No matter what circle I’m in, somehow the conversation always ends up being about boundaries. I think it’s because I’m a bit (ferociously) protective of mine, and people are intrigued… because as much as I’m really picky about who I let into my space (including who I share time with and how I’m willing to spend it) I don’t come off as guarded or jaded.
But it wasn’t always that way.
I spent the first 3 decades of my life leaning heavily into my divine masculine energy… even abusing it at times. Growing up I didn’t have the experience of being safe and supported, so early on I developed an attitude of “I have to do it all myself” and over time, it hardened me. My heart ached for deeper connection, but the idea of truly letting someone in was really scary and I did my darndest to keep them at arm’s length while simultaneously creating the illusion of intimacy.
Hey, we’ve all got our stuff to work through, right?
By unraveling my hurt, repairing the relationship with my inner child, and learning to receive support, I got healthier, and with time, the boundaries expanded to let more goodness in. And now that I’m walking them every day (some days are better than others), I get asked a lot about boundaries.
So here are the 3 most common questions I receive and how I answer them:
How do I get better at setting boundaries?
Boundary setting is a skill like any other, and I like to think of it as a muscle we can develop with time and practice. The more you use it, the easier it gets. The trick is to start where the stakes are small and then work your way up to the boundaries that you’re less comfortable with setting. Something low stakes could be when you order a salad without tomatoes, but you receive a salad with tomatoes, politely asking them to be removed. Higher stakes might be saying no to your father in law moving in while they renovate his house.
If we go with the gym metaphor, your first time might use the smaller free weights and with time you could grow into bench pressing 100lbs. If we tried with the heavy weights our first time, we’d likely fail and think boundary setting wasn’t possible… but if we work up to it, we can do just about anything.
So yeah… practice, practice, practice. (I almost hate myself for having to say that.) It’s not fun or sexy work, but it does ultimately pay off in the end.
Why is it so hard to uphold boundaries in my relationship/with my family?
When we share a connection with other people certain unspoken rules come into play. We teach them how to treat us (except our parents whose actions often teach us how to be treated and need to be unlearned later in life) and with that comes certain expectations. When someone or something behaves in the same way all the time, we begin to take that as truth. For instance, here in the Pacific Northwest, our winters are very grey and rainy rather than cold and snowy. On the days we get sunshine, it’s a pleasant surprise. But when it rains we aren’t left wondering how that could have possibly happened.
These expectations create a dynamic between you, and when you start to do personal development work (including setting boundaries) you’re creating a shift in the dynamic – which is totally your prerogative to do by the way. Just as you’re entitled to feel ready to change, they’re entitled to have their own feelings about it, which can sometimes cause discord in a relationship. The question then becomes: is the change worth it? For some, it won’t be, and they’ll revert back to their old way of doing things and find ways to make due. For others, not holding true to their boundaries, their needs and even the words they ache to speak, the change is essential. They’ve seen what being fully expressed looks like and they’re not willing to go back. This invites the other party to evolve with them, or they lovingly part ways. But each of them gets to define what the new rules of engagement are between them.
Not-so-fun Fact: When I was writing Sacred Anger, my wife was REALLY uncomfortable with the topic. I couldn’t share passages with her. I couldn’t talk through what was coming up for me as I wrote… and up until then we talked about EVERYTHING. I had moments where I worried this book would cost me my marriage, but it felt too big (bigger than her and I, anyways) to not keep going. And interestingly, in that time she did a lot of her own reclamation work… and not only did she support the launch, she became the book’s editor and biggest cheerleader. So people can evolve along with you, I swear.
How do you cope with people judging you for saying no?
The work I do with clients to help them reclaim their wholeness, express their Truth and just share their authentic selves with the world always ends up with this one term that gets repeated: Unshakeable Certainty. This is where you’ve done the work to know yourself fully, own all of it, and come to a sense of neutrality when you think of the things in your past that used to cause deep regret and shame.
When you have unshakeable certainty in who you are, you aren’t swayed by accusations of things that you’re not. Here’s an example: if you are 6 feet tall, and someone tells you that you’re short, you know full well that they’re wrong. In fact it’s almost laughable that they’d perceive you in a way that is so far from your truth. Imagine how that can be applied to inner traits. If you know with 100% certainty that you are a kind and generous person who has said no to something, and you’re then called selfish… you need to know the truth of your generosity that you’re unflappable in front of the accusation.
You need to know your inner traits as well as you know the colour of your eyes or the size of your feet – none of which is good or bad – just neutral. Some days will be better than others, but when you do this work, you slowly get to a place where even the days that those outside projections do have some impact, you’ll recover so much faster.
Here’s the thing: if you’ve found my work you came into this life with big, bold, beautiful dreams. You’re part of the change our world so desperately needs. This asks you to keep growing, keep expanding, keep leaning into the harder/darker parts of the journey – because that’s where the magic lies.
Understanding your relationship with boundaries is only one of the things we can explore in Unbound. We take a deep dive into one area of your life that feels stuck and stagnant to understand its origin and clear it in sacred ceremony. It would be an honour to have you on one of these calls. LEARN MORE