So many of us have been taught to be “nice” above all else. We want to be liked, and to be nice we must bend over backwards to accommodate the wishes of others. But inside, you are likely to feel unappreciated and stepped on, and eventually you will begin to feel resentful.
Setting healthy boundaries is a valuable life skill.
Learning to set boundaries is a process that involves some self-reflection.
Recognizing the signs takes practice. For many of us, having our boundaries crossed is something we have been taught to accept. If your preferences have been ignored from childhood, and you were regularly compelled to obey the directions of authority, your boundaries have been comprehensively dismantled. Learning to rebuild boundaries will take some time, and will require you to develop new skills such as learning to say “no”.
First, recognize that setting boundaries is your job.
The other person is not to blame for crossing a boundary you have not set or defined clearly. How are they supposed to know what is ok for you if you don’t tell them?
How to recognize your boundaries have been crossed.
Surprisingly, many people don’t recognize the signs of a boundary violation. It is actually quite easy to tell – you will feel angry.
But, you say, I never get angry. And besides, anger is a negative emotion, and I am a nice person. Anger is destructive, dangerous, and bad.
For years, this is exactly how I felt. I firmly believed anger was an un-evolved emotion, that “good people” didn’t allow themselves to express it (and even feeling it was really a bad sign!).
I am so grateful to have read Karla McLaren’s book The Language of Emotions – her work has helped me see “negative” emotions in a much more forgiving light.
She describes anger as an “honorable protector”, that anger, like all your emotions, is simply an energy that moves through your body. Anger arises to help you set and defend your boundaries. It can be as simple as that – when someone starts to cross your line you can very clearly say “hey, step back please”. The sensation of rising energy gives you the strength to put out a hand and say “no”.
Seeing anger as a force looking out for your protection changes it from something to be avoided and repressed to something with a valid message for you.
The anger we fear, the raging, out of control force, is anger that has been denied and bottled up for a very long time. Learning to notice the arising of anger in its early stages will help you learn to work with it so it does not need to become so large and overwhelming.
It is important to recognize that boundaries do not need to be rigid or inflexible.
You can define and negotiate them throughout your interactions with others. Some relationships may require firmer boundaries than others; you may offer more leeway with a close friend than a casual acquaintance. It is a constant dance, checking in with yourself and making decisions based on how much you wish and are able to offer at any point in time. Your emotional responses will guide you and help you navigate.
Flower Essences to help you recognize and set your boundaries.
A good first step may be the Balance I: Caring for Self and Others flower essence combination formula. Learning how to balance your own needs with those of others will always be a work in progress, but is crucial for your personal sustainability. If you are putting out way more energy than you are taking in, your body will eventually object.
China Rose flower essence is an excellent choice to learn to set boundaries. This rose offers the most beautiful fragrant flowers, but maintains her space with a strong structure and serious thorns. She teaches openhearted giving from a place of strength and abundance.
Siberian Yarrow flower essence, like all Yarrow essences, helps you develop a strong protective field. When you have poorly developed or undefined boundaries it can be hard to tell where you stop and others begin. Siberian Yarrow helps you interact with others, sharing space while maintaining your autonomy.
In my practice with clients I find that many women have poorly defined or nonexistent boundaries, and often feel resentful and frustrated.
I can sympathize, I have experienced this myself and have felt all the self-judgement and shame around feeling this way. When we work with this issue together it is important to work slowly and strengthen your boundaries so you can become aware when you are giving beyond your ability to do so. It takes time to get in touch with feelings of anger, and to start to release it in small and healthy ways. Flower essences, used skillfully, can help you slowly and safely start to let go of old resentments and aggravation. Over time you can develop a healthy relationship with all your emotions, even anger, and use them appropriately.