Ever enthusiastically agree to plans you weren’t keen on only to subsequently (and guiltily) back out of them? Or, out of a weird sense of social obligation, politely join your housemates for a Netflix binge, when all you truly wanted was to curl up in bed with a cuppa and your favourite book? How about engaging in water-cooler talk with a toxic colleague when you’re making an effort to be more positive, or acting as an on-call therapist for a family member when you’re not feeling up to it? But what are boundaries?

The word ‘boundary’ may sound cold and harsh, but setting out personal boundaries is one of the kindest and most caring things you can do for yourself. Boundaries aren’t about blocking yourself off or limiting your social interactions; they’re about figuring out what your needs are and prioritising them so you can be the loveliest version of yourself.

Think of a ‘boundary’ as less like an imposing wall and more like a pretty, little picket fence. It’s saying ‘no’ (without having to say no) to situations and behaviours that don’t align with your core values or threaten your inner peace; it’s respect for your emotional well-being and it’s important.

Boundaries are the definitionof true self-care and, much like a picket fence, they don’t pop up overnight.

They’re gradually (and sometimes painfully) constructed through consistent effort and self-awareness. They’re all about letting your behaviour (and not your words) speak for you. Which, if you’re not used to, is hard. Really hard.

Some people will acknowledge and respect your boundaries. I have a friend who won’t vent without asking if I’m in the right space to listen and take it in… amazing, right?). Some will walk right through them (pushing, quite literally, the boundaries of your patience, strength and confidence in who you are). But as long as you stay true to what matters most, you’ll reap the benefits of feeling more grounded in yourself.

Boundaries are about being intentional, remaining authentic and keeping your cup full. If you want to thrive, stay true to who you are. Honour your highest self and stay sane – lovingly construct your pretty, little picket fence. Figure out what’s important to you and how you can honour that.

Paint it. Repair as needed. But do build it.

Photo Credit @ We’re Not Really Strangers