I started following Nedra Glover Tawwab, MSW, LCSW, on Instagram nearly a year ago. Her content, simply crafted, clearly explained, and deeply impactful, hit a chord with me. It turns out it also resonates with 1.5 million other people who follow her (even Oprah Winfrey!).
As a relationship therapist for over 14 years, her content touches on many areas of an individual’s life and connections with others, including marriage, parenting, work-life balance, family bonds, and friendships.
What ties all of these areas together for better mental health? Boundaries.
“Boundaries are the gateway to healthy relationships,” says Tawwab in her recent book, and New York Times Bestseller, Set Boundaries, Find Peace: A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself.
The book offers a detailed blueprint for what boundaries are and how to implement them in your life so you can have healthier relationships with others and yourself. At the end of every chapter are reflective exercises created to help you analyze the areas of your life where you might need better boundaries.
What is a boundary?
“Boundaries are expectations and needs that help you feel safe and comfortable in your relationships,” explains Tawwab. “They are an indication of how you allow people to show up for you and how you show up for others… A boundary is a cue to others about how to treat you.”
Signs that Tawwab says indicate that you may need better boundaries in your life include:
- Neglecting your self-care
- Feelings of overwhelm
- Feelings of resentment
- Avoidance of people or situations
- Feelings of burnout
I mean really, how many women don’t resonate with at least one of those?
I found myself highlighting page after page as I gained more realization of the areas in my own life that were lacking boundaries, and where I could begin to start making changes, inshaAllah.
For example, I realized that I tend to say “yes” to things I don’t really have the time, energy, or resources to do. Even when I know I shouldn’t, I will allow myself to get talked into things because I like feeling helpful. I also have a tendency to cave into guilt trips to avoid conflict and awkwardness between myself and others.
Not only does this leave me feeling physically and emotionally drained, and practically behind on the things I really needed to be doing for myself instead, but it makes it difficult for me to show up as my best self in my relationships.
When it comes to fielding requests from others, I have what Tawwab calls Porous boundaries, boundaries that are weakly established or poorly expressed and leave me feeling depleted and overextended.
But identifying that we lack boundaries is only the first step.
Throughout the book, Tawwab goes on to teach us:
- Some of the reasons why we may lack boundaries
- Benefits of setting healthy boundaries
- Six areas of our life where we can set boundaries
- How to effectively communicate our boundaries to others
- How to recognize boundary violations and address them on the spot
- How to uphold our boundaries for better mental health
One thing I most appreciated about the book is the clear approach of taking responsibility for our choices and owning our needs.
Again and again, Tawwab effectively sprinkles heartfelt statements throughout the book - “Before we teach others to respect our boundaries, we must learn to honor them ourselves” - or thought-provoking questions in the exercises - “How are you allowing people to take advantage of you?” She urges readers to dig deep into ourselves, honestly address our needs, and begin using healthier boundaries to help craft the life we want to live.
“The root of self-care is setting boundaries,” says Tawwab. “It’s saying no to something in order to say yes to your own emotional, physical, and mental well-being.”
Can’t we all use more of that?
For more information about setting boundaries for better mental health, visit https://www.nedratawwab.com/.
Melissa Barreto is a home educating mother of five children and the Co-Founder of Wildflower Homeschool Collective, a homeschool organization based in Northern New Jersey.