Life after trauma can be a path filled with unique challenges and opportunities for healing and growth. One of the key aspects of this journey is understanding the difference between boundaries and non-negotiables, and implementing them. As someone with lived experience of trauma, I’ve come to appreciate these distinctions as powerful tools for reclaiming my safety and encouraging my self-care.
Boundaries: Reclaiming Personal Space
For survivors of trauma, boundaries can create a safe haven as you navigate the complex journey of healing creating a space for recovery. When considering creating boundaries there are some things to be mindful of:
Defining Your Limits: Boundaries involve setting limits on behaviour that you are not comfortable with or find harmful. Start by recognising your limits and then look at how you’d like to set guidelines for maintaining your boundaries moving forward.
Protecting Your Emotional Well-being: After trauma, emotional boundaries are important. They enable you to say “no” to situations or people that trigger painful memories or threaten your physical or emotional safety and stability. Tune into your emotions and identify when difficult emotions are triggered, then identify how you can create boundaries to minimise these moments.
Honouring Self-Care: Setting boundaries around self-care is essential. Self-care boundaries can support you to prioritise self-healing, even if it requires saying “no” to demands that may have once taken precedence. These boundaries may be as simple as carving out time to journal, spending time with loved ones or simply taking time out to rest.
Communication and Consent: Boundaries also encompass clear communication and consent. For survivors, this often means communicating your boundaries clearly and firmly to the people in your life and then continuing to communicate them to encourage acknowledgement and respect of your needs.
Non-Negotiables: Preserving Your Core Self
Non-negotiables can be the pillars that hold up the structure of your self-worth and identity, especially after trauma. They are the principles you refuse to compromise on, the lines you won’t allow anyone to cross.
When considering identifying your non-negotiables, here are some things to be mindful of:
Values and Beliefs: Non-negotiables are often grounded by your values and beliefs. They are the fundamental aspects of your identity that you are unwaveringly committed to, such as integrity, authenticity, or self-respect.
Deal Breakers: In the aftermath of trauma, certain things become non-negotiable deal-breakers. This could include relationships that feel unsafe or situations that trigger trauma responses. Understanding and identifying deal-breakers can help you make clear decisions about ongoing relationships and behaviours you will no longer accept.
Self-Respect and Self-Love: On your healing journey your self-worth may become an important non-negotiable. This will enable you to refuse to engage in behaviours or relationships that compromise your self-respect or self-love. Putting yourself first, so you can then be the best version of yourself for the people around you.
Safety: Physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual safety may also become non-negotiables. This may mean that you will not put yourself or remain in situations that threaten your well-being or trigger traumatic memories. In being mindful of your safety as a whole you can look after all of these aspects of your wellbeing.
The Intersection of Boundaries and Non-Negotiables
For survivors of trauma, understanding the intersection of boundaries and non-negotiables can help you gain clarity on when something is flexible or firm. Boundaries can help create the space for your non-negotiables to thrive and protect your sense of self-worth. Boundaries may be the softer circle around firmer non-negotiables.
For instance, a boundary might involve limiting contact with a person who disrespects your boundaries, which aligns with your non-negotiable principle of self-respect. There may be times when you cannot avoid this person, but you do your best to avoid them where possible and refuse one-on-one time with them to honour your non-negotiable.
Reclaiming Your Life
As someone who has walked the path of ongoing trauma recovery, I want to emphasise that boundaries and non-negotiables are not merely lines drawn in the sand. They are tools of empowerment that are organic. They must be supported and tended to ongoingly. They support us as we rebuild our lives and redefine our sense of self-worth; in my case, my boundaries and non-negotiables have helped me build my island.
In a world where societal expectations often pressure us to maintain harmful relationships or suppress our values, establishing and maintaining boundaries and non-negotiables is an act of self-preservation and self-love. I encourage you to embrace these tools and let them lead you toward a future filled with strength, resilience, and hope. You deserve nothing less.