Book Summary: The Book of Boundaries by Melissa Urban.

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In The Book of Boundaries: Set the Limits That Will Set You Free, Melissa Urban, co-founder of the wellness program Whole30, shares strategies for setting boundaries, prioritizing personal needs, and nurturing long-lasting relationships. The book also includes 130+ scripts for setting boundaries which leads to better mental health, increased energy, improved productivity, and more fulfilling relationships.

What are boundaries?

Clear limits you establish around the ways you allow people to engage with you, so that you can keep yourself and your relationships safe and healthy. The dictionary says a boundary is “a line that marks the limits of an area.”

Picture yourself standing in the middle of a field. Now draw an imaginary circle around you—that’s a boundary. Anything you allow inside the circle is acceptable to you, because it’s safe, healthy, and feels good. Anything unacceptable, you keep outside the circle, because it makes you feel unsafe, unhealthy, or generally not good. You can set a limit when it comes to other people, certain conversation topics or behaviors, or your own actions—and you’re always in charge of where those limits lie, and enforcing them.

Control vs Boundary

Boundaries are not used to tell other people what they can and cannot do. That would be controlling. Boundaries are established to help you plan and communicate your response to what other people say or do. In a healthy boundary practice, you’ll notice how other people’s behavior impacts you, communicate your healthy limit in relation to that behavior, then consider what you are willing to do to enforce that limit. Boundaries mark the limits of behaviors that are acceptable to you, where words or actions beyond that limit cause you harm or make you feel unsafe.

The three steps of boundaries:

1.  Identify the need for a boundary.

2. Set the boundary using clear, kind language.

3. Hold the boundary.



The boundary isn’t “Don’t question my decisions,” because that isn’t under my control. Instead I say, “I won’t accept your opinions on my decisions,” because that focuses on my behavior, not theirs. Feeling dread or anxiety around the idea of spending time with someone is the loudest sign that a boundary is needed.

Energy Leakage

Every interaction you have, whether it’s meeting your mom for lunch, replying to a social media comment, or just thinking about your ex, is an energetic exchange. Sometimes those exchanges leave you feeling invigorated, positive, and restored. But we all know what it feels like to leave the restaurant, close Instagram, or stop looking through those old photos and feel…depleted. Anxious. Overwhelmed. Frustrated. This is energy leakage: where your interactions are consuming more energy than they’re giving back.


  • You feel dread or anxiety around a conversation topic.
  • You consistently avoid certain people.
  • You regularly receive unsolicited opinions or commentary.
  • You feel like the relationship is one-sided.
  • You agree to everything just so things can “go smoothly.
  • You’re told, directly or indirectly, that their feelings are more important than yours.
  • You feel drained in their presence or after they leave.
  • You are regularly sucked into their conflict or drama.
  • You feel negative or anxious after spending time with them.
  • You’ve considered “taking a break” from them.

Boundaries aren’t walls, they’re fences. And good fences make for good neighbours.


Actually set the boundaries

In order to set a boundary, you have to actually set the boundary. You can’t hint, suggest, or otherwise behave in a manner that is designed to get others to guess where your limit is. People aren’t mind readers. If you need to set a limit around your own comfort, safety, or mental health, you’ll have to spell it out.

Clear is Kind

When it comes to boundaries, clear is kind! Showing people exactly where your limit is and how they can help you preserve it is kind. By comparison, leaving them to guess, wonder, or face your disappointment and frustration if they unknowingly get it wrong is quite unkind.


Boundary alerts give you a quick way to signal to your conversation partner that they’ve overstepped a boundary and that the energy of this conversation is about to shift, and buy you a moment to compose yourself before you state your boundary.”



“OH, um…”

Putting up your hands”

“Making a displeased face

Raising one eyebrow

“Ooh, nope.”



“It’s important to note that a boundary alert doesn’t replace the need for a clearly set boundary—it just bridges the distance between the violation and your response.”


Boundaries aren’t about controlling the other person, they’re about the limits you put in place around yourself to stay healthy and safe. You aren’t attempting to control what other people do; you’re expressing what your limits are. A boundary doesn’t tell someone else what to do; it tells them what you will do.

A boundary doesn’t tell someone else what to do; it tells them what you will do.

  • Boundaries come from a desire to establish and preserve your limit.
  • People are not mind readers, so you need a way to communicate that limit.
  • If someone continues to overstep, you will take the action you need to hold the boundary.


The ideal boundary usually includes a component we’ve only touched upon: the consequence. This is the step you’ll take to hold that boundary, should your conversation partner prove unable or unwilling to respect it. Usually, I leave the consequence unsaid the first time I set a boundary.



It seems redundant, but try to use the same language every time you talk about your boundary, whether in person, in writing (like via text or email), or over the phone.


 If necessary in the moment, be even more specific about what is and isn’t within your limits, and give examples.


If your limits continue to be disrespected, it’s time to share what you are willing to do to keep yourself safe and healthy.


 If your boundaries still aren’t being respected in a way that works for you, it’s time to enforce the boundary by taking action.

Healthy boundaries need to serve your highest self (the “you” at your best), so if you recognize for whatever reason that the limit you set is no longer in your best interest, even if it’s just in that moment, please do adjust as needed.

“GREEN, YELLOW, RED” levels of boundary setting.

Different levels of threat—to your relationship with that person, your mental health, or your safety—require different levels of boundary response.


Low risk, and the gentlest language. Assumes the other person wasn’t aware they were overstepping and wants to respect your limits. Your boundary language is clear, generous, and very kind. Leaves any potential consequences unsaid in the spirit of good faith.


Elevated risk, and firmer language. Used as a follow-up if your Green boundary isn’t respected, or if historical interactions with this person indicate the threat is higher. Your boundary language is just as clear, but more firm. Yellow may also include an intended consequence, if appropriate.


Severe risk, and your most direct language. At this point, your health, safety, and/or the relationship are in jeopardy, and your language must reflect the severity of the situation. It’s still kind, but this is their last reminder, and makes it clear that you are prepared to hold your limits. State the consequence plainly here and be ready to enforce it.

“It’s not your job to guess my boundaries, it’s up to me to set and hold them.”

Remember, people will take as much as you are willing to give, and if you’ve been giving more than is right, establishing a boundary to set a new precedent may feel like you’re taking something away from them.


Boundaries with family members are complicated by a number of factors, including some of the power dynamics discussed in Chapter 3. You spend your formative years letting your parents tell you what to do—for good reason. As a small human, you needed the help, and (hopefully) your parents assumed responsibility for your well-being, development, and safety.

As you got older, there was probably tension between your growing desire for independence and the fact that you still needed their support and input to keep you safe, sheltered, fed, and successful. Now that you’re a fully grown adult, you see how hard those patterns are to break. You no longer necessarily need or want your parents’ feedback or assistance, but parents are gonna parent, and their often well-intentioned desire to “help” can sometimes feel pushy, like they’re overstepping.

All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.

Lifelong Learner | Entrepreneur | Digital Strategist at Reputiva LLC | Marathoner | Bibliophile -info@lanredahunsi.com | lanre.dahunsi@gmail.com

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