the notification and your sleep isn’t interrupted.

You can for sure tell people not to text you past 8 p.m., but that’s a defensive play because usually that conversation happens after they did it. By setting your phone on “Do Not Disturb” mode you’re already creating a wall between you and that phone call. It doesn’t matter if they call you, you won’t hear it. By respecting your own boundary with yourself, you’re putting the onus of responsibility on you, versus them. 

Now, let’s say they decide to call twice, because that overrides the “Do Not Disturb” function. Then saying “Hey, don’t do that please unless it’s a super bad emergency,” comes into play.

In no way is this saying that you shouldn’t advocate for yourself. You should feel free and open to advocate for yourself at all times. However, I feel the way we’ve been collectively having the “boundary” conversation tends to fuel our traumas in the long run versus contribute to our long term growth and peace.

At one point, I was very vocal with “Don’t do this,” and “don’t do that,” in regards to how I set my boundaries up with my friends. Maybe the verbiage wasn’t as literal, however I made it their responsibility to do right by me, instead of making it my responsibility to do right by me.

Once I shifted that, I found myself more at peace and less tepid and afraid of interactions with others. It didn’t matter what they did (to an extent) because I was holding the power I needed in that moment.

This ideology works better in some cases, and not in others, but if you are willing to try it out ask yourself a few questions with a guided example:

Situation: You are someone that doesn’t operate well with loud conflict. In fact, it makes you shut down and triggers you due to abuse in the past. 

1. What about this behavior bothers you?

What bothers you is when people raise their voice and can’t talk calmly through a conflict, even if they are passionate about it. It makes you think of past traumas and abusers, and it’s hard for you stay grounded in these conversations.

2. Now that you know what bothers you, what can you do to mitigate it on your end?

When people yell, you shut down. Promise yourself that should someone start communicating in a way that triggers you (yelling and shouting), you will walk away until and only if they stop.

3. What can you do to communicate this boundary to others?

Whether it’s in the moment or before the conflict, you can and should voice “Hey, if you raise your voice like this I won’t be able to continue this conversation.”

4. Go from there.

Now, it doesn’t matter if they do or don’t raise their voice. You have a self-made boundary that says “I won’t allow people to treat me this way,” (not that it’s ever your fault) and you’ve communicated that you don’t appreciate raised voices, and what you will do should it continue.

We don’t have to have boundary setting be one or the other, in regards to who is responsible for upholding them. However, I do want conversations to reflect more thoroughly the personal responsibility that plays into boundary holding and setting.

Sometimes advocating for yourself really does start with self-focused advocation.

Getty image by MoMo Productions

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