On the journey of self-love, we often emphasize practices like positive affirmations, self-care routines, practicing gratitude, mindfulness activities, and while these are all essential, there is one key element of self-love that is too often underestimated: boundaries. Yes, boundaries!
Creating and cultivating healthy boundaries around ourselves is self-love at its deepest level. With boundaries we define ourselves, we create a space for self-reflection, self-knowledge, and self-awareness, and in this space, in this “My Space” we begin to have a sense of self and build a loving relationship with ourselves. We know who we are, what we want, and we know what is right for us.
Let me ask you something … do you have a sense of self? Do you have boundaries in your life, or are you allowing everyone and everything to run your life for you?
Let’s have a look at what boundaries really are, the different kinds of boundaries, and why setting and honouring our boundaries is key to cultivating genuine self-love.
What Exactly Are Boundaries?
Boundaries are, quite simply, the “invisible” lines we set up around ourselves to create a container, a space – “a My space” where we define who we are and what we find acceptable and what we don’t. Boundaries honour us. They honour our needs and our wants; they honour our beliefs, our feelings, and our body so that we are able to feel nurtured, respected, safe and heard. Establishing our personal boundaries is literally a great act of self-love.
Why Do We Need Boundaries?
We need boundaries in order to establish a sense of self – a sense of who and what we are, a sense of self-worth and a sense of self-love. When we grow up with a deep fear of abandonment, or we are unable to establish our own personal space, have a solid sense of self-identity or control over our own life, then we learn to look outside of ourselves for acceptance, approval, or validation instead of trusting ourselves.
The need for boundaries, is not to put a brick wall around our heart or harden it in any way, but to have a container capable of building up and holding onto the dynamic energy and love within us, so that we can heal ourselves and then allow this loving energy to overflow out to others. We need a container that is capable of filtering and checking all incoming and outgoing information to determine whether it is true or false, whether it is ours or theirs, whether it is acceptable or not to us. With such a container, we are able to choose and select what we want to allow in and what we don’t; what we are willing to accept and what we aren’t.
A Sense of Self
For most of my life I had absolutely no sense of self. I had no idea who or what I was. I had no clear boundaries and I allowed others to just invade my physical, emotional, and spiritual space. I made their needs my priority and because I had such a weak sense of awareness of my own needs that were always at the bottom of the list – that is if they managed to get on it at all! I basically lived my life walking, plodding, running around, tiptoeing, and falling over in other people’s shoes.
Having no sense of self means that we over-empathize with others to the point of taking responsibility for their feelings and their actions. We are unable to see ourselves as individuals. Without boundaries we can never know who or what we are. In order to know ourselves, we must be able to say “I am this” or “I am that”, otherwise, we just identify ourselves according to other’s expectations and needs, beliefs and limitations. We are just someone’s wife or husband or partner or friend; we are just someone’s mother or father, or daughter or son. We just want to be liked and accepted by everyone else.
The awareness, the image and the knowledge of self that we carry within and without us every single day is our sense of self. With a healthy sense of self and self-awareness, we are able to say this is me and this is not me; this is what I need, and this is what I don’t need; this is what I believe, and this is what I don’t believe; this is what I want, and this is what I don’t want in my life.
Types of Boundaries
There are many types of boundaries and understanding the various forms can help us to implement them more effectively in our daily lives.
- Physical Boundaries: These relate to personal space – our “My Space”, physical touch, physical needs, and privacy. For example, you may not be comfortable with hugs from people you don’t know very well, or you might want to keep certain personal items private and not have people touching your things without your permission.
- Emotional Boundaries: These relate to your feelings. For example, feeling uncomfortable in someone’s presence, deciding what personal details you’re willing to share with others or making sure that you’re not taking responsibility for someone else’s emotional baggage without your consent.
- Mental Boundaries: These relate to your thoughts, values, and opinions. For example, recognizing your right to have and express your own beliefs and not always conform to others’ expectations or beliefs.
- Sexual Boundaries: These relate to issues of sexual consent. For example, agreeing, respecting and understanding personal preferences, desires, and privacy.
- Digital Boundaries: These relate to our on-line presence. For example, setting limits on online interactions and screen time is essential. This could involve not checking work emails after hours or being vigilant of your social media feed in order to minimize negativity.
- Time Boundaries: These relate to how you allocate your time at home, work and socially. For example, understanding your priorities, ensuring you have personal time blocked out in your calendar, not overcommitting, or deciding not to accept work calls during dinner.
Why Are Boundaries important?
- Respect for Ourselves: When we set boundaries, we are making a statement: “I value and respect myself.” Each boundary is a small declaration of our self-worth. They remind us that our feelings, our thoughts, and our overall well-being are important.
- Emotional Safety: Life is an amalgamation of diverse experiences, some uplifting, others draining. Without clear boundaries, we become susceptible to emotional burnout. By setting limits on what we will accept, we protect our emotional and mental health from potential harm.
- Clarity in Relationships: Boundaries help clarify what we expect from others. Whether it’s about how often a friend can borrow money or how much personal space we need in a relationship, boundaries help prevent resentment and misunderstandings.
- Fostering Authenticity: When we consistently honour our boundaries, we give ourselves the freedom to be real, to be authentic. We can say “no” without guilt, express our feelings without hesitation, and make choices without external pressures.
- Empowering Ourselves: Boundaries are tools of empowerment. They remind us that we have control over our lives. Instead of being swayed by every external demand or expectation, we can make choices that align with our values and priorities.
- Promoting Mutual Respect: By setting and respecting our boundaries, we also model this behaviour for others. This can lead to healthier relationships where mutual respect is the norm.
Yes, OK, understanding the importance of boundaries is one thing, but actually setting them up and enforcing them can sometimes be ‘rather’ challenging. While it’s essential to set up boundaries, it’s equally important to communicate them respectfully. It requires introspection, clarity, and, at times, courage. Here are a few steps to get you started:
- Self-Reflection: Understand what you’re comfortable with and what causes you discomfort or distress.
- Communication: Express your boundaries clearly and assertively to the people involved.
- Consistency: Ensure that you constantly maintain your boundaries. Don’t make exceptions, even if it’s tempting.
- Review: As we grow and evolve, our boundaries might change. Regularly review and adjust them as necessary.
Dealing with Boundary Challenges
There will always be times when our boundaries are tested or overstepped. In these moments, we need to be patient – with ourselves and others.
Here are some possible scenarios and ways that you could navigate them…
1. Scenario: A dear friend repeatedly calls you late at night, disturbing your sleep.
- Solution: Communicate your need for undisturbed rest. Politely, but firmly, tell them to avoid calling you during your sleeping hours.
2. Scenario: A colleague constantly offloads their emotional issues onto you, making you feel drained.
- Solution: Express your empathy but set clear emotional boundaries. Suggest they speak to a counsellor or a therapist if they need ongoing support.
3. Scenario: You find yourself constantly caught up in heated debates on social media, affecting your mental and emotional well-being.
- Solution: Set up digital boundaries. This could mean muting specific threads, taking breaks from social media, or even unfollowing or disconnecting from people who consistently engage in negative or confrontational behaviour.
4. Scenario: Family members continuously just turn up unexpectedly, making you feel like you have absolutely no time for yourself.
- Solution: Express love and appreciation for their intent but communicate your need for planned visits. Let them know that you need your personal space and time.
While self-love manifests in many ways, it is incomplete without setting and respecting our personal boundaries – our “My Space”. We need to declare our boundaries, understand that they are a profound sign of self-love, and recognize that they create a more balanced life for ourselves and contribute to healthier relationships with ourselves and others.
It is not an easy task; it requires practice and great commitment. Are you willing to make this commitment to yourself?
To truly love oneself is to know one’s worth, and boundaries are a powerful testament to that worth. Make yourself a priority in your life, not an option! Know that you are so worth it; know that you are so enough!
“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves,
even when we risk disappointing others.”
— Brené Brown
You might also like to read:
“By setting clear boundaries, I create a space of safety, respect, and well-being for myself.”
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Fiona Elizabeth is a Teacher of Beingness and Self-love leader. She has a Master in Metaphysical Science and is a certified Metaphysical Practitioner, Ordained Minister, Spiritual Counsellor, Shadow Worker, and Journal Therapist.
“My mission is to hold a safe, nurturing space for you to grow and live a life that is grounded in self-love, self-knowledge, self-transformation, and spiritual alignment. Teaching and sharing self-love and spiritual practices that nourish your needs, mind, and heart, and support you in aligning with your highest self and purpose. “