In this podcast (episode #473) and blog, I talk to speaker and best-selling author Melissa Urban, founder of the Whole30 movement, about her new book on boundaries, learning how to say no, the relationship between boundaries and mental health, ways to establish healthy boundaries, and so much more!
Since launching the mega-bestselling wellness program the Whole30, Melissa Urban has taught millions of people how to establish healthy habits and successfully navigate pushback and peer pressure. She knows firsthand that boundaries—clear limits you set to protect your energy, time, and health—are the key to feelings of security, confidence, and freedom in every area of your life.
In her amazing new book The Book of Boundaries, Melissa describes how boundaries are the key to better mental health, increased energy, improved productivity, and more fulfilling relationships. She wrote this book to give people the tools they need to stop justifying, minimizing, and apologizing, leading them to more rewarding relationships and a life that feels bigger, healthier, and freer. In her own life, boundaries helped Melissa heal from her drug addiction in her 20s—they were the key to expanding her life and her recovery, enabling her to advocate for her own life and her needs.
Boundaries are an essential life skill, yet many of us are not taught how to implement boundaries in our own lives. Indeed, it can be hard to even define what a boundary is or why it is important.
As Melissa points out in her book, “boundaries mark the limits of behavior that are acceptable to you, where words or actions beyond that limit cause you harm or make you feel unsafe. Boundaries are not used to tell other people what they can and cannot do, which would be controlling. Boundaries are established to help you plan and communicate your response to what other people say or do.”
Boundaries are about the actions we are willing to take to keep ourselves safe and healthy. When we set a boundary, we create a limit, and extend an invitation to the other person to meet us at that limit so that the relationship can improve and grow.
Boundaries can be especially challenging for women. Too often, we are conditioned by cultural and social influences to “be small” and put other people’s needs before our own. This is especially the case if we are mothers or caregivers—we tend to be praised the most when we are seen as “selfless”, existing solely for the benefit of those we are taking care of. When we do advocate for our needs, we are often called selfish or demanding, or we are told we are too aggressive or rude.
This means that, as women, we often have to do a lot of cultural “unlearning” when it comes to setting boundaries and acknowledge that our needs and wellbeing have value too. We should never be at the bottom of our list of things to take care of—we should be at the top of our list!
In The Book of Boundaries, Melissa has 3 steps to setting boundaries:
- Identify the need for a boundary.
- Set the boundary using clear and kind language. In the book, there are three levels of boundaries Melissa describes using traffic lights as an analogy. “Green” boundaries are the kindest and gentlest language to use to set a boundary, and assumes that the other person didn’t quite understand your limit and wants to meet you in the middle and be respectful. “Yellow” boundaries are when you experience some pushback or some peer pressure, or when someone deliberately tries to disrespect your boundary or forget—this language is going to be kind but more direct. At this point, you may decide to share a consequence if the boundary cannot be respected. A “Red” boundary is the boundary itself, when someone has proven that they are either incapable or unwilling to respect your limit and you are going to take whatever action you need to keep yourself safe and healthy. We want to go in at the green level when setting a boundary with someone—we don’t want to immediately go to the red level when someone accidentally disrespects a limit. The yellow and red levels are a backup plan, so we know what we need to do to protect our needs and wellbeing if the other person refuses to respect our boundaries.
- Hold the boundary.
Melissa also includes 130+ scripts with language you can use to instantly establish boundaries with bosses and co-workers, romantic partners, parents and in-laws, co-parents, friends, family, neighbors, strangers—and yourself. These scripts are easy to use as a launching pad for conversations about boundaries, and they use everyday, simple language to help you communicate what you need and why so that you can practice setting healthy boundaries with the people in your life.
For more on boundaries and mental health, listen to my podcast with Melissa (episode #473) and check out her amazing work. If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).
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2:00 Melissa’s amazing story
9:10 What boundaries are
10:20 The difference between a boundary & controlling someone’s actions
11:20, 15:50 Women & boundaries
17:12 Why Melissa wrote The Book of Boundaries
18:50 How to set boundaries
22:00 Examples of setting boundaries
27:55 Work-life balance & boundaries
33:30 Family balance & boundaries
39:45 Romantic relationships & boundaries
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