boundaries

Setting Healthy Boundaries

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It was 7pm on a Sunday night. My phone vibrated. I was in the middle of a guided meditation I was listening to on my phone, and yes, I stopped meditating and looked at my phone because it startled me. I saw it was a text and finished my meditation before I read it (believe me when I tell you that there was a day not too long ago when I would have stopped my meditation and responded to that text immediately, so I have actually come a long way!). 

After meditating, I read the text. It was from a former student who wanted my feedback right then on a personal statement she was writing. At one point in my life, I would have dropped everything and spent an hour of my Sunday evening off reading and rewriting something for a student. But I stopped that behavior a few years ago. Why? Because that kind of behavior left me depleted and exhausted. Because that kind of behavior also left me feeling resentful toward whoever was asking me to work in my “off hours” and angry at myself for being a people pleaser and yes woman (more on that in today’s video). Because that kind of behavior ultimately made it difficult for me to show up and be of service at all.

I had a big aha moment around setting healthy boundaries seven or eight years ago. My then boss and I were madly emailing back and forth working on the logistics of a job offer we were going to make a candidate we didn't want to lose to another employer. The catch? It was Christmas Day. Yes, I spent hours on Christmas Day helping my boss write an email offer to a candidate. My then husband asked me why I was working so much on Christmas. I gave him the same excuse my boss kept telling me – that we didn't want to lose this candidate. He pointed out that it was unlikely she'd be checking her email on Christmas or that she'd get another job offer until after the holiday break anyway. I'd love to tell you that he was right… but that candidate was checking her email and accepted our offer… on Christmas Day. (As my boss said, she fit right in!)

The absurdity of the situation didn't really strike me until a couple of weeks later when my boss was bragging in a meeting at work about how we snagged our best candidate on Christmas Day. One of my colleagues commented that it was inappropriate to be emailing an offer on Christmas and interrupting our candidate's holiday with her family. My boss told her that it was okay as she didn't have children. I sat there and wondered why having children gave you a permission slip to actually take Christmas off when my plans with my family (although with no children) didn't qualify.

I would love to be able to tell to that you that things changed forever for me on that day and that I became an expert at setting healthy boundaries at work and with loved ones overnight. But, like much of life, learning to set healthy boundaries was a journey and is still a work in progress for me. In today's video, I share the key pieces involved in learning to set healthy boundaries. I hope they serve you and help you learn to set healthy boundaries for yourself. 

On Boundaries, Expectations, and Letting Go

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Old FenceI've been having a lot of conversations lately with clients and friends about relationships. Stories of heartbreak, breakups and miscommunications seem to be the norm as of late. While it's easy to blame the sun sign, the full moon, or planets in retrograde, at the end of the day, most of us blame our partner – or whoever we are experiencing the relationship issue with. 

But it takes two to tango. And while I am not advocating self-blame, judgment or criticism, if you're unhappy, it is important to look in the mirror and see how you may have contributed to your situation. 

I like to think that life happens for us, not to us. Every “mis-take” is just an opportunity for growth and a re-take after you've learned your lesson. Relationships are no different. Yes, people lie, cheat, and steal, but I think a vast majority of issues could have been prevented if one party or the other had initiated a conversation right when he or she first noticed the potential for a problem. But we don't. We hold back, reassess, put our walls up, and bide our time until the molehill becomes a mountain. As a result, we don't get our needs met, our feelings get hurt, and little issues become insurmountable ones.

Although there are often many factors involved in any relationship issue, I think doing the following would certainly help prevent or minimize many relationship issues:

  1. Set healthy boundaries and enforce them – as a recovering codependent, boundaries didn’t used to be something I knew I should be setting, let alone enforcing. But as I have healed my codependency, I have realized just how important boundaries are. We are not meant to be walked on, taken advantage of, drained. We are meant to be loved, cherished, and taken care of – and that must start with you loving, cherishing, and taking care of yourself. Part of that self-care involves setting limits around your time and energy. The limits that you set for yourself – for your own sanity, really – should not be taken lightly. It’s fine to test your boundaries, especially if they are limiting beliefs in disguise, but that should still be on your terms.
  2. Letting go of expectations – one might think this is contradictory to setting boundaries. After all, shouldn’t you expect your boundaries to be respected once you have clearly set them? Absolutely. But here I am talking about a different set of expectations: expecting the other person to meet your needs when you haven’t clearly stated what they are. For a relationship (romantic, friendship, or even work-related), you have to let the other person know what you need. Because relationships involve a party of two (or more), you should be clear about what you need for the relationship to be successful. You must then be able to communicate your needs to the other party – after all, no one is a mind reader. You cannot expect them to know what you want unless you tell them. 
  3. Realize that no relationship is without issues – when I was a kid, I wanted to be Cinderella. I kept waiting for my Prince to come save me so we could live happily ever after. Here’s the reality: there is no happily ever after. Relationships take work, and it’s so easy to take each other for granted. On the plus side,

    As Crystal Andrus said, “When you feel yourself becoming angry, resentful, or exhausted, pay attention to where you haven't set a healthy boundary.” Or other issue. If you’re upset, that’s a sign that there is an issue that needs to be resolved. Whatever this issue may be is just as likely to be your issue as your partner’s issue (refer to it takes two to tango above). We feed off of each other. If you are upset with your partner for doing – or not doing – something you wanted him or her to do, ask yourself where there was a breakdown in communication. Did you actually ask them to do whatever it was or did you just expect them to, but failed to communicate your needs? Even if it seems so simple to you that they “should have known,” communicate it anyway. Trust me on this one. It would have saved me a lot of grief several times over!

  4. Don’t sweat the small stuff – There are going to be issues (see #3). It’s your job to figure out which issues are your deal breakers and which ones, at the end of the day, really don’t matter all that much.  For the former, those are big deals that shouldn’t be taken lightly (see #5 below); for the latter, as hard as it may be sometimes, you have to let it go. Before I got into my current romantic relationship, I had a heart-to-heart with myself to figure out what I really wanted and what mattered to me. (I find it’s easier to do this when you are not in a relationship because you aren’t thinking of anyone in particular when you make your list, but even if you are in a current relationship, give it a go – just make the list about you and your needs and not your partner’s faults.) Every once in a while, I go back and look at my list. It’s a good reminder of what’s most important to me and that some of the little things that I fret about really aren’t worth ‘sweating over.’ 
  5. Listen to your intuition – I once dated a man who I knew – on our third date – was the wrong man for me. But for several reasons, I chose to ignore that inner voice of wisdom and got into a relationship with him anyway. 6 months later, I was broke and heartbroken. Here’s the deal: You are the best authority on you. Not your ego, but your intuition. You know what you need and what you want. You know what your deal breakers are and what matters less to you. You know in your heart whether this relationship is the right one for you. If it’s not right for you, then by all means, get out. But if it is the right one, then your relationship is worth fighting for – as long as both of you are willing to go “all in.”

What’s worth fighting for and what can you let go of?

 

How to Set Effective Boundaries

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boundariesThis month in the Facebook group, we've been working on setting healthy boundaries. This has been a great experience for all of us thus far as we have been challenging and supporting each other in setting healthy and effective limits on what we will and will not do and what behaviors we will and will not allow to occur in our presence.

Many of us in the group have struggled with boundaries in relationships – with our families, friends, coworkers, bosses, and significant others. Often we feel guilty for setting boundaries with our loved ones, and we may even find ourselves on the receiving end of guilt or anger when we try to set and enforce our boundaries.

In the past, I've struggled with setting boundaries with romantic partners. In fact, this was a harder – and longer – lesson for me to learn than setting boundaries with friends, family, and at work.

When I was 16, I met a boy who would go on to stalk me off and on for four years. At first, I was flattered that he ‘liked' me so much. He bought me flowers and gifts and paid attention to me – a gangly, awkward teenager who was much more of a nerd than a beauty Queen (for a modern day example, think of how unhealthy yet romanticized Bella and Edward's relationship was in the first Twilight book/movie). But as the weeks turned into months, I realized I had a problem. He would show up outside my house; when I got off out of class, he would be there. He had his friends call me to let me know he had a shrine erected to me in his bedroom. He began cutting his arms, showing me the wounds, and saying, “These are for you.”

While I think we can all agree that what I have just described was not a healthy ‘relationship,' how often have you found yourself feeling the victim in a similar situation?

And what's more, how often have you allowed it?

I have been guilty of this numerous times. From loaning money to friends and significant others that was never returned to working overtime on a ‘special' project for my boss for which I received no compensation, to caving to peer pressure to do things that I knew were not in my best interests.

But if I have learned nothing else in my 42 years on this planet, it's this: the

. And even when we think we've passed, it will give us one last mini quiz, just to be sure we really got it this time.

If your boundaries keep getting tested, here's my 7 step plan for setting and enforcing effective boundaries: Setting Boundaries 101

If you need help setting effective boundaries, check out my free video where I walk you through how to do this in real life.

I’d love to hear how these work for you in the comments below.

Here’s to setting healthy boundaries!

 

I Forgive You

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promiseI think most of us have learned that when we are upset, it is in our best interest to forgive those that hurt us. After all, forgiveness is letting go of the hope that the past could have been any different. And since the past can never be changed, it is certainly wise to let it go.

 

How often have you sat down, pen on paper, and written a heart-felt letter to yourself… for all the times you let yourself down, disappointed yourself, criticized yourself? For all the times you didn’t speak your truth or walk in your power? For all the times you let people use you because you were too scared to stand up for yourself? For all the times you looked at your body and felt nothing but anger, resentment, and betrayal?

 

As my infertility issues were triggered in a powerful way over the weekend, instead of berating myself for not having healed them yet, I sat down and wrote myself a letter. Maybe it’s not infertility you struggle with, but I bet it’s something: your weight, your relationship with food, with your body, with yourself. We all have issues. We all have disappointments. We all have tendencies to sometimes be our own worst enemies instead of our own best friends.

 

As I went through another layer of healing my relationship with my body, I wrote myself this letter. I share it with you here in the hopes that it inspires you to show yourself a little more kindness, a little more forgiveness, a little less judgment. I hold space for you to write yourself a letter of forgiveness. I hope you find this exercise as healing as I did. (And yes, let the tears flow…)

 

 

Dear Mary,

I am so sorry. I apologize from the depths of my heart for every making you feel like you weren’t enough, for focusing on your ‘brokenness.’

I am so grateful for this sacred womb temple of mine that allows me to give birth to new life/projects/ideas – my womb is my precious power center. I apologize for not realizing that before now.

I apologize for doubting you, for ever believing for even one second that your value was somehow tied to your … beauty, work ethic, do-ing, producing results for others, your ability to give birth to a child.

I am so sorry I hurt you. I value you and love you wholly, deeply.

You are enough. You are more than enough.  You are a creative soul, so nurturing, so giving, so beauty-full. I love you because you give your all, you keeping trying, you continue to see the good in people and situations where others might not. I love your smile and your big heart. I love your devotion to growth and self-improvement.

 

Here is my promise to you:

 

I will set boundaries to make sure your needs are met.

I will take care of you.

I accept you fully, just as you are.

I will always choose you.

I support you.

I will always be there for you.

And I will never, ever break a promise to you again.

I love you.

 

 

Breaking Out of the Box

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I spent a glorious weekend in Salk Lake City, UT with two of my belly dance sisters attending a workshop. On the second day of the workshop, the instructor asked us what we wanted to work on. One of the participants said she was struggling with getting outside her ‘dance box’ of using only certain techniques and theories.

 

– not just in dance, but in life. I live in a world of boundaries, limitations, and restrictions, many of them self-imposed. For example, I have a big boundary walling off my heart from getting hurt. I think that if I don’t let people in, they can’t hurt me. But the thing about boundaries is that they are not porous – that is, my boundary isn’t just keeping me ‘safe’, it’s preventing me from having the kind of romantic relationship and friendships I truly desire.

 

Yet paradoxically, I also live in a world where too often I don’t set boundaries where I should. I have a tendency to be a people pleaser and let people walk all over me in my interpersonal relationships. I was talking to a client who struggles with those same issues earlier today.

 

I think, for me, regardless of whether you have too many boundaries, or too few, it, once again, comes back to self-love and self-worth. We let other people set boundaries for us so as not to [insert appropriate reason: disturb the status quo, make anyone mad, upset our friends and family]. Or we set them for ourselves (aka my ‘heart wall’) in some effort to protect ourselves from being hurt. At the same time,

. We’re afraid to tell them no, to use our voice, to ask for what we want. Then we wonder why we aren’t getting our needs met. I have been guilty of that one far too often.

 

On my journey of transformation, I have learned many lessons: how to love my body and myself, how to accept my perfect imperfections, how to be my own best friend, and lately, how to receive and allow others to help me. Over this next month, I want to work on setting boundaries – it might be taking some boundaries down (e.g., opening my heart up to love again) or putting some in place (e.g., not letting your sister walk all over you). I think many of us struggle with boundary issues. Know that if you do, you are not alone.

 

To help us get through our struggles, once again, I am creating a Facebook group, much like I did with the Month of Receptivity. Join us and learn how to set boundaries that are healthy for you and assure you are getting your needs met!

 

 

Featured Goddess: Ishtar

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ishtar

Ishtar

Goddess of Love, War, Fertility, and Sexuality

 

“You are a most powerful woman. Call upon me when you feel taken advantage of and I will protect you.”

 

 

Traits Ishtar Embodies:

  • Strength
  • Protection
  • Boundaries
  • Feminine power
  • Self-Love

 

How to call on Ishtar:

Known for being a bit of a Black Widow when it came to her lovers, Ishtar asks Gilgamesh to marry her and he refuses (you can’t really blame him – who wants to die?). Angered, she asks her father Anu (King of the Gods) to punish Gilgamesh by sending the Bull of Heaven to kill him. Knowing his daughter well, Anu declines. Ishtar threatens to bowl open the gates of hell and let all who reside within out to wreak havoc on the world (boundaries, remember?). Anu decides to just give her the Bull of Heaven. Sadly, Gilgamesh kills the Bull and Ishtar’s plot for revenge goes unfulfilled. Ishtar then devotes herself to being a patron Goddess of love and helps all women in affairs of the heart, even helping temple prostitutes learn to set healthy boundaries with the men in their lives.

 

Prayer to Ishtar:

Ishtar, Divine Mother

Nurturer and Protector of Women,

Hear my Prayer!

I need your Strength, Support and Guidance

In my hour of need.

Help me protect what I hold dear to me,

Most of all myself.

Help me set loving boundaries

That serve to Honor and Protect my body, mind, and spirit.

Thank you, Ishtar!

 

Tribute to Ishtar:

As Ishtar was a protector of women, especially those being abused, donate your time and money to women’s shelters or organizations that care for victims of domestic violence as a tribute to Ishtar.