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Boundaries are Love!

Waiting for my turn with intuitive medium Jo Flowers

I went to an Alternative and Holistic fair recently. I wanted to talk to an intuitive medium who had read my cards when I was in my 30s. I saw she would be there, so I had to go. She told me something a long time ago that had stuck with me, and I wanted to see what she had to say this time.

I didn’t tell her anything, but she was amazingly spot-on about what was going on in my life now, with no big surprises. When she asked me if I had any questions, I went for the trite one I bet she gets all the time, “Do you see any romance in my life?”

She laughed and looked me in the eye with an expression of disbelief and said, “You’re not even trying!” I admitted she was right. She went on to tell me that “Why fix what’s not broken? You are the most content and happy that you’ve ever been in your life. Why do you want to mess that up?” I still laugh when I think about how incredibly right she was.

February always makes me think about the lack of a romantic relationship in my life. Not only is Valentines’ Day ever-present, but it’s also the anniversary of the momentous occasion when I freed myself from the bonds of unholy matrimony and a very toxic relationship. These arbitrary dates in our lives to remind us that it’s time to reflect on our annual progress are tiresome – and healing.

When these anniversaries come up, it can feel like we’re revisiting the same old crapola. But I’ve learned to think about this differently. It’s not going back; it’s about spiraling inward to dig deeper. My friend Janet calls it the Slinky Effect. Each time we revisit past trauma, we uncover more. We peel back another layer of our soul armor like an onion to find the treasures inside.

I made the decision several years ago that rather than ruminate over lost love, I’d spend the energy on devoting the month of February to celebrate a different kind of love. As a survivor of trauma, I’ve spent the past seven years working on healing and learning to love myself. Now I feel the love – and that’s something to celebrate! I know this sounds weird, but I am happily in a committed relationship with myself. Huzzah! And yeah, I don’t want to mess that up by leaving myself for someone else.

We had a great time at the Love Yo Self class in February!

As I’ve pondered self-love lately, questions have popped up. Do survivors of trauma have a more challenging time learning to love themselves than people without PSTD? Are there any unicorns out there that haven’t experienced trauma? It probably doesn’t matter how hard it is. There’s no getting around the truth that learning to love yourself is a big part of healing.

Still, sometimes I wonder if what I’m really doing is trying to protect myself. By not taking any risks in romantic relationships, I can guarantee I won’t get hurt – or worse than that, put myself back into a toxic relationship with someone else. Honestly, this scares the daylights out of me. I question if I can trust myself to see the pink and red flags that warn me I’m being ripened for picking by an abusive personality. Narcissists love me, so this isn’t an unreasonable fear. I’ve been fooled before.

So what can we do to get started on this quest for self-love? So much of the advice for how to maneuver this journey feels out of touch and uninspiring. For example, gratitude journals and telling yourself “I love you” are helpful, but they aren’t enough. As I considered how to protect myself without hiding from the world, I had a stunning realization. The biggest act of self-love is setting boundaries.

Because to be successful in setting boundaries, we must know and ask for what we want. When we’ve been taught to believe we’re not worthy of having a voice, through abuse or general repression, even knowing what we want becomes a struggle.

I started the Finishing School for Modern Women because I saw how hard it is to stand up for ourselves. So I’ve made it my mission to help women “own their power,” and I reinforce this concept in every class I teach. Now I realize that what I’ve been calling “owning your power” is actually self-love.

Setting restrictions around how I want to be treated and learning to communicate these borderlines is not easy. It has taken me years of deliberate work, and I’m far from mastering this art. Nevertheless, here’s what I’m learning:

Boundaries are your personal policy about what is acceptable.

Remember that boundaries are set to control our own behavior, not someone else. It’s not something we do “to” people. Also, our policies will vary, depending on whom we’re interacting with.

Spend some time in self-reflection.

To successfully introduce and set boundaries, it’s key to understand why these behaviors are essential to you and how they’ll benefit your emotional well-being.

Start simply.

When you don’t have many boundaries in place, the thought of adding them may seem overwhelming. Build up slowly and take some time to reflect on how each boundary is working.

Be gentle at first.

People who don’t set boundaries don’t like it when you set them for yourself. It may take easing them into this new reality and for you to get used to communicating what you want. Keep calmly practicing, and it will get better.

Create boundaries for yourself.

What will you put into place for your own behavior? For example, you can set definite work hours, especially if you work from home or are a workaholic like me. The more you set and uphold the boundaries you put in place with yourself, the easier it is to do with others.

Keep them simple.

Keep boundaries simple and clearly define what acceptable and unacceptable behavior you expect from yourself and others is. Remember, you don’t have to explain or justify your decisions.

Set them right away.

Learning to set boundaries gets more complicated in pre-existing relationships, so communicate them in new relationships straight away. By setting boundaries and expectations from the beginning, everyone knows where they stand and can cut back on feelings of hurt confusion.

Talk about it.

Communication is vital in the world of boundaries, especially if someone consistently oversteps yours. Even though you might need to raise your concerns, these discussions don’t need to be confrontational. Instead, let people know how they can work within your boundaries. For example, the hours you are available for appointments.

Be consistent.

Standing by your boundaries sometimes and letting them slip other timers send mixed messages and is confusing. Instead, speak up each time someone pushes your limits and remind them of your requests.

Take it slow.

If you need to compromise, be flexible and take it slowly. It isn’t unreasonable to negotiate boundaries and might be a clue that your boundaries are too rigid. But, never agree to anything that doesn’t feel right, or you don’t intend to live by.

Be your biggest advocate.

For boundaries to have a strong foundation, you’re got to show yourself some love. To put limitations in place that protect you, you must believe that you deserve the respect you’re asking for. You must be as protective a Mama Grizzley Bear for yourself as much, if not more, than you are for others you love.

You are worthy of love. Love yourself and let others know how they can show you love too.


Because We’re Never Finished

The Finishing School for Modern Women, located in Wichita, Kansas, offers classes to help women find their authentic selves; not because we need finishing, but because we’re never finished. We bring together women of all ages, to learn from experts and each other, how to claim our power in business, finance, communication, and life.

To learn more about our in-person and online classes for our classes and free social membership.

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