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Don’t Mistake Boundaries for Rejection

Boundaries are not personal, are not a form of rejection, and are definitely not negotiable

Self-improvement starts with personal inquiry, and if you have made a practice of honestly looking at yourself, you have had your run-in with boundaries.

Even if you have never knowingly struggled with boundaries, you have engaged with people who do. Some people struggle to set and keep boundaries, while others do not respect the boundaries of others. In any case, if you dive beneath the surface, you will find the fear of rejection at the root of these common and debilitating character challenges.

Whether you wish to practice setting boundaries or not taking the boundaries of others personally, it begins with an understanding. Boundaries are not personal, are not a form of rejection, and are definitely not negotiable.

Fear of abandonment

It is no secret that many humans suffer from — or have at some point suffered from — a deep and innate fear of abandonment. We can find many reasons for these fears in ourselves and our stories. But, in the end, there is no method to this form of human madness.

I experienced multiple severe abandonments in my youth, including what may be the most traumatic of all — parental abandonment. Of course, there was one thing that my self-improvement begged for the most. I could not move forward without addressing my fears of abandonment and, therefore, fears of rejection and inferiority.

These fears of inadequacy and abandonment affected every area of my life. They governed all my relationships, and they were insatiable. When I lived in these fears, I depended on the approval of others for my validation and security. But this way of life was an endless loop that led me nowhere because no amount of vindication from the world would satisfy this fear. It never left. I had to live with it every day. And, with it, I was never free. Every choice I made, everything I did, and every word I said was under the shadow of this insidious fear.

Many reasons can be found for the paralyzing abandonment fears that ruled my past. But after years of self-searching and research, I have found that there is no one-size-fits-all explanation for the fear of abandonment that haunts the masses. We seem to have been born with it.

There is no rhyme to the reason for human abandonment fears. People who have experienced trauma have these fears, and so do people who have not. 
I remember going into my parent’s room and lying on the hard-wood floor, next to their bed, in the middle of the night. I did this long before anyone ever left me — at least that I know of. I was tiny. One could say that maybe there was a bonding issue I felt as a baby. Or that I was born with ancestral wounds.

It appears, however, that there is no compartmentalized reason. The innate fear of abandonment is simply a part of the human condition.

Because many of us have some shred of abandonment fear, it is no surprise that people tend to mistake boundaries for rejection and micro-abandonment.

Friend says: I don’t want to have calls with you before bed anymore because I don’t sleep as well.

Abandonment fears say: They don’t want to talk to you. You are not comforting to them. You are doing something wrong that has caused this person to leave you. Everyone always leaves you. There is something wrong with you and you will be alone forever.

Reality says: Friend made a commitment to take better care of themselves. You are so intellectually stimulating to them that talking to you before bed has their mind racing with possibilities, when they should be counting sheep. Friend set a boundary because they noticed that they were suffering from lack of quality sleep. The boundary has nothing to do with you and everything to do with your friend.

Mistaking boundaries for rejection causes many people to push boundaries and ruin relationships.

Boundaries are not personal

When you set a boundary, or someone sets one with you, it is not personal. Choosing to make choices that serve your highest good is for you. And someone else taking care of their own needs is for them.

Boundaries are not bad, and they do not mean you or the other person did anything wrong. Even more, when someone sets a boundary with you and is clear in their intentions, that is a sign of trust and respect. Our boundaries are our handbooks. And why would someone give you their handbook if they did not plan on having you around?

Clear boundaries and honest communications are signs of trust and healthy self-inquiry. They are an indicator of a good relationship that is flourishing, not a bad one, that is ending. Conceding this to your innermost self can serve as a catalyst if you find that you sometimes mistake boundaries for rejection.

Boundaries are non-negotiable

Boundaries are not questions for debate. They are choices that a person has made for themselves — choices that they have decided to uphold regardless of the opinions of others.

Usually, a boundary is a way for a person to take care of themselves. When someone sets a boundary it is because they must — if they wish to improve their quality of life. A boundary is not an invitation to find a different way around the boundary. Think of it more as a wall.

Will boundaries inevitably be moved and changed? Absolutely. But that is the job of the person who keeps the boundary, not the other. Attempting to negotiate another person’s boundary, when they have not asked for a negotiation, can easily become a violation of said boundary.

Boundary issues and fears of abandonment manifest differently with every individual. Sometimes they are glaring and debilitating, and sometimes they are not. Some people use these fears to achieve great success, and some are ruined by them. Some people appear overly confident behind their fears of inferiority, and some come off as meek and unworthy. A very few seem to not struggle with fear of abandonment at all.

Whether you are a push-over with no boundaries, a steam roller with no respect for the boundaries of others, or somewhere in between, remembering that boundaries are not a form of rejection can be a catalyst to more harmony in your life and improved relationships.

Written by Holly Kellums

Originally published on

Featured image by Holly Kellums

Published by hollykellums

Internationally Published Author * Influencer * Recovery Coach * Human Potential Activist

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