Welcome to our last post in the Boundaries series. If you haven’t read the other blog posts I highly encourage you to do so.
In the country we use perimeter fencing to keep our stock in and visitor coming to the main gate. But, we also use cross fencing, or internal boundaries, to keep our home pasture in order. The same idea applies to our inner life.
For many of us who grew up in homes with a boundary violator or who experienced mental and emotional abuse in intimate relationships, learning how to set internal boundaries is the big “aha!” skill to fully healing our deepest wounds. For those who struggle with addiction, co-dependency, or obsessive behavior, internal boundary setting is the first step in changing behavior. Yet, it is something often ignored in the personal- growth dialog. However, learning internal boundaries, or inner emotional cross fencing, is an important part in moving from functional to free.
Before we discuss what internal boundaries are, let us discuss the motivation and mindset behind setting boundaries with our own selves.
Just like in setting boundaries with others, we do not shame, blame, guilt, should, or judge ourselves when setting internal boundaries. This is an exercise in self love, compassion, and healing grace. It is not an exercise in self-criticism, anger, self loathing, victim mentality, or emotional exclusion.
The relationship you develop with yourself is the most important relation you will ever have with a human being. No one can replace you in your life. NO. ONE. Sadly, it is often this relationship with ourselves that is often the most damaged and dysfunctional in our lives, especially those who survive abuse. However, we have the ability to have a kind, compassionate, resilient, loving, beautiful, loyal relation with our core person.
So, what DO these inner boundaries look like? Here are a few examples:
- I will eat eight servings of fruits and vegetables today.
- I will take one hour each morning to pray, meditate, and care for my spiritual body.
- I will not abuse myself through substances or actions which are harmful to my emotional, physical, mental, or spiritual bodies.
Let us dissect these a little and make a few observations.
Inner boundaries are not judgmental dictates from our inner judge, jury, or executioner. They are action oriented statements. The boundary is not “I should or need to statements. The boundary is stated I will. It’s almost like an affirmation or plan. I will is an empowering statement verses the I should of emotional impoverishment. Say it out loud – I will. Feels pretty good, doesn’t it!
There are no conditions for self-care or showing self love in internal boundaries. These boundaries are not self imposed ultimatums. There is no “If I get my other responsibilities done, then I will engage in self-care”. Nope. Just a good old fashioned dose of unconditional self love.
There are no penalties or punishments if you cross an internal boundary line. There are natural consequences to actions. But, the boundary itself is not a reward or punishment. It is simple a fence. You can choose which ever side you want to be on that day.
Choosing the muddy pasture
Sometimes, especially early on, we violate our own boundaries. We feel bad, like we’ve let ourselves down. But here is where the rubber meets the road and the experience of growth happens in our self relationship. When we violate our boundaries we have the incredible opportunity to practice self-forgiveness, recommit to showing self love, compassion, and healing grace. There is not reason to judge or be the victim. There is every reason to move higher into healing.
Simply saying “I am not pleased with the consequences of my action, but right now, I let it go. I forgive myself. I recommit to showing love and compassion to myself next time the opportunity arises” is one of the most healing and graceful actions you will ever show yourself.
Where to set internal boundaries or “Where do I put this fence?”
Figuring out WHERE to set internal boundaries was personally my hardest challenge. After experiencing an abusive marriage my personal sense of self harm was impaired. I began neglecting myself in little ways and speaking to myself in a belittling manner. For others, self-harm is an overwhelming issue that shakes a soul to the very core. No matter where you are on the spectrum – you are lovable. You are worthy of love, safety, joy, health, and peace.
When ever we do something that feels internally icky, or like self-betrayal, that is where we need to place our internal boundary. Whatever is causing that bad feeling, that’s where we need to implement change. Self shaming “how could I be so stupid that I married someone like that”, calling myself names, and the whole kettle of fish that goes along with that line of thinking made me feel even smaller, even weaker, even more degraded. That was exactly where I needed to place my first boundary with myself. In working with others I’ve discovered – put those boundaries where it causes pain, or preferably a few feet before you reach pain.
I personally began keeping a journal list of actions and resulting emotions and thinking. From there I was able to set new boundaries for myself – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
Setting internal boundaries is a skill. We do not learn to treat ourselves as lesser beings instantly, and rarely do we learn to treat ourselves with compassion, love, kindness, and grace instantly. But we do learn. We replace unhealthy habits with new healthy habits. We grow. Boundary setting is one of the best tools in the box of personal growth for reclaiming self love, empowerment, creativity, sensuality, joy, compassion, wisdom, and expansion as a human being.
No matter what you are going through in life, I hope this series on boundaries helps you discover and rediscover the amazing human being you are at your core. If you are overwhelmed in your boundary setting due to trauma or anything else please consider coaching or counseling with a qualified, compassionate individual.
Love, dear ones. Love yourself. Set your fences well, and open the gates to those who are worthy, and that includes you.
Until next time,