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  • Writer's pictureEve Kagan

Boundary-Setting: A Radical Act of Self-Love

"Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others." ~ Brené Brown

This post is dedicated to all the people-pleasers. For many of us somewhere along the path we learned that the best way, perhaps the only way, to receive love and avoid pain was to be agreeable. Maybe we had caregivers who could not meet our needs, so we learned to meet their needs instead, to adapt to become who they needed us to be. We learned to say yes, to stay silent about our needs, to nod and smile, to go along with whatever was offered or demanded in order to survive. Love is a life or death situation: we need love and will sacrifice ourselves in many ways to secure it.

Maybe now you pride yourself on being easy-going, making others happy, or being the person everyone relies on. Maybe you even feel a hit of euphoria when someone praises you for all you do for others.

But what about you? Where are you in this equation? What would it be like to honor yourself?

Boundary-setting is a radical act of self-love.

A radical act is one that connects to something fundamental; an act that transgresses the norms. A boundary indicates a space, a limit, between bodies. A boundary in relationships may connect to how we want to communicate or how we want to be touched, how much time we want to spend together or what we choose to keep private. When we set a boundary we are asserting to the world that we matter. We are saying, I love myself enough to risk disappointing you. This is a powerful statement—there is no courage without vulnerability.

Why set a boundary?

Many of us see boundary-setting as terrifying, wrong, mean, even immoral. The pleaser part of us may be saying, if I'm agreeable, everyone will be happy and there will be no conflict—all good. The pleaser part is trying to protect us from vulnerability and pain which we may have experienced in early relationships. At the same time, not advocating for your needs prevents others from truly knowing you. If you are always playing the pleaser role—the good partner, the good friend, the good child, the good parent, the good student, the good employee—no one has access to your true self. No one really knows you. If you are in a relationship with no reciprocity because you always acquiesce, how do you know if that person has the capacity to respond to your needs? How will you ever know if that person values you if you never communicate how you feel and what you need in a given moment? The love we are seeking evades us when we protect ourselves by pleasing. It feels safer to please then to risk being rejected, but the love in that relationship is not true to you and thus can never be fully trusted. When we set boundaries we give others the opportunity to meet us. Only then can we make informed choices about the relationship.

Boundary-Setting Contemplation

I invite you to find a quiet moment for contemplation.

I invite you to consider one of your relationships.

I invite you to notice a time when you said yes to something that felt disconnected from yourself.

I invite you to notice the things you did not say or do, the things you wish you were brave enough to say or do.

I invite you to notice what happens in your body as you consider.

I invite you to imagine yourself communicating one specific need to that person.

I invite you to imagine it goes well, that you find the words to express yourself, that you are able to connect to your truth and speak it without hesitation.

I invite you to bring a hand to your heart and notice what it feels like to offer yourself this gesture of kindness.

Boundaries are fluid, they can shift or change just like we do. The key to boundary-setting is to continue to touch base with yourself, to tap into your needs in a given moment, to notice how an interaction feels in your body.

I hope this helps you find ways to connect to your truth and share it with others.

For more information about therapy with Eve, visit here.

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