Set Boundaries, Find Peace by Nedra Glover Tawwab
A Guide to Reclaiming Yourself
"If you think about it, the root of self-care is setting boundaries: it’s saying no to something in order to say yes to your emotional, physical, and mental well-being."
SET BOUNDARIES, FIND PEACE
End the struggle, speak up for what you need, and experience the freedom of being truly yourself.
Healthy boundaries. We all know we should have them—in order to achieve work/life balance, cope with toxic people, and enjoy rewarding relationships with partners, friends, and family. But what do healthy boundaries really mean—and how can we successfully express our needs, say no, and be assertive without offending others?
Licensed counsellor, sought-after relationship expert, and one of the most influential therapists on Instagram Nedra Glover Tawwab demystifies this complex topic for today's world. In a relatable and inclusive tone, Set Boundaries, Find Peace presents simple-yet-powerful ways to establish healthy boundaries in all aspects of life. Rooted in the latest research and best practices used in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), these techniques help us identify and express our needs clearly and without apology—and unravel a root problem behind codependency, power struggles, anxiety, depression, burnout, and more.
Let’s face it. It’s not easy setting boundaries. At least not for me, anyway. And reading this book, I gather that it isn’t easy for anyone. I don’t think I ever really had boundaries. I didn’t even know they existed until a therapist mentioned the word boundary in session a few years back. Until then, no boundary or barrier existed. I struggled with, and still do, the concept of saying no. I say yes, even when my mind and body say no.
How can a word as little as ‘no’ carry so much power?
That’s what led me to this book, Set Boundaries, Find Peace, where I hoped that I could find the information I needed to start making some necessary changes in my life.
The book opens with the reasons Nedra Glover Tawwab decided to write the book: she was overwhelmed, and her life was chaotic. She struggled with codependency, peace in life and at work, and unfulfilling relationships. It’s through trial and error, and constant practice that she sets her boundaries. She states "this book will teach you how to manage the discomfort (guilt) that stops you from living the life that you want. Hopefully it will give you the confidence and courage to create healthy boundaries in your own life."
Nedra includes fictional stories based on her fourteen years experience as a therapist. The tales are sprinkled throughout the book, and it’s within them that the reader has an opportunity to stop and say, “wait a minute, that sounds like me!”
Whether the situation relates one hundred percent to you or not, I guarantee you’ll find something within each one of them to take with you on your boundary setting journey.
While there’s a little repetition within the book, it’s absolutely necessary because when it comes to boundary setting, it’s often in one ear and out the other. I’ve been told many times that I need to set boundaries. But it’s something that I need to hear again and again in order to actually set those boundaries. I think it’s intentional that Nedra was repetitive in this book.
She talks about the different kinds of boundaries within the book; porous, rigid, and healthy boundaries, and dives into what each one means and what they can look like in your life by providing examples.
Nedra talks about the different steps involved in actually setting boundaries: communication through assertive statements and action, i.e. upholding what you have communicated.
Have you ever tried to set a boundary and had a response you weren’t expecting? We can be faced with many responses. “If someone respects you, they will respect these changes,” says Nedra. The book prepares you for the common ways people respond when you share your boundaries, and how you can deal with that.
At the end of each chapter there’s an exercise for the reader to complete. At the end of the book there’s also a Self-Assessment Quiz to determine whether your boundaries are porous, rigid, or healthy. I absolutely recommend completing the exercises and the quiz in order to benefit fully from the book.
Nedra helps us out by letting us know the areas where we commonly need boundaries, like within our families, at work, in our romantic relationships, friendships, and on social media. Tawwab goes into thorough detail in all of these areas in the book. It’s important to note that while it might be easy for you to set boundaries in your family, you may have a problem setting them at work, so with a book like this, you can take from it what you need, and leave the rest for a day when you may need it.
Like Nedra says, “Boundaries grow and expand over time as our needs change,” so the reader may not need to dive into all the boundary setting issues right away.
Chapters like The Cost of Not Having Healthy Boundaries, Why We Don’t Have Healthy Boundaries, and Identify and Communicate Your Boundaries, are absolutely bursting with information on what happens when we don’t set boundaries i.e. major burnout, and how to actually figure out what your boundaries are then how to communicate those.
In my experience, and from what other therapists have told me, sometimes we don’t even know we need to put a boundary in place because we get so used to just saying yes all the time. Our bodies will tell us before our minds will, becoming depleted of energy, irritable, and before we know it we’re experiencing all kinds of physical and emotional distress.
When talking about mental health Nedra says that, “these issues are not the cause of an inability to say no, be assertive, advocate for ourselves. But this inability can certainly be exacerbated by mental health problems.” And based on her experience with clients, “the biggest trigger for anxiety is the inability to say no.”
Nedra goes on to discuss other mental health problems such as depression and borderline personality disorder, and how setting boundaries can be really impactful in these cases, too.
When it comes to identifying and communicating your boundaries, Tawwab states that “assertiveness is the way,” continuing, “assertiveness involves communicating your feelings openly and without attacking others. It isn’t demanding. Instead, it’s a way of commanding that people hear you.”
And in my opinion it is important that people hear you. Because if people do not hear you, your needs will not be met.
There’s an entire chapter dedicated to Trauma and Boundaries, which includes information on how trauma scenarios affect our ability to implement boundaries. Nedra follows this up with advice on self-care and what that looks like, because taking care of yourself while setting boundaries is so incredibly important.
I think we can all take something away from this book, because we all need boundaries in our lives. Without them, we are not free.
All boundaries matter.
This is an absolutely phenomenal book. To give you an idea, I went through two highlighters, and one pack of post-it notes. I have a running Google doc filled with Tawwab’s advice on boundaries.
Bear in mind, I wasn’t expecting to open the book with one life, and close it with another, but I did go into it with an open mind, and came away with a bundle of useful information. I didn’t come away a changed person, but I did come away with the tools in order to make those changes possible.
No book is going to do the work for you, that’s up to you. This book will provide everything you need in order to start the process to set boundaries. And those boundaries will help you find peace, which will set you free.
Five stars for this one. It will live on my shelf forever, where I will continue to pull it out each and every time I need it.
|Courtesy of Penguin Random House|
Nedra Glover Tawwab, a licensed therapist and renowed relationship expert, has practiced relationship therapy for twelve years and is the founder and owner of the group therapy practice Kaleidoscope Counseling. She has been recently featured in The New York Times, The Guardian, Psychology Today, Self, and Vice, and has appeared on numerous podcasts, including Don't Keep Your Day Job, Do the Thing, and Therapy for Black Girls. Tawwab runs a popular Instagram account where she shares practices, tools, and reflections for mental health and hosts weekly Q&As about boundaries and relationships. She lives in Davidson, North Carolina, with her family.