THE MOM’S SPACE: Setting Boundaries

Feeling connection, ease, and joy with family during the holidays
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We’ve heard that boundaries allow us to love ourselves and others at the same time. Yet setting boundaries is arguably one of the hardest things to do, especially during the holidays. Pressures and expectations are at an all-time high, particularly when family is involved. We can easily slip into past behaviors and roles, many of which don’t align with who we are as adults. This can lead us to feel stuck, frustrated, and powerless. Fear of judgment and rejection creep in, and before we know it we start sacrificing what we want and need for the wants and needs of others. We end up feeling stressed, exhausted, and resentful. We start to loathe and dread being around our family during a time that is supposed to be the most enjoyable.

Setting appropriate boundaries allows us to feel the connection, ease, and joy with our family during the holidays, and we can set them in various ways. One way is how we talk to ourselves.

Appropriate boundaries might sound like:

  • My priorities are important
  • Taking care of myself is my most important priority
  • That comment or behavior is not about me
  • I am enough, just the way I am

Another way to set appropriate boundaries is through behavior. This can include how we act toward ourselves and others.

Appropriate boundaries might look like:

  • Buying the food instead of cooking it
  • Kindly saying no to the party, staying home to relax and restore instead
  • Choosing not to prove or justify our decisions
  • Entering a situation with realistic expectations

A quick way to know if we need to set a boundary is to ask ourselves, am I doing this because I feel obligated or because I want to? If the answer is out of obligation, a boundary likely needs to be set.

Choices from obligation feel:

  • Pressured
  • Anxious
  • Stressful
  • Frantic

Behaving from obligation leads to shame, pressure, and fear that tricks us into putting our wants and needs aside for someone else’s. (Hint: When we hear thoughts that we’re being selfish, a boundary needs to be set.) The result leaves us feeling defeated and taken advantage of. Resentment starts to grow and before we know it, we find ourselves disconnected, angry, and exhausted. What if instead of putting others’ needs before ours, we start to make choices from what we need and want?

Choices from wants feel:

  • Easy
  • Calm
  • Exciting
  • Settled

Imagine if we consistently behaved from our wants. We would undoubtedly feel fulfilled because we are aligning with our priorities. It makes us easier to be around, and we become capable of showing up for others from our grown-up, aligned self instead of our past, perceived role. Before we know it, we are feeling connection, ease, and joy during the holidays.

P.S. If there is a family member who doesn’t agree with the choices we make from our wants, this could be a signal that our loved one may be stuck in their own fear and shame, or feeling obligated to meet certain expectations and pressures. Having empathy for their struggle (we get it!), setting realistic expectations (Yep, I expect mom to make a comment about my weight), while maintaining our boundaries gives our loved one permission to set boundaries from their wants. What better way to show love for ourselves and another at the same time!


MOLLIE GEE is a clinical mental health counselor, mother of two, and owner of The Nest Counseling. Follow her on Instagram @thechubbydebutante.