Do I Know What My Boundaries Are? How to Tell if You’re Boundaries Need Shoring Up

Boundaries are another area I spend a lot of time on in this blog. The main reason being, if you were raised in a situation where boundaries were constantly being violated, then it can be difficult to know what is, and is not acceptable behavior. This was the case with my upbringing. I didn’t even know what a boundary was, and even worse, I confused a lack of boundaries for affection in some cases. This was a very unhealthy emotional place to inhabit.

Luckily I’ve learned a lot about what healthy boundaries are, and what they are not, but it took a lot of putting myself in some pretty iffy situations. Lessons that I could have probably learned in a much healthier fashion than how I had. But lessons learned nonetheless. In this post I’ll be talking about how to find where your boundaries lay, and also how to tell when they’re being encroached upon. These are difficult waters to navigate when you have no bearings in the way of role models. But there are ways of finding your bearings. It’s not impossible, but it is trying. And in trying times I like to remember the saying, “we were built for this”. Let’s find some healthy boundaries together : )

Where Are My Boundaries?

So as I said above, these can be tricky to find. If you’ve been immersed in a situation where a lack of boundaries were the norm, than knowing where you end and another begins isn’t always clear. Or maybe your boundaries were too rigid, too defined. This can also be as suffocating and a fearful place to be. Either way, if you’ve been left in one of these boats, you’re gonna need to find another vessel. Luckily there are places to find out what a healthy mix of boundaries looks like. Let’s take a look at being raised with no boundaries first. These can be, I feel, the most confusing.

No Boundaries:

Being raised with no boundaries can be a very confusing place to grow up while trying to navigate your young world. For me, no boundaries meant; being mean to others with callous disregard for their emotions, eating anything and everything I felt like when I felt like it, picking up vices like smoking and drinking at an early age (14) and knowing no restraint in these areas, using others and confusing a lack of boundaries for affection.

These are polarizing ways of being and were mostly caused by a lack of healthy role modeling of appropriate boundaries, also known as, neglect. I was mostly looking to feel loved by my neglectful caregivers by acting the ways that I watched them behave. My caregivers were mean and rancorous, so I was mean spirited and rancorous. It’s what I thought it meant to be grown up, mature. Later, when I realized that my role models were acting like Jim Morrison, I knew I had been mislead.

Being raised with no boundaries came with a feeling of desperation. The lack of connection for me was the cause of my desperation. My thoughts were consumed with what I could do to feel a sense of love and belonging with those around me, by doing things that were clearly disregarding my best interests. For example I stopped going to school at around age 16 and by then was drinking quite a bit as well. I never exercised and my diet wasn’t stellar either. And I did this all because I was looking for some way to belong to something that would give me a sense of comfort and security. Not realizing all the while how far I was straying from the habits I could have cultivated to create that sense of security and comfort for myself.

And the worst part of having no boundaries was, I confused a lack of boundaries for affection. I assumed that any chance for contact was good, seeing as how I never connected or bonded with my caregivers. I figured if I let them do what they wanted to me, the greater chance I would have of being loved by them. For me that meant they could say whatever they wanted to me, go through my personal belongings whenever they felt, invade my personal space on a whim and treat me as though I weren’t a person with basic needs and rights to personhood.

This set me up for failed relationships with the women I would later choose to be in my life and a lot of feeling as though I was never enough. That I needed someone to treat me poorly because I felt I wasn’t good enough to be in a healthy relationship, which left me feeling uneasy in relationships and lucky that a woman would even consider being with me. This perpetuated the cycles of poor boundaries and low self esteem and I acted in arrogant ways to cover over my feelings of inadequacy.

The end result was a lot of burned bridges and a staggering amount of unhealthy habits. I had no career prospects, had ended the most stable relationship I had been in for eight years on a whim, and had no idea what my future was going to look like. For all intents and purposes, I was one unfortunate event away from being homeless and completely without resources. I had made a life’s time worth of poor decisions and most all of them could be traced back to being raised with no boundaries or very rigid boundaries.

Rigid Boundaries:

Meanwhile, on the opposite end of the spectrum, my other caregivers had very rigid boundaries. There was no touching, we never talked about how we felt. There was never any conversations about who or how I was as a person. Preferences, likes and dislikes weren’t discussed. We never had any conversation that went deeper than the state of the weather and we barely saw each other as well. Any chances that we had to build a relationship was thoroughly crushed by the oppressive frigidity of the nature of our relationship.

These types of boundaries left me feeling as though I wasn’t good enough to be around. As though there was something wrong with me. Though nothing was ever explicitly stated, there was an uncomfortable air of feeling deeply wrong for some reason. Again, a sense of desperation set in as I tried to figure out why I was being rejected, only this time the rules had changed. I felt empty and as though I wasn’t good enough because there was a lack of trust on my caregivers part.

I had no idea that the lack of trust didn’t stem from me. Only that the rigidity, the stiffness of the boundaries made me feel as though, if I wasn’t behaving properly, or didn’t show the lack of emotion my caregiver displayed, than I wasn’t good enough.

Either way, I was being rejected again for some reason, but I had no idea what it was or what I was, or wasn’t doing. But I did know that some attention was better than no attention, so a lack of boundaries was more “nourishing” than being completely frozen out.

So in my youth I chose to emulate my caregivers that resembled Jim Morrison, and live a destructive lifestyle. I would later make the switch to becoming rigid in my boundaries, basing my values on how much I could sacrifice while thinking in black and white terms. But no matter which path I chose, I still didn’t feel belonging. This was where I came to realize just how unhealthy my boundaries and my relationships truly were. This is something I’m still coming to terms with. But I’ve picked up some resources along the way that have helped me to make some sense of my relationships. Let’s take a look at a few.

Finding the Balance:

I have a few photos on my phone that rotate and serve as my wallpaper. They are: two photos of dogs I want, a photo of yoga with Adriene, a photo of the Minimalist Baker, Tom Hanks, a picture of the bedroom I would one day like to build in my future home, and a photo of Tupac Shakur. The reason I bring up these photos is because they’ve come to represent a sense of balance in my life. Things that I’m aspiring to, and where I’ve come from.

The photos of the dogs helps to remind me of the possibility for companionship, unconditionally. I’ve never seen a dog look at a person and say, “I can’t wag my tail at you, you’re too ugly.” They are just little fluffballs of loving energy. This helps to remind me that no matter how rigid boundaries have been in the past, there are always sources of healthy connection and affection. I just need to find them and choose them.

The photo of Adrienne reminds me that there are people out there doing good work. They don’t have to sacrifice themselves to be liked or accepted and in fact are loved and accepted for pursuing something they love doing. They are also a source of positive energy and motivation. Also helping me to look out for my best interests in regards to decisions about my health. Yoga has taught me how to care for my physical self without pushing myself beyond what I’m capable of. Taking care of myself on the mat is a way for me to respect my boundaries around what I feel I should be accomplishing, when I feel my boundaries are too rigid. I.e. pushing myself beyond what I’m capable of achieving. I know that the purpose of my practice isn’t to push myself until I pass out. I’m there to listen to my body, and respond to its needs with care. Push my limits, while also listening to what my body is telling me.

The same is true of my photo of Dana from Minimalist Baker. She has seen me through some tough times, while helping me learn how to cook for and care for my nutritional needs while not sacrificing the flavors I love. I owe them a great deal and am constantly grateful for what they’ve taught me. Dana was the start of me understanding what healthy boundaries looked like in regards to food and nutrition and I eat a healthier diet thanks greatly to her.

Tom Hanks is there mostly for the roles he played in the movies I grew up watching. There was a time where he was the only responsible role model I had. I watched as he showed care for the people he was acting with and in a stable and responsible way. He was never abusive, mild in temperament and shared freely his emotional world. These roles showed me that it wasn’t unreasonable to have a reasonable expectation of a person. That it was normal and healthy to have healthy boundaries.

And growing up in a void of healthy role modeling meant that there was nobody to talk to. The T.V. was my closest family member and all this made for a very lonely upbringing. I was never really sure of what I was feeling, and the lack of connection was, looking back on it, criminal. I’m surprised that I made it as far as I did, and relatively unscathed. Relatively.

Which brings me to Tupac. Tupac is on my phone to remind me of where I came from. As the man said, “everybody and their lady got a little bit of thug in ’em”, me included. Which is funny because I was and still am mostly hippie : ) Tupac reminds me that when I feel those rigid boundaries begin to creep in, the ones that tell me I have to be as good as humanly possible or fear for my life the repercussions of some unknown authority, to ease up.

Everybody has a little rebellious streak in them, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, if you let that side take the reigns as I did, situations can get out of control quickly. But stifle it too much and you’ll become paralyzed by fear.

So whether you’ve had poorly defined boundaries, or too rigid boundaries, there are ways to find a new way of being that leaves you feeling as though you are in charge of your life, while also being able to let go a little. But it takes work. Boundaries unfortunately don’t build themselves. But with some dedication, and a few good role models, it’s possible.

So if you’re looking to shore up your boundaries, start by choosing some healthy role models. Are there people you are drawn to that seem to have a healthy grasp on their life? Start here. What are they doing that you admire, are drawn to? Do you have behaviours you are unhappy with, or wish you could change? These areas may be worth exploring a little more as well. Maybe find someone who has been in your shoes before. What are they doing, how have they changed?

I hope this has been helpful to you in some way. It isn’t an easy path, to nurture something that has been neglected for a long time, but it’s worth it in the end. Stay strong, and remember, you were built for this! Thanks for reading : ) peace.

Image Credits: “Blurring Boundaries” by Karthick R is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Resourcing: What Does That Even Mean?

Resourcing. This is a word I knew very little about until a few years ago. It was about the time I started to listen to dharma talks from Tara Brach, a Buddhist psychologist, who would often reference these things called “resources”. I just went along with it, not giving it a lot of thought. But the term kept coming up in a lot of her talks, and I was pretty much in the dark. She would say things like, if it gets to be too much, this is a good time to resource. It’s a little embarrassing to think about it now, but if you don’t know, you don’t know, and I definitely did not know.

As I listened to more and more of her talks and the elusive term kept popping up, I began to grasp a hold of what she was referring to. In case you are where I stood, resourcing means, finding something in the moment that will bring you a sense of calm or ease during a difficult wave of emotion or stressful situations. Think of resourcing as a way to self sooth. When times are difficult or stressful, and you just need to get outside and feel the cool breeze, this is resourcing and is also something I was definitely not taught.

Of course, in my family, we drank our resources. Or felt them at the expense of someone else’s well being. This was definitely no bueno and isn’t really a resource at all. One has the potential to lead to substance abuse issues and the other leaves both people feeling as though there has been a giant hole torn through them, empty. And it was all we knew. It would be easy to blame my caregivers for these unhealthy lessons, but what it comes down to is, they didn’t know any better themselves.

If all you’ve ever known of love and acceptance growing up was conditional, when it comes time to teach the next generation how to feel love and belonging, what do you think the lessons are going to be? You have to do some serious work in order to reverse the old lessons of unhealthy and self destructive attitudes towards being in relationship with one another. I don’t blame my caregivers for what I’ve endured. But one thing is for sure, I’m not going to pass it on to the next generation.

Luckily, there are people out there helping others to break these old unhealthy cycles! And one of the most helpful methods for me breaking the cycle is resourcing. Again, I had no idea what a resource was, so I was starting from scratch. That’s not entirely true. I knew I liked some things, which I still turn to, but a lot of what I had known as ways to self-sooth were unhealthy habits handed down to me from my caretakers. So first, I had to sort out the ones which were truly helpful, from those I was doing as habit taught to me by my caregivers.

Some of what I was doing to make myself feel better, eating fatty foods, drinking too much coffee and alcohol to name a few, I was doing because I wanted to feel a sense of connection with those I felt isolated from. Sure, the food tasted good at the time, but I was also sluggish and overweight because of it. And I was substituting unhealthy eating habits for the lack of relationship with one of my caregivers. Who also has an unhealthy relationship to food. The same with coffee and alcohol. I was really trying to feel some sort of connection to the people I loved by doing what they showed me they valued and loved. But it was only a substitute.

Sure you can bond over cooking a meal together. But when the food is what you are left with, instead of the relationship with whom you are trying to create a tighter bond with in the first place, something is a miss. The same with drinking coffee and alcohol. It’s nice to catch up over a latte or a beer, but when your drinking caffeine to speed past the uncomfortable feelings that sometimes come with connecting, or drinking alcohol to numb the dis-ease of unresolved emotions, then we’re not really connecting. And these patterns can persist for a very long time. I know this from personal experience, my own and others close-in in my life.

So if staying loyal to the resource and not the relationship becomes the focus, then we’re really left with a bunch of empty objects or rituals that aren’t fulfilling. For me it was dim sum. I love dim sum. Going into China town when I was a child on Sunday mornings to eat loads of dumplings was something I looked forward to. Through the years, I’ve always held a special place in my heart for dim sum, but the relationship has definitely changed.

I still enjoy dumplings, but it was mostly the memories of going into the city. Being surrounded by throngs of people, the bustle of a busy dumpling house, the carts weaving their ways through the crowds and the smells and sauces… These were the memories that forged my love of dim sum. Going on my own still brings up these feelings, but without someone to share these experiences with, it feels lonelier.

And it took some time to figure out that it was the connection, and not the dumplings or the time and place. The same goes for our relationship to ourselves. If we use things that numb or speed past our experience of our emotions, then we are not really attuning to ourselves in a meaningful way. Instead of having two or three cups of coffee, we drink seven lattes all day long (as I once did) to speed past what we are currently in the moment with.

So how do we begin to repair these relationships, with ourselves, others and the items we are using to alter how we relate to these things and people? For me it started with slowing down, literally, and seeing what it is that I had been doing to run from the relationships I was avoiding.

One of the big ones I was using was drinking caffeine to exces. I have vivid memories of driving around with one of my caregivers, who would always have, what felt like dozens of mugs under the driver’s side seat. Rolling and clinking together as we made our way from destination to destination. My caregiver had drank so much coffee during the day that they were wound up and constantly go, go, going. It was exhausting watching them, let alone following them around all day while they ran “errands”.

And as soon as I was old enough to strike out on my own, and run my own “errands”, I started drinking coffee. This started when I was fourteen, and probably didn’t stop until my early thirties. I had been pushing past so many emotions and feelings for so long, that when I finally slowed down to feel them, I was levelled by them. It was not pretty. I remember spending nights holding myself against the fear and anxiety, wondering if I would always feel this weight.

As a reaction to this flood of emotion, I stopped drinking caffeine completely. This was okay for a while, but I still felt as though I was running from something. Like caffeine was a drug that was to be avoided at any cost. And I was done living my life in fear, especially from something that was not all that scary.

So instead of running from caffeine, I turned it into a resource. My caffeine intake now has some much needed boundaries around it. Instead of the seven double to quad-shot mochas a day, I now have two to three cups of green or black tea in the mornings. Jasmine green is one of my favorites, but there are so many great teas to try, I’m surprised I ever limited myself to only one type of coffee.

And I still drink coffee on occasion. But I usually save it for those mornings that are just too much to handle without an extra kickstart. The difference now is, I’m using it sparingly and with care. I have a caffeine chart on my phone that has the amounts of caffeine in milligrams for each type of beverage I consume. This comes in handy for knowing what my intake is for the day so I don’t go overboard. Also the moments are more enjoyable when they’re happening slow enough to comprehend. I’m not trying to just get through the day as I had used to do. Which also left me feeling pretty wound up by the time the evening came around.

This is when I would usually start drink. I was drinking a lot in the evenings, and am surprised that I didn’t develop a drinking problem. I would drink six or seven mixed drinks and beer a night. I was constantly buzzed throughout the evenings, and this was every day! I started shortly after I stopped my caffeine consumption for the day and switched over to alcohol to help me unwind from the stress of the day, but also the amount of caffeine that was streaming through my body. And sometimes I’d mix the two. Energy drinks and vodka were popular around the time I was at the height of my drinking caffeine and alcohol. This was a strange combo, and one that was definitely not sustainable.

I always had a drink in my hand as a way to manage my emotional state. I was seeking constant control of what I was experiencing. And on some days, when the coffee, energy drinks and alcohol weren’t enough, I would take ADD medication or anti anxiety meds to really speed things up or slow them down. This was not a sustainable way to live and am lucky to be alive with the ways I was mixing medications with alcohol and caffeine. No bueno.

I remember watching Oliver Stone’s “The Doors”, when I was a teenager and thinking, “you know, my family is kinda living this way, maybe that’s what they want from me.” Also no bueno. There was never any adult role model around to show me otherwise, and when they were around, they’d drink like they were rockstars. Lana Del Ray’s lyric, “I’m living life like Jim Morrison” hit really close to home, or rather was a good description of my home life. This seemed like a natural fit, so it’s what I aspired to. I burned a lot of bridges and missed out on a lot of opportunities because of the ways I chose to live. When I finally stopped living this way, I was completely clueless and I had no idea what to do.

And this was where I was left. By my caregivers mostly. I had friends, but we were all in the same boat. We had all been kicked out of some club or another and had banded together against what seemed like an insurmountable task. Starting out and living our lives with absolutely zero direction and advice on what to do next, or how to make the most out of our lives. And all at 19. This was a scary time, but also one filled with excitement. We were out on our own, living our lives the best way we knew how and doing it without any resources.

Of course, we didn’t even know what a resource was. And it wasn’t until my early thirties that I began to understand what they were, and how to find out what they mean to me, and then foster them so they would be there when I needed them. This took a lot of digging and practice to find out what works and what doesn’t. And it’s not over. Resources, for me, are something that are constantly changing, evolving.

Now that I’ve shared with you the ways I developed my old, unhealthy resources, next week I’ll share some of the resources I’ve developed over the years, how they’ve evolved and how I’m make them a priority in my life now. Resourcing isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely worth the effort. Check back next week for some self-care love. I know I can use some after rehashing the past! And I’d love to hear any comments on what you’ve experienced or need resourcing around too, don’t feel like you are alone in this. And as always, peace, and thanks for reading : )

Image Credits: “… you’ll feel better…” by Anne Ruthmann is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

What to do When You are Surrounded by People Unwilling to Move on, Leaving You to Move Forward on Your Own

I’ve been through and dealt with a lot of trauma in my past. It’s been a crazy ride to say the least. But I’m finally in a place where I’ve taken the deep dive inward, faced my demons eye to eye, and have come out the stronger for it. But after doing the difficult work of inner reflection, I’m left with little in the way of support. After I woke from my trance of fear and self-doubt, I discovered that almost everyone that has been my support to some degree is in exactly the same place I used to be. Scared to move into the future, and clinging to the past in hopes of getting what they never got in the first place. This is a frustrating place to be.

So how did I and how can we move on when we see our past selves reflected in those that are closest to us? From my experience, it starts with setting healthy boundaries and by understanding that we are solely responsible for our own actions and emotions. While everybody else is responsible for their actions and emotions as well. This is a difficult lesson to learn when you are on your own, looking towards other people to help you move on who want to stay locked in their old patterns of blaming others for their emotional states. It can be a confusing place to be to say the least.

The dynamic with my caregivers growing up was, as I’ve said above, one where nobody ever took responsibility for their own emotions. It was everybody else’s fault that they felt the ways they did because others MADE them feel that way. Not that their emotional states are a reaction to an action that originated from someone else, and something that they (the owner of the emotion) have control over (their own emotions).

Coming to relationships from this perspective, it makes perfect sense why it would be scary to foster and develop relationships with others. Other people become the sources of possible discomfort, fear and pain. From this mind set, it’s not your fault you feel this way. It’s the other person who is unjustly doing you harm, with malicious intent. And this feeling is only compounded if you’ve experienced betrayal or trauma in your past. To quote Iron and Wine’s, “Sacred Vision”, “forgiveness is fickle when trust is a chore”.

I was wrapped up in blaming others for my experience of my emotions for much too long. It was a prison I was holding myself in, to avoid the pain of feeling connected again and the hurt and betrayal from those I loved and trusted. And I pushed a lot of people away using that method of being. But it wasn’t my fault, it was what was taught to me. And even though it wasn’t my fault, it was and is still my responsibility to take control of my emotional life and give myself the loving guidance I needed, but never received. And this was difficult. It still is.

I used to dissociate. If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s when you disconnect from your emotions, body and current circumstances. It’s a defense mechanism to protect the self from feelings that are too overwhelming due most likely to trauma. It’s like when you blackout from drinking too much. Only no drinking involved. This is scary. Knowing that your emotions could overpower you and leave you feeling completely helpless. But even still, with emotions so powerful that they could render me completely vulnerable and unable to account for my actions, I was and am still responsible for my emotions.

This may seem unreasonable to some. I understand, it’s not an easy thing to experience let alone understand. But our emotions are only that, emotions. And if we let them, they will control our lives leaving us victims of our own feeling selves. But if we want to live in peace with our emotions, we need to learn how to self regulate. For me this happened when I slowed down long enough to be able to feel and stay present with each emotion, regardless of how difficult it was too feel.

When I slowed down enough, stayed curious enough, that’s when my emotions really began to take shape. I could feel each emotion as it was happening, and realized that there was a reason for it being there. Before I had the patients to sit with my emotions, I was drinking a lot of coffee. I think I was doing this to stay ahead of my emotions, so I didn’t have to feel them. This was my way of avoiding my emotions, and one I learned from my caregivers.

I also drank a lot of alcohol at night, to numb what I was trying to speed past during the day. This was another habit I picked up from my caregivers. Also something I needed to learn to undue, to defrost the frozen emotions that had been piling up through the years.

Both the patients and the thaw were difficult aspects of my healing to learn. There was a reason I was running from the emotions I was and it was because they were painful! The amount of neglect and abuse that needed to be processed and at the hands of my caregivers, seemed insurmountable. And the process still isn’t over. I still hit pockets of feelings of abandonment and distrust. Fear and distress. But the difference now is that I can recognize them for the emotions they are and let them be. Without trying to cover over, speed past or numb them out. They appear, they are intense, but they subside. As long as I stay present with the feelings, as they are happening, they don’t add up to overwhelm me at some later date or in the moment.

And it took a lot of practice to get to this point. A lot of faith too, to know that I would be okay if I let the feelings in again. After being betrayed by them so long ago and by so many. It also took a fair amount of forgiveness as well. I had to forgive others for how they abused me, and myself for the ways I abused myself. Learning to trust again after so much abuse is difficult. But it starts with us. If we trust ourselves, we can learn to trust others again as well.

And that’s not to say we fling the doors wide open and trust whomever happens to walk through them. We need to use wise discernment when evaluating whom is and is not trustworthy. But the first step is to unshackle the doors to our emotional bodies to be able to feel out how others make us feel with their actions. If our boundaries are being violated in some way, this is a good indicator that something is not right. Off in some way. But we can’t do that at all if we don’t at least greet them at the door.

I think this is what me and my caregivers were so afraid of. We wanted some guaranty that we weren’t going to be hurt by the other or another. But there is no guaranty and in relationships there is always the possibility of getting hurt. There’s no way around that. But some people will lock themselves up their entire lives for fear that they will get hurt again. This is the case with my caregivers. So along with the intense and crazy amounts of abuse I’ve received, they also taught me to isolate and not ask for any help for the emotional pain I was experiencing. Double whammy.

I’ve recently been staying with one of my caregivers and this situation has been breached on multiple occasions. The most recent was when I had realized that my caregiver has been dissociating for years. This was kind of a shock to recognize at first. I had been so focused on how I was coming to understand and learn about and relate to my emotions, that I hadn’t even realized that I had learned to dissociate from a combination of my caregivers! I had been so desperate for support, I was clinging to whatever form was readily available to me. And what was available was a form of unhealthy attachment.

My caregiver had never learned to relate to their emotions. And in turn, taught me to avoid feeling anything as well. I felt like I was blindsided when I realized what I had been struggling with for so long was in fact a learned behavior from my caregiver. Only the trauma I received was intense enough for me to be in emotional shock for a very long time. I hadn’t even realized I was dissociating until the shock wore off decades after the initial traumas. Out of the frying pan and into the fire.

So once I wasn’t in emotional shock anymore, the dissociation started. I had been dealing with it in some form for the past five years. The causes were mostly from pushing myself beyond what my mental and physical limitations are in a self-destructive way. Like the time I ran three miles and did yoga for 45 minutes, after a full day of work and not eating anything from the time I woke up at 5am. I got out of the shower and passed out. But while I was out, I had a full conversation with my caregiver about how tired I was.

But I also dissociated around others, when I was building some form of relationship. It would happen, that I would begin to feel an overwhelming sense that I was unsafe. Then I wouldn’t remember anything for a chunk of time, maybe 30-45 seconds. Then everything would continue as normal only I wouldn’t be aware of what just happened. It was confusing for sure, but not totally unexpected. Considering how disconnected I was from almost everybody and all the traumas I’ve experienced at the hands of caregivers. I was so afraid to be in my body and feel my emotions, that if I got even close to feeling them, I would panic and leave in the form of dissociation.

But knowing that it was something that I learned from a caregiver gave me hope. Hope that I could reconnect with the parts of me that had been pushed away for so long. As it was, I felt as though I were isolated when I was with my caregivers already. So I used this time to reconnect with myself. I learned to listen to myself. How I am feeling, when an emotion comes up I give it my full attention as well as I’m able. I ask myself what I need, but also give myself the caring and gentle guidance that was never taught to me by my caregivers. It was in this kind self talk that I learned how to ease into myself again. To be present in my body. It was a slow process, but it needed to be slow.

I had been running from and freezing my emotions for so long that if I undid everything all at once, it would most likely have unfortunate effects. There was also a lot of difficult feelings to process. Big feelings. Like the fear and shame from the abuses I experienced. I remember many sleepless nights where I held myself against what felt like a cold and malicious world, while I relived the emotions that had been too painful to endure the first time around. I felt my younger self, huddled in terror as I allowed the emotions to wash over me. I didn’t want to, and my instinct was to fight them. But as I let them flow through me, they became lighter, more manageable.

And with this release of emotions, came a freedom. The emotions sometimes still comeback, but I know them now. And I fear them less, or I am more secure of who I am in knowing that I can handle what comes up. But it was only after I did this work, after I woke from the fear and terror that had gripped my life, that I saw those closest to me, who’ve experienced traumas as well, still gripped in that same fear.

This was where I was seeing my old fear in their actions and emotions. The way they would knit their hands together in uncertainty made me feel as though they were unsafe. What that meant to my past self was that I was unsafe. These kinds of triggers would happen frequently. From the short conversations we would have about the weather, never really going any deeper than topical subjects. To being too afraid to ask for help with a project. Some sort of shared collaboration that would mean some type of emotional connection or vulnerability.

There was too much fear to connect in any spontaneous way. And even the ways I had planned were tenuous. I had been batch cooking my meals, and started a self-care Sunday dinner where I would cook a special meal for myself once a week. This helped to heal some of the raw emotion that was wrapped around food for me. So I decided to ask my caregivers to join me in a night where we cooked meals together. They agreed, but it was the first thing we had done together since I had been staying there and I had been there for a long time. It was incredibly vulnerable for me to share a resource that has been so healing. But I thought that I would take the risk. Open up.

It was a success the first few times. We enjoyed the meals and had fun cooking. But after having a conversation with one of my caregivers, where they said they didn’t really feel emotions, I began to wonder if what I was trying to build was a mutually shared experience. From my perspective, there needs to be effort put in on all parts. My caregiver has never put effort into any aspect of their life. They never ask for help or try to connect with anyone. If they are involved in something, it was someone else’s idea or plan. This is sad to think about, but also necessary to understand that for better or worse, my caregiver is responsible for their own self, emotions and actions.

And this is where it is most important to keep clear and firm boundaries. Especially with those who will continuously take, without even realizing how much pain they are causing to the other person. For example, if they don’t really know what feelings are, then they have no idea how vulnerable I am being by sharing something that has been such an important resource for me. They can’t then begin to understand the emotional investment I have in those dinners, and how sad it makes me to think that the only ways we connect are in ways that I come up with. In a way it feels like being used. Yeah, it’s a good time, but when the good time is over and you have a conversation with the person, as I did with my caregiver, about how they don’t really feel emotions, it feels like a slap in the face.

Where it gets tricky, and where a lot of people get caught up in, is blaming the other person for “taking advantage of my feelings”. It’s a frustrating place to be, to know that the only way you connect is through your own intentions and efforts. But it’s not the other person’s fault that we feel taken advantage of. We have a right to feel however we feel, but the difference is knowing that you have control over how you will and will not be treated. You give up your power when you make the other person responsible for how you feel. This may be obvious for some, but if your were steeped in an environment where, how everybody felt was the fault of everybody else’s doing, then you are raised to believe you have no power. You are at the emotional whim of those closest to you.

So in the case that you are sharing something that is close to you, or is held in a vulnerable space, it’s important to know what your limits are. How much are you willing to give, without receiving anything in return? And it’s important to respect your limits and boundaries. This is especially important if you are still cultivating trust in yourself, and others. The more we let our boundaries be violated by ourselves and others, the more difficult it is to build and maintain this trust.

It’s also just as important to realize how much the person you are giving to is aware that they are taking without reciprocating. If they don’t know that they’re taking without reciprocating, it may be easier to forgive because the intention isn’t malicious, but the result is still the same regardless, and you have to take care of yourself first. If it is malicious to some degree then it is important to know this, and set firm boundaries around the person.

And also keep an eye on how you’re feeling regularly so you don’t burn yourself out. Life is demanding enough without spreading yourself too thin. Especially if you have someone in your life that may be a taker without realizing it. Setting aside some self-care time is essential to keeping yourself in a place that is healthy enough to meet the demands of everyday life.

Find friends and close ones that are willing to listen. I don’t know where I’d be if it wasn’t for the handful of close friends I have, that I can reach out to when I need a pep talk or just someone who knows where I’m at. Also take time to understand what your likes and dislikes are. This may take some digging, especially if you are, like so many, wrapped up in the latest trend that feels fun, just to be a part of something. For me, my yoga and running practices are essential to my peace of mind. Cooking as well, as I’ve mentioned above.

Find support. When you are dealing with people who are stuck in the past, it’s easy to get locked into old patterns of behavior. Knowing you’re not going it alone is something that is invaluable for your emotional well being. I hope you’ve found this to be helpful in some way. If you have any resources you’d like to share, to help regain your peace of mind, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below. And as always, peace, and thanks for reading : )

Image Credits:“‘We must learn how to MOVE ON. MOVE PAST THE DISTRACTION.’ James Martin MOVE ON TO WHERE GOD IS TAKING YOU. CHANGE IS AHEAD. GREATER IS IN FRONT OF YOU.” by diva0768 is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Self Confidence: How Surrounding Yourself with Positive Messages can Help to Heal the Old Wounds of Not Feeling Like you’re Adding Up

I’ve been thinking about how I view myself lately. Where I am in life as opposed to where I thought I would be. What I’d like to be doing for a career. How I’d be spending my days, who I’d be spending my days with. Where I’d like to be living… The list goes on. But I’m realizing now that I spend an awful lot of time focusing on where I’d like to be as opposed to where I am.

This isn’t a new story. For example, it’s what the meditation community means when they say, “be here now”. But it’s amazing how much of my time goes to focusing on where I think I should be. Especially since I know that focusing on the here and now would be so much more beneficial for my peace of mind. So why do I and most likely others focus on the future, or where we feel we should be instead of the where we are?

I find it’s because I’m not accepting where I am in the moment. I feel I should be in a different, better place than the one I’m in. So my brain makes plans and fixates on how I can change my current situation for the better in my future. And we need to make plans for the future. It’s an important dimension of how we grow as humans. But when it’s all we think about we’re not allowing ourselves to grow into the future. Instead we remaining stagnant in the past and present.

It often feels like we’re focusing on how nothing is ever good enough in the here and now and we’ll always be working towards some brighter future. And if we ease up and let ourselves enjoy the moment, take our eyes off of our goals, we will be failors. Doomed to live an unfulfilling life, or at least that’s how I feel.

This seems a little dramatic, but that’s often how it feels most of the time when we get hyper focused on where we should be. There’s a psychological term for it that Tara Brach sometimes talks about. It’s called the negativity bias. It’s when your fear of the possible negative outcome of a situation takes control of your thoughts and emotions. And if you’ve dealt with trauma in your past, the negativity bias may be a stronger force for you than most.

I know this is true for myself. Especially when I’m building relationships with friends or new acquaintances. I was made fun of and belittled so often by my caregivers in the past and nothing was off limits. Living under the constant critical eye of my caregivers, I felt like no matter what I did it was never enough. And to make things worse, I had noone to tell me what to do to gain the approval I so desperately needed and was searching for frantically. I just wanted to feel loved and belonging. This was a confusing setting for me to grow up in.

As I said in my post about How we treat our pantries and how it’s related to how we nourish ourselves, one of the ways I was criticised for was being overweight. This was an area of great confusion, since my caregivers were feeding me and criticising me for being overweight at the same time. And all the while with no clear direction on how to properly feed myself, or ways to live a healthier lifestyle. I’ve since learned how to regulate my body weight, but it’s been a bumpy road to say the least.

I remember coming home from a long day at work, running three miles and doing yoga for 40 minutes. And all of that on only a small breakfast I ate at 7am. By the time I got into the shower after my workout at 5:30pm, I passed out. The likely cause was from pushing myself too hard for too long and with too little food to run on.

These were the ways I taught myself how to manage the feelings of being criticized and neglected by my caregivers who were supposed to show me how to love and be loved. I ignored my body’s limits with little nourishment and a harsh exercise regiment. Instead of showing myself love, I pushed myself beyond what I could handle. And I looked at myself with the same critical eye that had been handed down to me by my caregivers. I essentially became abusive to myself in the ways I was abused in the past, all so I could feel a sense of belonging. If I could look thin enough, be attractive enough, maybe then I would finally feel like I belonged. As though someone approved of me.

I didn’t want to “belong” that way anymore. I knew that something needed to change with the ways that I was relating to myself, but I wasn’t sure where to begin. That’s when I decided to start where I was. In the here and now. Taking an active role in finding out the ways I was criticizing and neglecting myself. I focused on the areas where I either couldn’t feel anything because I was so numb, or where I just plain felt bad about myself and who I was.

Turns out there were a lot of areas in my life where I felt this way. I had been punishing myself in the same vein as my caregivers before me for so long, that I realized I didn’t even know how to be kind to myself! And I needed to learn how to attune to my own needs desperately. Essentially I was reparenting myself because I had no one to show me how. I had no map to guide me.

I believe my reparenting started with me saying affirmations to myself during my meditation. If you’ve read my post on affirmations you’ll know that I say them daily. They are like an anchor for me, when I’m feeling adrift. A way to help refocus on what my intentions truly are and the positive I’m trying to cultivate in my life.

And almost as a natural extension of saying my affirmations, I leave them around my personal space as well. For example I make a lot of lists. I use Google Keep which is a great tool for me, because you can make a ton of lists or notes and they update in the cloud. So if you take a note on your phone, you can read it later on your laptop.

And I’ve been in the habit of putting short affirmations in with the titles of my lists or notes. On my todo list I’ve written, “never give up on your dreams”. This helps me to stay focused on the goals that I set for myself on how I’d like to live my life. On the note I keep for my journal, when something comes to me and I don’t have my bullet journal to write it down, I put, “I’m here, I care.” I also have a few more scattered around to help me keep with a positive mindset.

My parents keep a daily affirmation calendar in the kitchen and will often leave pages laying around that strike a chord with them. I took a page from their book and hung one near my night stand that says, “work hard, relax harder”. It’s a little cheesy, but the message is something that I definitely need to heed more often. Read about my exercise regiment above as an example 🙂

I also put the pictures of two of my role models as wallpaper on my phone, Dana from Minimalist Baker and Adrienne from yoga with Adrienne. To remind me of not only what my goals and purposes are, but also that there are healthy role models out there. Growing up there just weren’t any healthy adult role models in my life. Knowing now that I can choose to surround myself with the presence of those who inspire me and bring me comfort is a great source of strength. Feeling that connection, even if only online, is a huge resource for me when I’m feeling low about something. When I turn on my phone I see one of their smiling faces and it brightens my mood almost instantly.

In the same vein as my phone wallpaper, my laptop screen saver is a half dozen or so photos of how I’d like my future home to look and feel. Like the messages on my todo list, these photos help to keep me focused on what my future goals are. They also bring the added comfort of knowing that I’m actively working towards these goals here and now. That I’m not giving up on them no matter how far away they seem.

Pinterest has a similar feeling and approach to affirmations in the ways I use and talk about them. Visualizing what you are dreaming of as a way to bring them into fruition. Visual affirmations, aka vision boards. For example it’s one thing to know that you’d like to live in the mountains some day. But if you keep some of your favorite photos from hiking trips you’ve loved in the past around, you have pictures as reminder of what the hard work you’re putting in toward your future goals could manifest.

A self-care routine is another great way to practice affirmations. When I cook dinner for my self-care sundays ritual, I’m sending myself the message that I’m here, right now, to take care of my emotional needs. To build the emotional support around the areas that I was criticized and neglected for, by myself and others in the past, like food and cooking. And knowing that you’re here for yourself is so important to knowing that you are worth the time and effort you take for yourself. To feel valued as a person and confident that you are not only able to take care of yourself, but worth that time and effort. This is what self love looks like.

Also the relationships we keep are a huge part of the ways we can boost our confidence and feel more supported. And if we’re not careful, a quick way to tear ourselves down as well. As I mentioned above, I was cut down so many times by the people that were supposed to show me how to love, and how to love myself that I had almost zero ability to maintain a healthy supportive relationship. First with myself, then with others.

First with myself in that since I was never shown how to be kind to myself, all I had were the negative messages bouncing around in my mind from past experiences. So I picked up right where my caregivers left off. By taking those messages of criticism and replaying them in my mind. If a feeling of fear came in, I would tell myself “a real man could handle this. Are you a real man?” And when I couldn’t handle the fear, I would turn to some other way of self soothing. Either with lots of coffee in the morning or beer at night.

And when you’re dealing with neglect and verbal abuse, it can feel like you’re being bleed to death by a thousand tiny cuts in the form of negative messages. These small but effective affirmations are akin to fixing a thousand tiny bandages to those cuts. It isn’t always easy and it’s definitely a practice, but the more often you patch up these tiny wounds by way of these small affirmations to yourself, the more your affirmations come together to soothe and protect you. From all the old wounds of the past.

The second aspect of the relationships we keep are those of close friends and family. My caregivers and support system growing up weren’t held together by feelings of love and belonging. There aren’t many times where I can look back and say, “those were some good times”.

For the most part we were mean, critical and judgemental towards one another. Most of the ways we communicated with and to one another was through making someone feel less than you, or by making them feel excluded, as though they don’t belong. This was a difficult environment to grow up in. And I imagine it would have hurt emotionally if we weren’t so numb from all the alcohol we were drinking to keep ourselves from feeling the extent of our actions and attitudes towards one another.

The friendships I cultivated weren’t much different from the ways I learned to belong with my family. This isn’t too much of a surprise, but it’s one that left me hollow. I would go out drinking with my friends and we would say and do the most hurtful things to one another. But by the time we had another drink, we would have almost completely forgotten about it.

This was fine while we were drinking. But when I stopped drinking to excess and focused on living a healthier lifestyle, I realized that almost all of my friends had vanished. Without the alcohol to hold us together we drifted apart. It’s sad to think about now, but the relationships I was keeping weren’t sustainable in the least.

It’s worth mentioning that I had to sever a few ties I had with friends who were just unhealthy for me. They aren’t bad people, but their way of seeing things as they do and how they live their lives runs counter to the ways I am now showing up for and taking care of myself. I didn’t do this lightly, so if you plan on reevaluating some of your friendships, do it with care. It’s painful to cut ties. My advice would be, for your own peace of mind, make sure there isn’t something you can do to salvage the relationship. But don’t hold on to something that isn’t working at the expense of your self worth. It is definitely not worth it.

As a part of learning how to be in healthy relationships, I’m now in the habit of complimenting people more often, especially friends. When I enjoy something someone took time and effort to put together, I let them know. Or if someone does something well at work, I’ll mention it to them. It may not seem like much, but these small interactions and comments add up over time. These are the foundations of feeling like a trustworthy and supportive friend. Someone who is there when you need them and not afraid to show their affection. Someone who will not withhold their love from you to feel more desired. Especially from those who are supposed to be our support network! I once had a girlfriend who would often say, “pay the compliment”. And she was right, it makes a difference.

This type of support is so important to feeling a sense of self value. Feeling confident in who we are, as friends, husbands, wives, parents, co-workers… We need one another to feel this value, to build one another up. To be the love and support for one another that will help us to be and live the healthiest versions of our lives. But this can be difficult to obtain if you were only ever taught to tear one another down.

Affirmations help, as does finding a healthy, supportive community. Finding your tribe. And it’s worth mentioning that it’s something that takes effort to sustain. It’d be nice to believe that once you’re friends with someone, all they’re ever going to be is loving support. So you have that covered 😀 But the reality is, we all do and say things that rub each other the wrong way. Maybe someone’s having an off day or being insensitive to how we’re feeling.

Those times will come up, and it’s especially important to keep an open mind in those moments. Try not to focus on how you were hurt and think of ways to communicate how you’re feeling to your friend. Most likely they weren’t looking to hurt you. A simple, direct conversation will most likely leave everybody feeling a bit more at ease. And this will also work to build a stronger connection in your friendship. Patching up the cracks together and working to resolve problems usually leads to tighter bonds.

Healing from the ways that our confidence has been abused is not a simple task. It takes a lot of self-care and support to feel like you are valued again as a person. And usually the person that is holding ourselves down the most is ourselves! But it’s possible. With the support and love from friends and family, also showing up for yourself in the form of self-care and positive affirmations, we can learn to give ourselves the value that we never had. It takes time and patients, but don’t ever forget that you’re worth it.

I hope this helps in some way. Tara Brach has some dharma talks on healing self doubt if you’re looking for some more support. Her talks helped to keep me company when I felt completely alone. Knowing that there is a community of people out there doing good work for the sake of helping others feels like a warm hug. Seeking the help of a professional is also an excellent resource. I worked through some difficult emotions with the help of my therapist. And I am grateful for their kind natured ability to listen without judgement. Let me know of any resources you found that work for you in the comments section below. Maybe we can be each other’s resources together 🙂 Peace, and thanks for reading.

Image Credits: “Nervous?” by Freddie Peña is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Reparenting: Creating Healthy Boundaries, Being a Part of Someones Solution Without Solving Their Problems

Boundaries. This is a big topic and I hope to do it some justice. For the sake of this post I will be focusing on some of my experiences with personal boundaries in regards to how they’ve been taken advantage of in the past. And ways to engage with those encroaching while keeping a healthy distance when you need space to feel and stay healthy.

Hope you’re still with me 🙂 It may be a bumpy road. I’d also like to take this time to say, especially if you’ve experienced abuse or trauma, I strongly urge you to find professional help. I am not a therapist myself and these are only my experiences, opinions and research I’ve done on the subject. My therapist has been an indispensable resource for me guiding me through very difficult times. Don’t be afraid to ask for the support you need.

The family dynamic I grew up in was very much a black and white landscape of either very rigid boundaries or absolutely no boundaries at all. For instance it was my mother’s job to feed and clothe me. And to her credit she took care of the basics with religious fervor. But I didn’t have the freedom to cook my own meals or request favorite foods. Or was I in any way involved with that decision making process when it came to meal planning or anything domestic. She never asked me if I ate while I was out with friends or even really ask me anything at all about me personally. I was punished severely and often for underachieving in high school yet I was never shown how to succeed in an academic setting. Or even had a curfew. Nor was anyone home to enforce it if I had been given one.

In short, I was always in trouble for doing something I shouldn’t be doing. And with no parent to enforce the severe punishments bestowed upon me because my mother and stepfather were likely out doing the same things I was getting in trouble for. It was a confusing place to be in my teenage years. And that’s not even accounting for the biological changes I was experiencing!

As a result I spent a lot of my time as a teenager wandering aimlessly around my surroundings looking for someplace to feel belonging, before I was kicked out of the house at 19. I remember feeling so left out and empty. It was a cold place to be.

There was a lot going on in my family besides personal boundaries being ignored. But it was in these times of not being recognized as a person with boundaries and their (my boundaries) being neglected, that I learned to neglect my own personal needs and boundaries. Picking up where my family left off when I was given the boot from our dysfunctional family at 19.

But as crippling as the rules and regs of my family had been, I still desperately clung to them and their lack of regard for my well being. If only to feel a piece of a whole. Some belonging. So it was their initial neglect of my boundaries that set the rules for there to be no rules or boundaries with myself. Only the pain of not feeling wanted or belonging if I chose to create a sense of separate self. My own personal identity. But it wasn’t my family’s fault either. They were most likely experiencing the same feelings I was. The neglect and the hurt, the lack of personal identity and feeling as though they had to cling to one another to feel belonging. It’s sad and a little exhausting just thinking about it.

So if everyone was so hurt by one another to the point where they were afraid of being around each other, yet feared above all else to feel rejected and hurt by the people who were supposed to love them, why did and what allowed us to all cling to one another with such a tight grip? Yep, alcohol, anger, indignation and shame.

It’s hard to see shame for what it is when you’re in its midst of it. Especially difficult when you’re drunk (or to recognize any emotion really when you’re three sheets to the wind ¯\_(ツ)_/¯). My shame was the internalizing of my mother’s critical opinions of me. Mixed with the trauma from my abuse I was thinking to myself, “What had I done to deserve this and make my family feel they needed to punish me so severely”.

When abuse happens, all kinds of boundaries are being trampled. The right to be in control of who is allowed and how to physically be in contact with your body is one. And the physical threat that is embedded in that loss of control. Emotionally by imbuing terror in the place of  where love and safety should be with and around those who are supposed to be your caretakers. And the parelizing judgement of who you are thought to be by those who are supposed to teach you healthy habits. That will show you how to navigate life. And instead leave the fear of and from the abuse in their place.

As well as the confusion of being rejected by your loved ones who you are mirroring in order to feel belonging to and with those doing the rejecting. This is just a short list of the many different and difficult feelings of abuse of boundaries that go along with the shame of abuse and trauma. Probably too much to cover in one post.

The first step in healing this shame of loss of boundaries and loved ones is to realize that it’s not your fault. This is best done with the aid of a therapist and trusted family and friends. Because as Tara Brach puts it, “we were wounded in relationship, we heal in relationship“. Not only that but we can’t do it alone.

It’s also helpful to know that the people who have abused us are probably hurt themselves. And possibly have been abused in the ways they are abusing others. Not helpful in a way that we are happy for their suffering. That would be likened to seeing them with a large pile of festering garbage and feeling better that they are in it too. But this perspective allows us to see that they’re suffering like we’re suffering. Which if we allow it, will open us to compassion for the person’s suffering because it is so interconnected with our own. And to transform the suffering they’ve handed to us and turn it into compassionate caring is how we find our way out of the suffering cycle.

As I see it the gift lie in transmuting the suffering into caring and spreading caring and love instead of hurt and abuse. This is what I believe is meant by coming to realize that we are the ones in control of our own experiences. What it means to be one hundred percent accountable for yourself, your emotions and actions. And it’s then when we realize that it is our suffering, no matter who perpetuated it, that we can let go the anger that keeps us wrapped up in blaming the other for the transgression they perpetrated. We can get so attached to that angry self. The one that needs to be seen, heard and justified for the wounds we are carrying at the hands of someone else’s actions that we forget we can let go and be free. Free from the idea that we’ve been done wrong and we need retribution for our grievances to move on.

This is not to be confused with not pursuing justice for crimes when the situation requires it. But if we let the wound fester after justice has been dealt we lock our emotional energies into fixating on how we have been hurt. Or focusing on fantasies of how it could happen again, closing off our emotional selves from the risk of harm. This only works to keep us in a frozen emotional state. Like a plant that has been pot bound, unable to spread its roots and subsequently stunts its growth leaving it small and vulnerable.

Or maybe the time for justice never came and you are truly left with the injustice of a crime never revealed, heard or seen. In this case it is even more important to let go of those feelings of injustice and find ways to move towards more fertile grounds. Because resentment will take the place of the relationship turned sour. And it will cripple us emotionally if we allow it to reside within. Keeping us from fostering new and healthy, loving relationships.

So in the analogy above in order to break the bonds of our personal pots to find more freedom and space, we must first give up the bonds of our “pots” voluntarally. The anger, the blame and find more fertile soil. Helping others and connecting in relationship is a good example of finding more space. The way twelve step programs allow space for people with similar experiences to come together and be witness to one another. This creates a space larger than the self who is often too small to hold the burdens of a life’s time worth of aggression and abuse.

I should probably note that none of this is easy. It sounds so simple to take stock of and list all our grievances. Most of us carry them around our whole lives. It seems idealik written down and the truth is it may be difficult. But like a physical wound, if left unattended, will only get worse the longer we ignore it. And  don’t forget, it’s not like we’re carry around the anger and indignation of our wounds for no reason! There’s a sort of logic to poking the wound to remind us of the pain we feel. We can use it as a tool to protect us from what can happen if we let our guard down or put ourselves in a vulnerable situation such as trusting another or sharing our wounded selves.

This is why I brought up earlier that working with a therapist and trusted friends and family can be invaluable. If you are like I was I didn’t even know what a boundary was, let alone a healthy one. If we don’t have the space to talk about how our actions and the actions of others are making us feel in a non-judgemental environment, we may not be able to find the necessary tools and resources. Such as healthy self-talk, building a high self-esteem and healthy role models. We need these tools to be strong enough to journey to be the healthiest version of ourselves. Especially in the face of those whom may have torn us down in the past.

And that is what it really comes down to. Finding out how we fit into the whole in the healthiest ways possible. For most of us that means family and friends. That being said family can be brutal when it comes to disrespecting boundaries. So can friends so it is especially important to find someone who has your best interests in mind and at heart. Discerning who is safe in regards to family and old friends who may be ignoring some important boundaries is definitely a challenge. Boundaries can be fragile when they are first forged so go slow. Be certain that you can take care of yourself before caring for another. Especially if the other is a family member who has unhealthy boundaries.

Which leads to another issue. Knowing how to say no to those whom have no boundaries. If we haven’t cultivated the healthy habits that allow us to be strong and take care of ourselves first, then there’s no way we’re able to be a part of someones solution. We’ll most likely get pulled into their unhealthy and possibly self destructive lack of boundaries. Being strong enough may look like knowing how to ask for help from a friend or know when to talk to a therapist. Or something as simple as taking yourself out for dinner at your favorite restaurant, just you for the night. It will look different for each person but you first need to know what those resources look and feel like for you. And how to access them when you need them most in order for them to be useful.

Because those are ultimately the parts of ourselves we want to share with others. The strong, independent, capable, fun loving… insert adjective you want to describe yourself as here. But we can only do that once we’ve found our way to that person. And then draw a map so we can keep getting back home. And we do that by feeling the support of our resources and knowing how to access them when we need them most. As another friend of mine puts it, “when I’m the best version of myself, that helps others be the best version of themselves”.

So it is here that I will leave you good reader. I know that I covered a lot of ground and there’s more to be said on the subject for sure, but I feel that will be best left for another post another time. I’ll post some resources I’ve found handy in the Community page, so don’t forget to hop on over and read like you love yourself (shout out to YWA:)! Peace.

Image Credits: “Boundary – Boulder” by joiseyshowaa is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0