Most of us walk along our individual paths trying to figure out how we can live in alignment with what we really want for ourselves. Often, we find that boundaries keeps us from being able to fully devote space and time to ourselves in a way that supports our work.
We often feel like we don’t have the time. Or we feel like we’ve already cut everyone off that was toxic so we don’t understand why things still haven’t shifted. Overall, we often feel like we’ve already done much of this work already. So, why is it still so hard for us to find the time or space to dedicate to ourselves?
There are many many answers to this, but one of them is usually boundaries. Boundaries help us to dictate to ourselves what we want, how we want to be treated, how much energy, space, and time we have to give to people, places and things. Boundaries help us feel safe, loved, and respected.
Boundaries can be as firm as we need them to be, sometimes even removing people or places from our lives permanently, but if WE still have access to our work and our emotions, then I consider this boundary healthy because it allows us to do our work. We put boundaries in place not only for others, but primarily for ourselves.
I also talk a lot about barriers, which is often what we think boundaries are but actually aren’t the same because barriers close us off from accessing our emotions. When we put barriers in place we usually say, I’m done with this (even though we really aren’t done) and close off those feelings/emotions.
When we choose barriers we’re saying – ‘i don’t want to or can’t deal with what hurt me (right now)’. Barriers are not bad or wrong, they’re just not the same as boundaries. Sometimes, when we’ve been really hurt, barriers are all that we can do – and this is okay. What is most important is that we begin to create space where we learn what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and that we can begin to make decisions based on what we need.
When we choose boundaries we’re saying ‘i’ve been hurt and i want to work through this + then shift how i show up with these people places or things.’ Both are tough. neither are wrong. But if you’re ready to shift or change a cycle in your life you consistently participate in, it may be time to look at what the root is.
To understand boundaries it’s important to understand their origin. Boundaries aren’t made from harshness or anger from the perspective of the person who is setting the boundary but from a place of love and honesty. Even when the boundary is going to change the current relationship or environment of those you’re in relationship with, it can still be set from love of them and for yourself.
What led me to exploring boundaries was the discovery that I was participating in over giving and really didn’t have any healthy boundaries in my life. If it was the end of the day and I had worked 12 hours, but still had a few minutes before going to bed I would give them away if someone asked. People pleasing was taught to me early on from witnessing codependency in my family and even on television. To me at that time, giving all of yourself seemed to be the only way that you could ever be truly seen and loved. The truth was, giving all of myself left me depleted, exhausted, and with nothing to give to myself or my dreams. It left me resentful and shut down. And it also left me feeling completely alone – because even though I gave often, I rarely had others that I could count on or call on to be there for me. Part of this was because I hadn’t cultivated healthy relationships with people who could show up reciprocally. And the other piece was that I did, deep down, find pride in not having to ask others for help. Even though I wanted help, I thought that asking for help was weak. I’d think about all of the things other people had going on and how disrupting them from what they were doing was selfish (I made decisions for them instead of giving them the chance to be there for me). And I also feared that somehow asking for help would be used against me – and that fear kept me from showing up in that way.
I used to believe that boundaries were selfish. That I had a right to let certain people in my life say or do whatever they wanted because of the position they held to me. I thought that being a good person meant allowing myself to be fully available no matter what. I’d stay on the phone all night, drive to your event after work (even though I hadn’t had a night off in weeks), give money I didn’t have. And to be clear – there’s nothing wrong with showing up for others. There’s nothing wrong with being caring, giving, and nurturing. But codependency and living without boundaries is not caring, loving, or nurturing to ourselves. And what I’ve found is those that those who say that this IS who they are, often – deep down – feel very overwhelmed and even resentful by all that they take on and have no idea how to make the changes necessary to feel comfortable within themselves and their relationships.
I wish I could say that boundaries were cut and dry. That there was a specific formula that you could use in each and every situation that would make you feel safe and loved. What I’ve found, is that each situation requires (and deserves) our individual attention and awareness around what we need to do to help ourselves understand what kind of boundary we need to put in place. What happened that’s made us feel that we were disrespected or that our boundaries were violated? How could we have been clearer in our communication in this situation so that this didn’t happen? How can this awareness prevent these misunderstandings or experiences in the future?
Boundaries say – I understand myself enough to clearly share with the world what I need with love, honesty, and respect. This is how I’ll show up with you and this is how I need others to show up with me. When people don’t have the capacity to meet me in a respectful way, I then have the conversation with myself that allows me to decide what kind of external conversation I’ll be having – if an external conversation is even necessary. Advocating for myself doesn’t always require confrontation, but, it does require my willingness to do my work – with myself. When I set boundaries, I’m able to show up with those who love me, fully.
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