At State of Liberty, we’re particularly interested in the ways we resist and avoid self-care. During our online retreats, we often find participants feel some form of internal push-back, usually around taking time to enjoy their experience. It might be that time feels compressed, or they have other responsibilities that somehow take over. Often there’s a sense that ‘there’s no space for self-care in my life’.
We’re committed to sharing tools and resources that will help you prioritise self-care. Today we want to talk about a key aspect that many people overlook: personal boundaries.
There are SO many benefits to boundaries, and they’re much simpler to establish than you might imagine. Let’s explore this a little more with our SOL master coach, Sas Petherick…
Why People Struggle with Boundaries
As a recovering people pleaser, I’ve found boundaries really are the magic ingredient when it comes to our own needs. However, the very reasons we might resist self-care are often the same reasons we don’t put boundaries in place!
We imagine we’ll have to ask things of people, that we’ll be seen as rigid, high-maintenance, selfish or bossy. It makes complete sense that we would be hesitant to work with boundaries, but this is because people often confuse boundaries with demands and ultimatums.
When we believe taking care of our needs will put a relationship at risk, we end up putting ourselves way down the list of our own priorities. It can be such a relief to know that healthy boundaries don’t require anything from anyone else. No one has to change, and no one has to be wrong.
Exploring Your Personal Boundaries
I define boundaries as what we choose to do, to advocate for our needs, in a specific context. Boundaries are nothing to do with anyone else. They are always your personal choice. You use boundaries to take care of yourself in the moment.
So, boundaries are a practice, they can be incredibly flexible and can give us lots of choices about how we take care of ourselves. The way in, is to listen to your own heart.
Here are three ways to experiment with your boundaries:
- Know Your Yes and Your No
We have probably all heard the phrase ‘no is a complete sentence’. This well-intentioned adage can feel very difficult to put in place. Often this is because we don’t want people to think badly of us – one of our greatest human needs is to belong.
This can lead to sacrificing our needs to deliver what someone else needs of us. In turn, this can cause resentment and frustration, eroding our sense of belonging. Knowing your yes and your no is a beautiful way into boundaries and you don’t have to say anything until you feel ready.
Pay attention as people in your life make requests. Notice the intelligence of your body communicating what is in your heart. Sensations of constriction or heaviness indicates a no while sensations of lightness and expansiveness are pointing towards a yes.
This can take some practice, but it’s like a secret compass that lives within you. Notice what happens when you honour this, and what happens when you go against it. When you feel ready, start communicating your yes and your no.
- Know Where You Begin and Someone Else Ends
Boundaries are also about our literal edges. It’s easy for us to feel very connected with the experiences of our partner, friends, offspring and family, but when we over-identify with the needs of other people, we can easily squash our own preferences and opinions. We may also believe it’s best if we do their thinking and feeling for them.
This can leave us feeling like we don’t know ourselves or that there’s no room for us in a relationship. We might even present a version of ourselves to others – the one we think they will like best. It can also deny the other person the opportunity to grow, change and find their own way.
When it comes to self-care, we need our edges. We need to spend time alone with ourselves: to be in our bodies, to still our minds, to rest, to restore ourselves to ourselves. Notice if you are overly enmeshed with someone in your life. Before you check-in with them, check in with your own heart. What do you need right now? How can you create this for yourself?
- Know You Are Always in Choice
Boundaries are about advocating for ourselves and we often have lots of choices for how we do this. It’s so easy to get stuck in black and white thinking, but if we take a step back, often our choices fall along a spectrum.
Notice if you are thinking or using phrases like ‘always, everyone, everything, never’. Ask yourself whether you immediately go to a worst-case scenario. You may fall into a pattern where you assume the outcome and therefore make choices based on this.
Boundaries are context specific, so before deciding what you’re going to do to advocate for yourself, come back to your heart. Consider your capacity, your energy.
Here are seven questions to consider as you start establishing personal boundaries:
- What is it that doesn’t feel good to you?
- When this happens, what do you usually do or say?
- What do you need right now?
- What can you do or say to take care of your own needs?
- When you imagine following through with your boundary, what fears and worries emerge for you?
- What will you gain for yourself by establishing this boundary?
- How will you know you have established this boundary?
The Benefits of Boundaries
I have found that underneath our resistance to self-care, there is often a quiet fear of being cast out of relationships for being a burden, for being too much, wanting too much or requiring too much. We tell ourselves that we are too needy, for simply having needs.
This can drive us to deny our needs, to comfort ourselves by scrolling, shopping, drinking and eating; to make ourselves more palatable for everyone else. This belief is often based on the lie that we must cloister our true nature: our wild, vulnerable, creature selves to belong.
The truth is, when we don’t take care of ourselves, advocate for our needs or ask for support, we don’t receive what we inherently need. And for us to do our work in the world, care and restoration is essential.
Love Lizzie, Sas and the SOL team x