Setting Boundaries by Rebecca Ray

I’m not in the habit of reviewing books that I read for work, but every so often one comes along that I think is useful. My criteria for ‘useful’ is a book that’s written in a straightforward, easy to understand style; that has its basis in science (yes, there are plenty of ‘spiritual’ self-help books available but I find they’re only ‘useful’ for a small audience at a very specific time in their lives); that presents information in multiple ways (think diagrams, case studies, check-lists, and practice exercises); and is one that you might revisit.

Setting Boundaries by Rebecca Ray fits the criteria.

Ray explores the ways in which people establish, maintain and strengthen their personal boundaries. She defines boundaries as ‘…circles of preservation, protection and personal empowerment that you draw around yourself’. In other words, personal boundaries articulate our limits and without them, we’d be constantly at the beck and call of others.

Ray provides a structured approach to understanding boundaries and includes exercises and self-reflection tasks. For this reason, it’s a book that would be best to work through relatively slowly, testing and putting things into practice as you go. That said, there are plenty of gems peppered throughout which you’re likely to latch on to, such as –

Your resentment is showing you that your boundaries are being crossed.


You will always receive the greatest resistance to your boundaries from those who profit from you having none.

One of the common misconceptions about boundaries is that they are ‘selfish’, or ‘aggressive’, and are focused on saying ‘no’. Ray highlights that in fact, boundaries are the most helpful form of communication you can offer to another person – they allow us to give direct instructions about needs and limits, rather than expecting others to be mind-readers.

I enjoyed Ray’s incorporation of the neuro-science associated with boundaries, particularly that in understanding and knowing our self-worth, we create a foundation for healthy boundaries. Ray explores ‘worthiness’ within the context of ‘biological’ pull –

We fixate on the measurement of worthiness as if it were tied to our very survival – because once upon a time it was. Access to protection, resources and connectedness depended on our ancestors contributing, fitting in, and not compromising the safety of the clan at large. Our current culture is a product of our need to belong to each other, and it uses measurement of worthiness for grading how well we’re doing at being human.

Of course, this is all good in theory and much harder to actually do (and sustain). Although some of Ray’s suggested affirmations and exercises struck me as slightly simplistic, lots of valuable work starts with awareness. So, next time you feel a little resentful or frustrated by someone else’s behaviour, it’s a reminder to review your boundaries.

3.5/5 Lots to work with.

I received my copy of Setting Boundaries from the publisher, Pan Macmillan, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

2 responses

  1. I certainly think of ‘boundaries’ in terms of my younger grandchildren going ahead and doing something when they’ve been told by their mother not to. They’re testing something I’m sure – and I’m quite willing to believe it is something to do with their self-worth.

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