What’s Non-Negotiable in Your Life?

It’s important to identify your boundaries.

Bridget Webber
Jul 10 · 4 min read

Maybe you think it’s good to flow on life’s stream; see where you land. I used to as well. Only I didn’t always end up in the best places.

My philosophy was to roll along and discover what life presented. The problem with the idea you need not set goals or recognize your preferences is you are aimless, and vulnerable to undercurrents. With no real dreams or a map to follow you might, in fact — you will — get caught in the rapids.

As far as I was concerned, the best way to have adventures and find out what’s around the corner was to drift. And drift I did, right into strange situations I wouldn’t have chosen if I’d uncovered what I wanted and where I needed to go.

Now, older and smarter, I have boundaries; non-negotiables no one and nothing can break. I don’t always know what I will do, but I know what I won’t do; these are my unwritten rules I do not cross, no matter what happens.

Non-negotiables are your limits; self-set vows pledged to protect your well-being, and sometimes the well-being of those you love or people you want to help.

They aren’t piecrust promises, broken with ease. They are solid parameters that offer strength in rough times when, without them, you might um and arh because you aren’t sure what to do.

One of my non-negotiables, for instance, is not to offer extra chances to people who mistreat me. Once is enough. Why wait for the hammer to fall twice when you can steer your future somewhere better?

In my itinerant youth, I never quite believed it when folks were mean or unpleasant. They didn’t realize what they were doing or were ill. That was my explanation, and if anything, I wanted to be helpful.

These days wisdom kicks in fast. If it smells like you know what and looks like it, it is exactly that. People usually show who they are quickly, and you can see if they are disrespectful and want to walk over you. With my non-negotiable in place, I find it easy to drop them without qualms.

Building non-negotiables with reason and emotion

When you create non-negotiables, do so with your heart and head, so emotions and logic come into play. An unhelpful boundary might be to stick with a violent partner (because you love them) even though they hurt you. In such a case, your heart decides, and logic doesn’t enter the equation.

At other times, you may base a non-negotiable on reason and leave the pull of your heart out of the matter. Choose a career to stick to like glue, saying “I vow to do this without question” when your heart’s not in it, and you’ve made a poor choice.

Be certain to make boundaries based on what makes sense and what helps you feel good, or feel better than you would without it.

Often, like me, you won’t be in the position to generate all the non-negotiables you’ll follow later right now if you need more experience. As you develop, and go through the mire, you’ll understand what you want and don’t want.

Still, at any stage of your life it’s sensible to set boundaries and stick to them. You might, for example, decide you won’t ever borrow or lend money to anyone outside your close family circle (or even in it, depending on how reliable they are).

Or, you may choose never to touch a drop of alcohol before driving (another of my boundaries). Or never to attend parties you hate ‘just because’ it’s polite or someone wants you to be there.

Some non-negotiables can be about protecting people you care for too; your inner circle. It will also serve to decide how far you’ll go to help family members and friends. It might be to the moon and back.

Then again, you and your family could be separated or not on good terms. In which case your non-negotiables can be about maintaining sanity and well-being rather than allowing them to steal your joy.

No doubt, you have a few boundaries in place, but make sure they aren’t wishy-washy. Be clear what you will or won’t allow. Add more boundaries if necessary when you need them too.

Decide what your boundaries are, the lines you will not cross, and cement them into your psyche.

Assert yourself with empowering limits. Unlike limitations that hold you back, they’ll increase your happiness and self-esteem.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment.

Bridget Webber

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I write about wellbeing and emotional intelligence, laced with personal insights, humor, poetry, and anecdotes.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment.