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Nothing Personal: How to Avoid Taking on Others’ Poor Boundaries

Last year for Christmas I gave myself the perfect gift, better boundaries.

As I kept in the good and kept out the bad over the past year, I received greater self-confidence, played more often, increased my energy, and enjoyed an even happier marriage. Learning to say “No” to others granted me some other additional bonuses; I began accepting others saying “No” to me more graciously and realized unconditional love requires setting boundaries.


The blessings I received during the last 12 months inspired me to gift myself a more powerful version of boundaries this Christmas, the “Better Boundaries 2.0.” This rendition of boundaries includes two additional features. The first is a deeper understanding of unconditional love. I now better understand love has no limits. The more love we give, the more love we have. However, everyone has limited energy and time so unfortunately we do have limits on how we can express our love. That’s why boundaries are so important to our health and well-being.


The second feature of “Better Boundaries 2.0” is not taking it personally when someone sets their boundaries in cruel ways or repeatedly tramples over my explicitly stated boundaries. This Christmas I’m granting myself (and you) full permission to take no responsibility for others acting selfishly or downright mean instead of simply stating their limitations or acknowledging my boundaries.  And, if you think about it, this is another way of saying “Keep out the bad.” This 2018  boundary upgrade stems from the concept that we all have limits on how we can express our love. On top of being limited in time and energy, some people are also limited by their wounds, especially if they are unaware of their wounds. They just don’t know how to verbalize their boundaries.  Since they can’t say no, they often set a boundary through unkind behavior.  And, since they don’t give themselves permission to set their own boundaries, they begrudge me the right to set limits.


Christmas movies and cards brainwash us to expect only mirth and goodwill at Christmastime.  That makes us especially vulnerable during the holidays to others disappointing us by setting their boundaries in hostile ways or disregarding our clearly stated boundaries. It often shocks us when a loved one acts in any of the following harsh ways because their own pain and traumas don’t allow them to simply state their needs or accept other’s boundaries. 

  • They never give a rhyme or reason for not attending a holiday dinner after they explicitly told you that they would attend a holiday affair.
  • They show up wildly drunk for holiday gatherings
  • After you repeatedly explain you don’t eat sugar, they send you chocolates or other sugar-laden treats for Christmas.


I hope you’ll join me and give yourself the gift of “Better Boundaries 2.0.” May you not take any rude or hurtful behavior personally.  May you trust your loved ones still love you even when they set poor boundaries.


For more blogs on living life more fully and healthfully, click here to read my blogs on Lifestyle Medicine. To learn about applying these concepts to your workplace, click here to read my Lifestyle Medicine for Groups blogs.