My goodness, I could talk about boundaries all day and still not cover it all!
I don’t play around with any spiritual ideas about boundaries being unnecessary. You know: there are no such thing as boundaries, they’re just an egoic movement of separation, blah blah blah. I hate that crap, because it’s just not true. In reality, we all have a very real NO. That no is essential for our very real YES.
What are personal boundaries?
Boundaries are our “no’s”– the limits that we put in place to help us and others to live harmoniously. These no’s allow us to follow our delicious yes – to live a life of freedom, passion and purpose. Without boundaries, people constantly step on each others toes and life becomes an awkward dance that leaves people frsutrated and unfulfilled. Setting clear boundaries is crucial not only for you and those around you!
Here are the five stages to setting personal boundaries:
- Acknowledge your inner ‘no’.
- Ignore the fear and listen for your authentic boundary .
- Steel your courage, and express your needs.
- Pause, you aren’t going to die.
- Repeat, it’s gets easier.
Why we have boundary issues!
A deep pressure pounds through our systems demanding that if we have a need, we will be abandoned, our boundaries hurt other people, we are bad and not lovable. That pressure is a thousand lifetimes old. Naturally, the loudest form of the fear is coming from our early childhood programming… and didn’t we all get a load of that!
And how do you find the right boundaries for your unique system and needs when that pressure is so pressing?
Part of the answer is that regardless of how pressurized we feel, the others people around us already smell that something is up. People usually know when they have crossed a boundary, even an unspoken one. Its my experience that most people would really like some explanation about that weird blip or glitch that just happened. Truthfully, we sense it, and would really like to know what it was all about.
Signs of poor boundaries: the fear reflex
Another part of the solution is that telling the truth keeps everyone safe. Truth (or reality, or life) is were we can find safety—versus fear, which has proven to us a million times over that it is very unsafe and extremely limited.
Fear creates very real harm when influencing our actions. I say this again and again because while in theory it’s understandable, overriding the pressure of fear in order to actualize your truth is very hard to embody. Overiding fear takes mammoth courage.
Esepcially when those around us will sometimes yell, “YOU’RE SO SELFISH!” or “You are ruining my life/this relationship/our children’s welfare!” and so on. Sometimes they will threaten you or go silent on you or punish you, or gather the rest of the family to punish you. And sometimes they will do what I think is most painful. They will silently assume that because you are setting a personal boundary means that you don’t love them. Ouch…
The issue with boundaries
Unfortunately, others will often see your needs as an aggressive threat against them. Blame it on fear, but there it is. And goodness, do I know this one! Growing up in my family, even my basic needs like food, shelter, sleep, and bodily safety were seen as threatening to my primary caregivers. So threatening, in fact, that they called me a monster and violently beat me for trying to get them met.
Nevertheless, our needs are our needs, and as adults we can be empowered to not abandon ourselves. Especially when up against that toxic harmful pressure of fear, we have a bigger power on our side: Truth and clarity! As I always say, clear fear is a fabrication. Only one or the other can be true. Fear OR clarity—and clarity is so nice, so peaceful, so supportive. It’s so much better than fear. So, pragmatically, here is how that power can be found.
The five steps to setting personal boundaries
1) Acknowledge your inner ‘no’.
Life is moving you in a certain way and clearly there is an unspoken need. Maybe for space, or solitude, for autonomy, or _______________ (insert your need).
2) Ignore the fear…
And/or it’s clouding your system with confusion around being able to hear and find your precise need. This same fear is making the others around you start to squirm, or feel discomfort, their sensors notice something is off.
3) Dig deep and find courage.
You gather your big balls, or big ovaries, and take time in silence to find that precise need. Note: you do not distract, avoid, get busy, do the chores, put on a mask until you can breathe again, etc. You sit still and meditate, or go for a run or walk, whatever is going to support stillness. In that meditative silence, you notice what you need, how to embody it. Next, consider the steps to actually actualize that need. You will need to act on it.
4) You aren’t going to die.
Here lies the only true or real way you can keep everyone you love, including yourself, safe.
Sometime after you have landed step four, a little miracle will start to unfold—and please note that step three is before step four—your system will start this magnificent singing-like energy. This is a energetic song of freedom! It will sing and you will feel expansive and little moments of happiness will start to spill out of you. How lovely!
The little gift in it for you, this loveliness, makes being alive just a little more easy. Its a little more awesome to be you, to be on planet earth, to have this body, and to live your life! It feels like your exact life is maybe okay. And the real power is here, the real glory, is that now setting boundaries becomes that little bit easier the next time.
5) Repeat, it gets easier
When you need to mark out another boundary, it’s easier… and this snowballs. Until eventually your life gets so darn delicious, so lovely, so effortless and joyous to be here on planet earth, that you are so sensitive and connected to your needs the moment they start to arrive.
Buoyantly, you’ll find yourself having to dive a little deeper to get those first few boundaries set up. You’ll notice having to excavate subtler, closer-to-the-bone fears that pressurize your needs into hiding…
And after exercising this skill of setting boundaries, my friends, it does get easier. Like anything, it is a skill, and over time you will learn the fine art of respecting your inner no.
And somewhere in there, you get to become a master of actualizing, embodying, communicating boundaries! ( I’m not sure anyone is quite there yet!)
Last month was a ripe opportunity for me to practice the fine art of boundaries. This whole month I had strange reactions in my system, including getting sick for a couple of weeks so I had to express some boundaries with my darling and deeply-loved friends and family. I felt so weird and so awkward having to express these needs, with pressure in my system that feels like, “Am I allowed to ask for this? Am I totally weird and unlovable if I need this?”
Most of the time I am pretty effortless, very still, and have a sweet but expanded field of energy. I am profoundly sensitive to heavier systems and bodies. (sound familiar?) So one of my awkward needs is that my home—where I eat, sleep, and work—needs to be sacred ground, so to speak. I need this space to be easy and effortless and expansive. Therefore anyone who is living with me, staying with me for an extended period, or hanging out here, needs to be available for effortless ease.
And that was excruciating to ask for.
But the good news, once I found the balls to actually ask for it, and then found the compassionate, but precise words, it was painless! Cuz, like I said, people smell when something is up.
“I need my home to be very chill and silent, and I kind of only want you around when you aren’t dealing with a bunch of shit. I just can’t take it right now. I don’t really have the bandwidth. And the truth it, I can feel your pain, and then both of us are stuck in it.”
“oh, I’m glad you told me. I do have a bunch of stuff right now, and I kinda want to just take care of it on my own. Is that okay?”
So, okay, maybe it will take you a minute to really hear your own needs, and to actualize them, then communicate with others you love (after you have actualized your needs). But you can, and you won’t actually die in the process, even though it might feel that way.
P.S. Need some more help here?
12 Ways We Violate Childrens Boundaries and What to Do Instead!
Strategies for Being with Family andFriends Who Voted for that “Other” Guy
Finding Clarity When Fear Grips
The Pathway to Embodiment