Setting boundaries – a sacred act of self-love

Based on my early childhood experiences, setting proper boundaries has always been a challenge for me. Experiencing a divorce at the age of 5 has left me with the conclusion that arguments lead to separation and that it’s better to not show or express unpleasant feelings to avoid separation and rejection. I wanted to be loved and accepted and also started to defend and justify other people’s behavior to reestablish harmony.

In my mind, I shaped the belief that arguments have to be loud and disrespectful and that emotions such as anger, jealousy, and envy are generally negative and should not be experienced.

The categorization of „positive“ and „negative“ emotions itself is problematic and also goes along with the lack of coping strategies when „challenging“ emotions arise. Most of us learn to deal with emotions based on modeling the people around us and observing specific situations. The majority of our society only knows 2 options to deal with emotions: to suppress emotions or to burst. But in-between these 2 extremes of black and white there are many other different techniques to respectfully work with your emotions.

Setting boundaries is closely connected with the experience of anger. Our emotions are our internal communication system and help us to navigate and harmonize events outside and inside of us. Whenever thoughts like „This is unfair“, „I didn’t like that“, „I feel betrayed“ etc. arise the respective hormones are being produced in the brain and released in the bloodstream. The rising heat that you can feel in your belly, chest, head or even your hands can be described as anger.

Basically, anger is rising to tell you that a boundary has been crossed or that someone else has been treated unfairly. Rather than suppressing this emotion or yelling at someone it can be really interesting to sit with this emotion for a while and to go into an internal dialogue to figure out which boundary has been crossed.

We live in a fast-paced world and live under the assumption to always have an answer and to react immediately. Through the practice of yoga and meditation, I have learned to create space between a trigger and reaction and to curiously investigate the situation. I want to use these situations of strong emotional reactions to learn about myself and to act after the wave of energy has passed.

After you have sat with your emotions for minutes, hours or even days, you can probably feel that the intensity of the experience is decreasing and you may have gained some interesting insights through your self-inquiry process. You may have identified some old shadows or scars that still require some attention and healing. It’s really important to build up a trustful relationship with your emotions and to take responsibility for your feelings and needs.

Depending on the outcome it’s up to you how to use this information to reestablish your boundaries. I think it’s really important to let other people know that they have hurt or insulted you. It gives people around you the opportunity to get to know you better, to excuse and to amend their behavior in the future. In the past, I was afraid of losing people if I tell them how I feel or that I did not agree with certain behaviors. Today I measure the quality of a relationship based on how much I can be myself. To respect yourself and to stand your grounds is one of the major aspects of self-love. You are demonstrating to yourself that you are important to yourself. 

With the help of my partner, I learned that arguments and setting boundaries can be a very profound and respectful process. When I receive challenging feedback I tune in to gratefulness for the fact that somebody trusts me with their feelings. I don’t react immediately but take time to process and remind myself that we all have a different set of values, beliefs, and priorities. Just because something is important to me does not mean it’s important for someone else. Rather than having unmet expectations I lean into having difficult conversations to build up trust and a stable relationship.

Time is one of the most precious resources in our lives. I only want to invest my time with people that share a similar set of core values and work towards self-awareness. Setting boundaries in a respectful way is a beautiful strategy to figure out early who is a keeper and who is not. Some relationships are not meant to last forever and that’s ok. Not everybody has to like me and agree and that’s ok.

I just want to encourage you to be bold and to listen to your emotions. Take your time and reflect, big emotional waves carry a high level of energy and have the capacity to move you fast forward. Stand your grounds and let other people know. It’s important for you and for the other person as well. Then let go and see what happens. Either something is falling apart that’s not for you, or you are building up a new healthy relationship.

Love & Namasté