The Power of Boundaries

Boundaries keep us connected to our true self and they allow us to know if we are safe in the presence of others.

How does this work?

In my experience, the way we often become aware is by how we feel when we’re not honoring our natural limits. When we’re unable to say no by our actions, even when our conscious mind is telling us so, we are in a habit of crossing our own boundaries. This is when life begins to feel like compulsion, rather than consciousness.

Most of the time, we think of compulsion in the frame of substance abuse/addiction, but I often see this kind of compulsion take place in family life, among friends, and with romantic partnership.

Here’s what it looks like in relationships:

  • Saying yes when you mean no
  • Saying no without understanding why
  • Bottling your feelings until you explode
  • Believing you should be above your own natural, human feelings
  • Rushing
  • Pleasing the other without questioning the impact on yourself
  • Making our own happiness dependent on someone else
  • Allowing someone else’s voice to override your own
  • Not allowing someone else’s feedback into your process
  • Making excuses for why it’s okay that someone is hurting you or others
  • Making excuses for why it’s okay for you to hurt others
  • Believing you don’t have time to check in with yourself
  • Not paying attention to how you really feel
  • Deeming yourself unworthy

None of that is who you really are. The key is to slow down enough so that you can become the loving witness to your own life. Going slow invites the neighboring logical mind and emotional mind to befriend each other, at long last!

Here are some tried and true techniques for consciously slowing things down:

  • Employ the “three second rule.” Before you speak/react, try to wait for three seconds. This pause might give you enough time to check in with yourself and make a more strategic decision.
  • Carve out time for regular self-reflection. This could include journaling, therapy, group work, meditation, walks in nature. Get out of the noise and into the quiet.
  • Use your words. Take a risk and talk about your feelings. Labeling your emotions is essential to de-intensifying them.  It’s all essential to understanding how you feel.
  • Be willing to verbalize your own limits and ask for respect and support when you need it.
  • Rehearse. Practice setting your limits with a safe person before you set them with someone who challenges you.
  • Remind yourself that you’re only human. It’s okay to have human responses to human situations. There has to be mud for the lotus flower to bloom.
  • Give yourself permission to believe that you will blossom. “To everything there is a season…”


When you do reach moments of inner strength, allow yourself to savor that healthy sense of pride. It might feel so good that you’ll want to do it again.

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