Boundaries. You may hear that word a lot, either from your therapist, pop culture references, or trending social media conversations on mental health.

But what are boundaries, really? Let’s start with what boundaries are not. Boundaries are not rules for how other people should talk or behave. They aren’t a way for us to control what’s going on around us. In fact, boundaries aren’t about others at all.

Boundaries are standards we set for our own actions, speech, and thoughts. They’re rules we set for ourselves, that help us understand how to act – and react – in any given situation. They help us decide what tasks to spend our time, energy, money, and attention on.

Some examples of boundaries might include:

  • ending a conversation when someone speaks rudely to you
  • not checking your work email after hours
  • not keeping junk food in the house
  • choosing to read a book rather than watch tv
  • sticking to a budget instead of impulse buying
  • limiting your social media use
  • declining an invitation when you don’t want to go
  • telling a friend or family member how you feel, why you feel that way, and what they can do to help

The way you hold boundaries in your life is a direct indicator of the respect you have for yourself. It is never mean or wrong to set boundaries for yourself, as long as you’re doing it for yourself. Remember, boundaries are not about others – they’re standards we set for ourselves in order to protect ourselves from what’s unhelpful or unhealthy and to help us reach our personal goals.