Boundaries. I have a few.

Source:; some rights reserved.
Source:; some rights reserved.

You know how sometimes a podcast or video will strike a chord with you? Well, Shahida Arabi’s YouTube channel, Self-Care Haven, banged a gong in my head today with the topic of “How to Become a Kickass, Empowered Empath in a World of Toxic People.”

For me, the jury’s still out on the concept of being an empath. I’m still puzzling over whether that’s a thing and also whether it applies to me. I think I’m more co-dependent, but growing up in my mom’s household also taught me that a person needs firm, inviolable walls sometimes to maintain sanity. So, naturally, I loved Shahida’s suggestion in this vid about finding at least 10 sacred boundaries for me.

I almost pulled the car over just so I could wrap my mind around that wonderful concept without distraction. (Instead, I just turned off the video until I got to the office so I could indulge my racing mind.)

So what are mine? What are the delineations around me that I define and enforce, despite someone else’s desire to intrude? I made a list and have found that I’m surprisingly black-and-white about some things. I’m mostly a gray-zone person, but some things just don’t fly with me. I think it comes from being around my no-boundaries mother and my (loving but very, very needy) husband.

It’s very, very hard for me to honor my boundaries, because I grew up with uncertainties and negative feedback from family about my worthiness as a person. At times, I’m too porous. Other times, I have a 10-foot-tall brick wall with razor wire rolled along the top edges. Discernment. I’m working on it.

The first step is definition about what matters to me. Next is deciding if that’s healthy. After that, I’ll be enforcing my limits. Here goes my first draft. I noticed that a lot are about basic respect, courtesy, and a distaste for manipulations.

My 10+ Sacred Boundaries

  1. I don’t tolerate “gotcha” games, big or small. I will call you on it, probably mock you gently with a little humor at first, speak more firmly later on, and then finally limit or stop my interactions with you, if you persist. How far you want to take this is up to you. My boundary on this will not change. [Clarification: I’ve been asked what is a “gotcha game.” It’s hard to define. The person who plays a gotcha game is sort of lying in wait for someone to make a mistake and then crowing with delight and a smirk and calling the other person out on it. Like someone who notices there is leather trim on an old jacket a novice vegan wears, and bringing it up publicly as a “joke” but really to embarrass the person. Or like when your spouse asks you how you’re doing on your diet and you say not bad, and then he tells you, “Oh, by the way, I picked up the little bit of trash there was in the car. Including the Snickers wrapper.” He wants you to know that HE knows you’ve blown your diet. Pisses me off to the rafters every single time. Makes me want to say, “Oh, thanks. Did you put it in the ‘none of your fucking business’ trash can?” It sounds really petty of me when I describe this, but the effect is cumulative.]
  2. I mind my own finances, always. Exceptions have always, always, ALWAYS burned me.
  3. I don’t allow others to dig in my purse, browse my phone, or nose around in my home without my express advance permission. Rude! (Exception: I love for people to look at my books; it starts discussions.)
  4. I decide if you’re invited into my home. Your decision to show up without checking in advance is irritating. (I probably already have my bra off and am in my jammies. Or I’m getting up off the sofa where I was watching videos or napping. Or maybe I haven’t put away the folded clothes yet and I’ll have to clear off a spot on the sofa for you. Forgiveable in some cases, but it’s disrespectful of my space. Egregious or repeated violations will considerably chill our relationship.
  5. I will thoughtfully consider private or respectful public criticisms. I will disregard rude public or harsh private criticisms because they are punitive, not about guidance toward being a better me. Talk to me with courtesy and discretion, and you won’t find a more humble or receptive person anywhere else.
  6. Passive-aggressive tactics are not tolerated. Again, I will quietly and calmly but directly call you out on this. And I will work around you in the future.
  7. I am 100% the owner of any decisions about my bodily health and integrity. Your opinions are just that … yours. Not mine.
  8. Don’t interrupt me or talk over me. Just don’t. I listen carefully (and at length) to others, and I expect the same respect. My opinion is, “Oh, pardon me for talking while you were interrupting.” My actions are likely to be a thin smile that doesn’t reach my eyes, a marked lack of interest in my response, and then a quick exit … if I’m not feeling confrontational.
  9. I am 100% in charge of my own bodily presentation/style, whether that applies to my actual body or my garb. Externally, that includes clothing, shoes, eyeglasses, jewelry, hair, nails, or cosmetics. Feel free to make different choices for yourself or to disapprove of me … silently.
  10. I will intervene and also speak up when I can safely do so if another person is in danger; I won’t stand by.
  11. I will interrupt and report abuse of another person, and I will stay with that person in a protective role until help comes. I won’t let my fear of disapproval, social censure, or the abuser’s wrath stop me from doing the right thing. This is not “having a hero complex”; this is called being a decent human being.
  12. I require at least a half-hour’s “down” time, quiet and alone and uninterrupted, after work and again before bed. I *need* some quiet time to nourish myself. This doesn’t count as quiet time if someone breezes in and out of the room, calls out to me through the door, etc.
  13. I take responsibility for my mistakes. I expect the same from others.
  14. I take two hours in the morning to get ready, from bed to bath to makeup to clothes to breakfast to car, and I don’t apologize for enjoying the quiet, slow pace of my morning routines.
  15. I will eat a diet that is healthy and has enough variety and “zing” to appeal to me. I am tired of compromising my preferences to accommodate the bland preferences of others. If that means having different meals for people in the house, so be it.
  16. I determine my stance on religion and politics (atheist and liberal) regardless of where I live (in my native Bible Belt South, currently). I respect the fact that other people have different paths, and I won’t intrude on your beliefs as long as they don’t leave their footprints on me or others.

What are YOUR sacred boundaries?


  12 comments for “Boundaries. I have a few.

  1. Goddessoftheclassroom
    August 17, 2016 at 8:03 PM

    My #1 boundary is trust. Lying is the deal breaker, the unforgivable sin. Tactful, kind words are fine, but deception is not.

    • Effie
      January 19, 2017 at 5:38 PM

      It’s a huge deal for me too. As a co-dependent, I have some problems with making excuses for people, though. I’m a work in progress on that!

  2. Nom
    January 7, 2017 at 2:19 PM

    This is helpful as I deveop (or clarify) my own list. But what is a “gotcha” game? Serious question. Thank you.

    • Effie
      January 19, 2017 at 5:40 PM

      Hi, Nom! I’m sorry to be so slow in replying. I added a clarification to #1 in the list. ;o) It’s hard to pin down. It’s mostly when someone takes delight in noticing something you’ve done wrong. Either they notice it and mention it publicly, or they ask you questions and then respond with a smug comment that calls you out. See the example in #1 in my list about the Snickers bar.

      • Rhett
        January 19, 2017 at 7:33 PM

        Thank you. Now that you’ve given examples, I know exactly what you’re talking about. I feel a bit dim for needing to ask, but I never had a name for that. Thanks again.

        • liminal minimal
          December 21, 2019 at 2:41 AM

          Gaslighting essentially.

  3. Anne
    February 11, 2017 at 11:21 AM

    These are brilliant! 🙂

  4. Helen
    February 22, 2017 at 1:07 AM

    I am glad I found your page. I have serious boundary issues and need to get some in place! It appears I have always been an extension of my mother and any boundaries I have thrown up I have been made to feel guilty about. I realise this is not a healthy relationship, the same as several other relationships I have had but i am on track now. Your list has really helped me sit and think about mine. Thank you.

  5. Catherine
    April 15, 2017 at 12:03 PM

    I think my no. 1 boundary is Loyalty. People should be loyal to me in all situations. Obviously if I’m about to hurt someone or myself or commit a crime, they can step in to stop me but these situations are very unlikely and in fact are proving loyalty as they are loyal to helping me not get into trouble.

    Do you have examples of how to call out people? I suffer a lot from the gotcha game and passive aggression, but unsure how to deal with these.

    • Effie
      April 19, 2017 at 8:08 AM

      Calling out people is hard, isn’t it — especially for women, because the offender always has that ace card in his hip pocket to try and shame you: “Oh, you are too sensitive. Get over it. Don’t make a big deal of it.” OR “Oh, God. Are we going to go there? Why are women always so emotional?”

      For me, attitude and body language convey 90 percent of the message when I’m responding to someone who’s violated my boundaries or been generally nasty to me — particularly the passive-aggressive ones. It’s a matter of looking them directly in the face and keeping a dead expression in my eyes with a thin almost-smile on my lips. It’s the face expression that says without actual words (excuse my French), “Who do you think you are, motherfucker?”

      And sometimes it’s a matter of speaking plainly and directly. Such as:

      “And why would you say/ask/imply that?” — Said with the above mentioned dead eyes & thin smile. Raise the brows to imply you are waiting on a response. And wait. For as long as it takes. Continue with the conversation in a calm tone, “So that’s how you wish to speak to me. Interesting. Very informative. That’s a shame, isn’t it. Was there more you felt the need to say? Any other pearls of ‘wisdom’?”
      “When you say X, it seems like you are trying to convey to me the negative message of XXXXX.” (Hold up your hands here, because they are going to try to interrupt. Just keep talking — over them if necessary — without raising your voice. Repeat what you were saying when they eventually stop trying to interrupt.) And then continue talking, saying, “And then when you protest that wasn’t your meaning at all, it seems like you are trying to avoid taking rightful responsibility for your words. And I’m here to tell you that I’m willing to have an adult conversation with you about our differences as long as you are willing to put on your big girl panties and admit that you just delivered a veiled nasty message that I heard loud and clear. I think we’re both strong enough to openly discuss topics instead of doing the passive-aggressive dance. So what is it, big girl panties, or do you want to change the subject?”
      “I think we both know what you’re trying to say. And I’d rather not have an unpleasant and confrontational conversation with you about how disrespectful or unkind you are being. How about if we chalk this up to the ‘Don’t ever try that again with me’ category, and we just change the subject for now?”

      LOL … I guess I don’t have much trouble calling people out at all, do I! But I often feel timid and shaking on the inside while I’m calling an asshole an asshole.

      Sometimes I go passive-aggressive, too, I admit. Such as:

      “I see. What I hear from you is XXXXXX. It surprises me that a mother, professed Christian, longtime friend and fellow female would hold such a harsh opinion of me. AND feel the need to express it.”

      “I never thought of you as the kind of person who would be mean-spirited. That’s a shame.”

      “Was your comment intended to be helpful? Yes? Sure. Sure it was. You might want to try again.”

      Ugh — I hate confrontations with asshats! ;o)

      • Catherine
        June 20, 2018 at 9:04 AM

        OMG I’m so glad I finally got back here to see your reply. So sorry it took over a year.

        Thanks for your suggestions, they are invaluable. I’ve copied and pasted them.

        I had a passive aggressive situation recently. I went out to coffee with two fellow playground mums. I know A better and B less well.

        While A talked, B and I listened politely and let her finish. Yet when I began to talk, I had said about three words, when B interrupted. I am pleased to say I just continued talking because I was nowhere near finished what I wanted to say! Every time she paused, I carried on with my train of thought!

        Because why would she listen politely to A but not to me? That wasn’t fair, so I didn’t meekly accept it but continued.

        I think stating clearly what is happening is a great idea. My mother is always trying her hardest to provoke me, she changes her political or religious or any other views depending on what I am saying. So next time I’m going to say: “So, you support the X party now. I’m very surprised because you’ve been a lifelong Y party supporter.” See what happens!

        I hope you are well and had a good year since I last commented! xx

  6. Mel
    September 1, 2019 at 12:53 PM

    Thank you so much for sharing these healthy and logical boundaries! It helps me tremendously to make my own list, as picky as mine might sound, and stick to it without feeling guilty. I’ve had A LOT of difficulty with figuring out boundaries and where to even start…what’s appropriate and reasonable, etc…because my Mom has zero boundaries. I never learned. So I’m sure that starting to implement this into my life at 36 will be a huge challenge (not only to remember them, but to stick up for myself), but in the end it will help me to breath in more freedom and less tension! Again thank you!

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