In this article, we’re talking about why it’s okay to set your boundaries, particularly with family during the holidays. We’ll understand more about boundaries, and where boundary setting guilt comes from. I’ll also give you some practical tips for boundary setting and self care during the holidays.
Understanding the Importance of Boundaries
We need to realize how incredibly important boundaries are. Boundaries, or lack of boundaries, are one of the biggest things that keep us stuck in relationships with others in ways we don’t want them to be.
You’ve probably heard of codependent relationships. I’ve had a couple of other articles about codependence in the past, but the idea is that when we don’t set boundaries, we don’t separate ourselves from others, and we identify as needing the others, or being at the mercy of others. A boundary is a separation.
A boundary is a structure or a form that helps to contain our sense of Self.
What we really need to look at is, are we setting boundaries that help us to maintain our sense of Self?
Regrettably, on many occasions, family members harbor preconceived notions about you, particularly when you’re visiting them for holidays after a prolonged absence or infrequent interactions throughout the year.
It’s imperative for us to acknowledge this reality and strive for improvement, as family members often carry preconceived ideas or expectations about one another without fully considering how much they may not know about each other. To address this, establishing clear boundaries becomes crucial in fostering healthier relationships.
Boundaries are such a powerful tool and so good for your mental and emotional well being, and even the well being of others. If others are having certain expectations of you, and you’re not setting boundaries such as, “Yes, I will do this” or “No, I will not do that” or “This is okay” or “That’s not okay,” others don’t know how to treat you.
Ultimately, setting boundaries is a way of helping people understand how to treat you.
Sometimes, when we set a boundary with someone we’ve never set a boundary with before, they may not like it. They may say, “Oh, that’s ridiculous. You’re fine. This is how I’ve always done it.” You’re going to have to speak up and say, “That may be how you’ve done it, but it’s not how I’m okay having it anymore.” It may be challenging, but if you let people know that it’s important to you and it’s what you need, they’ll be happier in the long run as well, rather than trying to figure out why you’re being distant, irritated, angry and not saying anything.
If you set the boundaries, then it’s really clear what they can expect and what you’re needing at the moment. This is indeed powerful, and underscores the importance of understanding how crucial boundaries are.
Boundaries create the structure in our life for us to flow through.
Overcoming Guilt and Its Roots
How do we overcome the guilt that we have around setting boundaries? Why do we even have it in the first place? Setting boundaries with family often triggers guilt. Why is that?
Guilt is a sense that somehow we’ve done something wrong. Perhaps you even feel shame, which is a feeling that you’ve gone against the cultural standard or the community standard.
Perhaps you feel your family has a standard of how things should be, and if you set a boundary around it, you feel like you’ve done something wrong or you’ve gone against the standard of the family. It’s a perfectly normal feeling to have.
But how do we overcome guilt so we can set the boundary and not feel so burdened by it?
We have to understand that guilt is simply our perspective. We are thinking we’ve done something wrong. It’s true that maybe some of our family members will think that too, but if you know in your heart that this is a boundary that you need to set, and it’s not okay for them to cross it, you’re not doing anything wrong.
If you’re taking care of yourself and doing so with the kindness and consideration of others, you’re not doing anything wrong.
Your family may like things to be a certain way, but that does not mean it has to be that way for you.
I’m going to give you a simple example. For me, I did not want my children in front of screens when they were growing up. When I’d go visit family for the holidays, it was common for the television to be going 24/7, and I knew we’d be gathering in common areas and coming together for the holidays. I didn’t want to do that with the TV going, and so I explained my needs to my family. I said, “I really want my children to interact with you and each other, so I don’t want a television going that just has them watching the screen rather than enjoying the holiday and connecting with each other. Could we keep the TV off until they go to bed this evening?” My family was willing to do it. They didn’t love it, but because I explained it kindly and I explained what my boundary was, they were willing to do it.
If there were times when there was a big game, or something people wanted to watch, then I’d simply have a boundary where I’d take my kids outside and spend time in Nature instead, and then there were no hard feeling if I didn’t participate in the game festivities or other activities of watching a movie when my kids were still awake. They understood. They were clear and I was able to confidently do what I needed to do to stay true to the values that I had.
It’s really important to understand where our guilt comes from. It’s only a mistake if you think it is. You’re doing something wrong if you think it’s wrong. You can change the perception around that and set boundaries without feeling guilty, but you have to be willing to stand in your truth.
You have to be willing to say, “I’m going to leave the room when the television is on with my kids around.” I remember having a similar situation where someone else came in and they wanted to turn the television on and I said, “Oh, I’ve already asked everyone to please keep the TV off.” I explained it to them and they were Ok with it. They might not have liked it. They might’ve had some complaints about it, but it doesn’t matter if you stand in the sovereign queen that you’re capable of being, and you hold yourself in that space of confidence. You’ll be able to set your boundaries from that space without feeling guilty.
Practical Tips for Boundary Setting
I want to offer a few practical tips for setting boundaries.
One of them is to be clear, to explain without a ton of detail.
You don’t owe anyone a lot of explanation, but be clear about what you’re doing and why. Simply saying, “I don’t want the television on. I don’t want my children focused on television. I want them engaged with the family while we’re here visiting. That’s what we’re here for,” is a reasonable request. It doesn’t require a whole drawn out monologue about your philosophy or why you think everybody else shouldn’t be watching TV. It’s just about stating your needs and setting your boundaries.
Maybe there’s a boundary around choosing to give up sugar. I know that was another thing that I was challenged with, and everybody likes to push all the holiday treats onto everyone else. You need to be able to say, “No thank you. I’m really trying hard to give up sugar. I would appreciate it if you don’t offer me anything like that. If I want something, I will ask for it.”
That’s a perfectly reasonable boundary to set to say, “Please don’t tempt me by asking me because I’m really working hard on this thing.” When you do that and you ask people to help you out to honor your boundary or honor your values, they’re so much more willing to do it than you might think.
Another great example is when you have something that really means something to you, sometimes doing that thing in itself creates a boundary, but only when you set a clear boundary around it.
I have a very special tool that helps you build that sense of queenliness, that sense of inner sovereignty, that sense of truth within yourself.
It’s called my Sacred Nights of Winter Journal. It’s used during the 13 darkest nights of Winter. You can start with the Winter Solstice or start with Christmas Eve. Either is perfectly valid. The idea is that you take time for you during this time to tune into yourself, to tune into your own Inner Wisdom.
One of the best ways I actually learned to set boundaries was using my journal before I even started selling a journal. I used to journal during this time every Christmas season, and I’d tell people that if I am sitting here journaling, please do not interrupt me, including my children. When they were little, I would always have a stack of crayons and some paper so that if they did come over, I’d give them that option.
“Here, you may color if you’d like, but you may not interrupt Mommy.” It always gave them something they could do rather than feeling like it was always something they couldn’t do, or telling them no. That was such a powerful tool for me to work with, and they learned to respect that boundary.
When I was journaling, they didn’t interrupt. I did the same kind of thing for boundaries around meditation time. Sometimes doing something special for yourself that let’s people know it’s setting a tone or setting a mood for yourself is a really great way to set a boundary for yourself. I’ve had people who worked with my journal that’ve said to me, “Oh my gosh, this was the best excuse to just have me time.”
Journaling gives you time away from family to regroup, reconnect and give yourself some good self care and self nurturing during the holidays.
One of the best things you can do for yourself when setting boundaries with family during the holidays is to take care of yourself.
Do something special for yourself.
Self-Care During the Holidays
I’ve mentioned tips around communication, some practical tools, other ways of seeing things, and another tool I briefly mentioned is self care. Journaling could be a wonderful tool for self care, but self care also might be taking time out for yourself, or going for a walk and stepping out.
These are all things that can help you in setting boundaries. When you’re taking good care of yourself and you know that you’re nurturing yourself, it’s so much easier to set boundaries with others because you’re not stuck in that sense of depletion, overwhelm or saying yes when you mean no, or no when you mean yes.
The idea of taking care of yourself during the holidays, nurturing yourself, slowing down, not getting caught up in the hustle and bustle, is so important. That’s a lot of what my Sacred Nights of Winter Journal is all about, to help you slow down and tap into the amazing gift of quiet, stillness, and peacefulness that Winter and the holiday season is offering to us.
Let me know in the comments what you think. If you’ve come across certain things that’ve worked for you to set boundaries with family, or if you have any specific challenges that you’re running into around setting boundaries with family, I love getting your questions and I would love to support you in whatever way I can.
Enjoy your holiday family time!
For a video version of, How to Not Feel Guilty Setting Boundaries with Family at Holidays. Watch here: https://youtu.be/5ymAMYIYFek