Brené Brown eloquently defines boundaries as the clarity of knowing what is and isn’t okay. At first glance, it seems simple, doesn’t it? Yet, for many of us, the act of pondering, grappling with, establishing, and embracing our personal boundaries is something we rarely — if ever — undertake.

The consequences of not establishing and embracing our boundaries can be insidious, often leading to resentment. Unfortunately, most of the time, we are unable to articulate what lingers behind that resentment, leaving us stuck in a cycle of frustration and dissatisfaction.

Let’s illustrate this with a common scenario: Imagine your boss schedules a recurring 2-hour meeting beginning at noon. While noon is typically when you take your lunch break, you don’t have it blocked on your calendar. So, begrudgingly, you accept the meeting request. Are you frustrated with your boss for interrupting your meal break? Probably. Are you frustrated with yourself for not asserting your needs? Probably. But without clarifying the boundary that’s been crossed, you’re unlikely to effectively address it.

So, what exactly do we mean by establishing boundaries? It goes beyond mere preferences; it’s about identifying what’s truly important for your well-being and productivity. In this lunchtime scenario, your boundary may revolve around maintaining a consistent eating schedule to support your health, or it could be about preserving 30 minutes of uninterrupted time to recharge and refocus for the rest of the day. Importantly, the actions you take to address these boundary infractions will vary depending on your underlying needs.

In the first case, you might approach your boss and suggest turning the meeting into a working lunch, allowing you to enjoy your meal while still participating. However, this doesn’t address the need for uninterrupted recharge time. To tackle that, you could inquire about the possibility of starting the meeting a bit later, and proactively block the time on your calendar to safeguard it for yourself.

The key to this process lies in self-awareness. When you feel resentment creeping in, take a pause. Invest some time in exploring what’s driving that resentment and why it’s important to you. By doing so, you’ll gradually gain clarity on your boundary and the strategies you can employ to establish and embrace it.

In the end, setting and respecting your boundaries isn’t just about self-care; it’s a vital tool for fostering healthier relationships, enhancing your well-being, and achieving greater clarity in your personal and professional life. So, start this journey toward a more balanced and fulfilling existence by acknowledging and defending your boundaries. You’ll find that it’s a powerful step toward becoming your most authentic and empowered self.