Boundaries | A Tough Concept in Society
Over the years I have tried to define what my idea of boundaries are. At some point I even have exclaimed that I didn't like the word “boundary” because it meant that I'm separating myself from being helpful to people. Well, Im here to debunk even my own old belief system.
Being a kind, good, helpful, open person, does not mean that I neglect myself & harm my personal energy system just to accommodate another person. Period. Societally we aren't truly taught boundaries so inevitably we become people-pleasers.
When we were children our parents tell us:
“Give ___ a hug/kiss for that present and say thank you!"
Right off the bat no one asks us if we are comfortable with physical touch or expressing gratitude in that way. Parents MEAN WELL... Im not taking away from the lesson of showing thanks for a gesture or a gift. But automatically we are taught that physical touch is something we need to give another person in order to make them feel better.
Then we get older and we find ourselves warping and bending to make others happy. Our earliest relationships mold who we will be in our future connections. We don't quite have our sense of self yet, we are still pretty lost & then we are in relationships where we feel like we need to be everything to the person we are with. Or that our best friend label means that we trample over ourselves to make our energy available at any given moment. Because thats the expectation, right? And the same goes for our family systems. We think "They're my family! How can I say no?"
Then we get into the job world, and what do we learn: in order to get ahead we need to run ourselves down to the bone to show our employers how dedicated we are, and to prove our value to them. Only to find that most companies will just continue setting the standard bar higher and higher until we reach burnout and lose our minds. Then we either get fired or quit. And what do we unconsciously learn there? We usually dont learn much actually...we just think "it was a bad fit" or "im not in the correct job" or "ill just do better next time". And while those are all valid things, and all true to some extent, is that really the root cause of the issue? If we look over our life, every avenue of it...our family life, our love lives, our friendships, our jobs...what do we see? Do we see ourselves protective of our energy, listening to our body and what it needs, taking time and rest to nurture ourselves so that we CAN be better in all of these important areas in our lives? If you’re saying no, then I was a lot like you for a very long time. On the outside I was a firecracker personality type who seemed to be really upfront, but on the inside was completely incapable of creating a life that truly felt right for me. And I was angry and my health was failing. And all of this, because I was people pleasing...and here’s the kicker: it isn’t the other persons fault entirely. (More on that in a minute)
So the expectation from the world around us seems to be this: ignore your energy and your body & if you say no you're selfish and self-centered. HMMM INTERESTING STUFF, right?
Im just gonna hop in here and say FUCK THAT! But that isn’t on the whole world, that is on us. And boundaries begin within ourselves. I get it... this is hard. Boundaries equal vulnerability and that is probably the hardest part of this process, but just like anything, it is a process that can take years of practice and de-conditioning. And that’s okay. Take it slow & be gentle with yourself. But just remember that these self-neglect patterns will likely begin to manifest in ways that are not so obvious: body function issues, autoimmune diseases, mental illness, anxiety, depression and a host of other health issues including function of the heart, kidneys and lungs. No wonder our society is so incredibly unhealthy.
I’ll speak for me when I say that it has taken me years to begin to uncover what is at the root of boundaries. And for me, it is shame. The shame comes from this icky idea that if I am not the “star” in everyone else’s eyes, then I am not fulfilling my duties & I have no value. If I am not exhausting myself, then I must not be putting in 100%. And I couldn’t have been more wrong. This idea of being “nice” and doing what I feel other people want from me, was a LIE. How is it possible that being nice means I’m being a liar? Well, it’s sheer dishonesty because then I am not teaching people about my energy and I am not giving them the opportunity to respect me. I’m directing them to the “shiny lights” version of me so that they don’t see what’s truly beneath the surface. That is, in and of itself, dishonesty. I had to throw away this idea of being everything to everyone & being the hero. The more I began to tune into my body, honor my feelings & be authentic in who I am, the more I can show up for exactly what deserves my energy. But it is solely my responsibility to make my boundaries known. And that’s where I was falling short for years. I hated that I was exhausted, I hated that no one truly understood me, I hated that I felt disrespected, I hated that I felt taken for granted. I resented all of these things and yet, I wasn’t taking steps to educate others through my actions. By saying “no” we are taking care of ourselves & honoring our happiness. And this is not selfish my friends...This is life-sustaining. And the tough part of this process is that when I began to look at this muck, I realized I had no boundaries with MYSELF. That was the problem from the start...I never established them, so how could I express them to others? So here’s a few quick ways to start the journey of finding ourselves & reconnecting to the most organic part of who we are.
1. Do a body check in: next time someone asks you to do something, no matter the relationship, feel where it is in your body. Did you tense up and freeze? Did you feel anxiety? Did you start to feel defensiveness rising up? Did you proceed to feel heavy? Whatever it is that you felt, start to take note each and every time. A lot of times we genuinely feel good to show up for the people we care about, but if something comes up that is anything else it doesn’t make you a bad person and it doesn’t mean that you don’t love them or honor them anymore. It just means that you shouldn’t be giving half of yourself to anyone. Recharging is necessary to truly be able to show up.
2. Make agreements based on where you’re truly at: just because right this minute doesn’t feel okay to do something, doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to. At times it just means that we will have the energy for it later, but it isn’t correct right now. That’s okay! And this is where a lot of my personal boundaries lie within. After you do your check in, then figure out a timeframe where that could work for you. A lot of times for me, boundaries are not a hard “no” it just means no for right now because i won’t be able to fully show up and be present. So, as long as our bodies are not telling us “DANGER” then we proceed and we can figure out a realistic timeframe for something to be done.
3. We verbalize & communicate: part of what I learned about boundaries is that communication is EVERYTHING. For a lot of things we can rely on our non-verbal energy, but mostly when it comes to boundaries this does not work, because our non-verbal cues can be misleading and even passive-aggressive. So, we must find our voice and make it clear. We don’t have to be mean or rude to get our point across. When we are practicing healthy boundaries with people, the hardest part...they do not always like it. And that’s where our courage and trust in ourselves needs to step in. When I create communication, I know going into it that just because another person doesn’t like what I have to say, doesn’t mean that I am wrong. It also doesn’t mean they are wrong, but I do not have to take responsibility for their view or their actions about it. And well, that’s the scariest part about the practice of setting boundaries. The thing we fear the most: losing our friends, our partners, our jobs or even family members... those things may happen through setting your comfort level. And though it is soooo valid that this is terrifying, as we become more convicted in who we are, we will realize that this leaves room for the correct connections for us.
The topic of boundaries is a really deep and wide topic, and so a lot of what I’m expressing here may not work for specific scenarios. Do what feels right for you, always. And remember, I’m here for you if you need support or want to hear more of my experience. This is a tough road to lead and sometimes a lonely one, but I would rather have a fine-tuned, selective existence than to be living in murkiness, treading the waters of life to survive with people who are unhealthy for me to thrive alongside. Love you all & wish you well always
Enjoy this self-portrait series I took in the middle of quarantine featuring the most beautiful cargo joggers from Styled By Shop (also earrings)
Woven Loafer Mule Target
Nude Bucket Bag H&M
Corduroy jacket Forever 21
Necklaces Cival Collective
Sunnies Princess Polly