The energy we give and receive as humans is universal. Throughout our day, the interactions, experiences and relationships we navigate either refill our cup, or empty it. If established and respected in all aspects of our lives, boundaries can create a mutually beneficial domain that will keep you in a balanced state of giving and receiving energy.
When I first started dabbling in boundary work, it was extreme – only because I went YEARS without even having boundaries for myself, let alone having them for other people. Overtime, I boiled it down to one word – Respect. You must determine what your values are and step into unified actions that align with YOUR values, before you will be able to transform the people, places and things around you.
I want you for a moment, to remove ANY negative connotation you may have for the word boundary. Why? Because often times, we view boundaries as these concrete barriers, difficult conversations and overall they can feel yucky, like WORK.
Any of that sound familiar? I totally get it, been there, felt that.
I want to co-create a beautiful space for new word association. The key here is co-create, meaning – I need you in this with me! I will first describe a few different boundary types, and then give you a step by step guide on how to approach a difficult conversation that you’ve been avoiding. I see you over there... replaying the situation in your head without ANY intention of getting to the root of the issue. See also: Stuck.
Avoiding difficult conversations may feel good at first – okay, mental note – wasn’t feelin’ that. Dually noted. Over time… those little pain points build up and before you know it BOOM – hell hath no fury.
The boundary types I am going to focus on are energetic boundaries, and action oriented boundaries.
What the heck is the difference you might ask?
Have you ever been in a room and when someone walks in – you FEEL their negativity, you may get weird vibes… like um – creeper alert. Not my cup of tea. You aren’t rainin’ on this parade today buddy. Sorry guy, don’t even know you to be making this judgement on you, but you are making the hair on the back of my neck stand up (and not in a good way). Enter, energetic boundary.
Why are these important? Because the give and take of energy flows where you put your attention. You see someone, you are on high alert (without even realizing it) and the syphon of energy begins. I always visualize the scene from Disney’s The Little Mermaid when Ursula is taking away Ariel’s voice – you can see it leaving her body. We all know an Ursula, am I right??
So how do I protect myself from becoming a Poor Unfortunate Soul? Energetic boundary work.
Step one: Visualize yourself wrapped in protected white light. The kind that is transparent and glowing. (Use your imagination – stick with me here!)
Step two: In your mind’s eye (yes, that’s the place where you can see the color orange, without physically seeing the color orange) draw three white x’s in between yourself and the other person.
Step three: Imprint those images and then let go, stay in your strength and power.
That’s it, yep it’s that easy – and let me tell you from personal experience, it works.
Insight: The key to this approach is that it protects your energy, while still remaining in positivity. The white light and X symbolism send out an energetic signal that you are staying centered, remaining unshakeable and still holding the other person in the highest esteem. No negative connotation or judgement needed – simply, recognizing how you feel, and transforming the energy you surround yourself with while simultaneously sending out a nope, not today.
This is really important, because reality is – you are going to encounter people that you just don’t vibe with. They aren’t enemies. Protecting your energy by signaling ‘this isn’t a fit’ but holding that energy in love and light, allows you to preserve your energy with integrity and indifference.
Integrity is one of my core values. For me, I don’t need every single person to vibe with me, nor do I need to vibe with every single person that enters my path – but over time, I’ve learned which people are energy vampires, and those who inspire my light.
Practice this the next time you see/feel what I’ve described. Over time, it will become second nature – a quick energetic scan and protection that still allows you to remain open and positive in your approach.
The second type of boundary I am going to unpack is that which requires action of the spoken word. Yep, formerly known as ‘difficult conversations.’
Guess what has been hiding in that conversation you keep avoiding? Empowerment.
As mentioned earlier, my first experience with boundary work was extreme. Meaning? I went so many years without telling people what I needed (because I hadn’t figured out what I really needed yet) that I created melodramas all around me. Enter, addiction to chaos and distraction.
HOW COULD THEY DO THIS TO ME? Um girlfriend, check yourself before you wreck yourself. This just in: No one is doing anything to you – but they may be trying to show you something about yourself. The next time you have the urge to get defensive and take EVERY action or word personally, step back. What is this trying to teach you about yourself and what you need?
I know, easier said than done – and I am not here to take every insta-quote and glamorize it. I am here to get real with you. Growing up, one of my nicknames was Frank – being direct, is just part of my nature. I call it like I see it, from my perspective – which, obviously is the truth. Just kidding, kind of.
Do no harm, but take no shit.
No really, when I started stepping into my own power, from a place of true integrity and positive intention – the situations around me became glaringly obvious. I’ve allowed these behaviors for so many years because deep down… I didn’t truly believe I deserved any better.
GASP. You mean, I’ve been creating my own reality based on my subconscious beliefs? Yep, we all do.
All we ever do is seek out validation for our deepest truths. I’m unlovable – oh, HI again every boyfriend ever, validating and cycling abuse, cheating and distrust. See, I am right, totally unlovable.
Tell your ego to shove it. (And, that boyfriend too.) Okay, that might not be the best approach but we are getting to the step by step guide to speaking your truth momentarily.
You are lovable, and you deserve to have everything your heart desires. So what does your heart desire? And, are you willing to take a few steps into the unknown? Yep, it’s uncomfortable. Which always means, you are on to something big.
I know that all sounds well and good, but how do you do it? I will break down a few steps for you to try out.
Step one: Take honest inventory of the people in your life. They don’t ALL have to be top tier, your whole world revolves around them – there will be gradient of importance. (That’s ok)
Step two: WHO have you been avoiding having an honest, open hearted conversation with? Maybe they did something to you – making you feel totally justified for being stand-offish and harboring judgement and deeper negative feelings.
Insight: Some things are so egregious that we feel justified to completely walk away. And, if you’ve gotten to that point – that’s OK. Perhaps that is the best path, but ask yourself – is there anything left unsaid? If I walk away now, will they ever have known my truth? Come to think of it, do I even know my own truth? If something were to happen to this person, will you feel you have unfinished business with them? Closure takes many forms, and sometimes – depending on the toxicity of the situation – writing a letter with all of your thoughts and feelings and then burning it – can be a great way to release without reengaging.
Step three: That person that you’ve decided you still want in your life, but – you need to come clean with who you really are, and what you need from them? That’s where I want you to focus some attention.
Prepare: Spend some time truly processing what happened. After you’ve let every emotion come out, leave yourself with facts. Remain objective in this pursuit only after you’ve given yourself room to FEEL the emotion associated with it.
TIP: Not processing the emotion will mean that you are bringing all of that energy into the conversation and you will be at risk to lose the message in your delivery. I.E. Yelling, screaming, crying – it usually ends with one person hanging up on the other. (Speaking for a friend…)
After you’ve processed the emotions and released them, followed by jotting down a few facts of what happened – the fun begins.
Pep talk. Don’t let yourself back out now, this is really important and will either be an opportunity for the relationship to reach new heights and depths, or an opportunity for both people to recognize that it’s okay that you go your separate ways.
Key points. What are the two to three things you want to get across? These are the things that you undoubtedly need the other person to know by the end of the conversation. Know those going into it, but remain flexible to flow with the conversation.
The ask. Vulnerability, it’s time to turn up.
Make it formal and intentional. Example: Hey, I’ve had some time to reflect on a few things and for the sake of our relationship, I would like to talk you about some thoughts and feelings I am having. It might make you feel the need to get defensive – so I need you to know that going into it – my intention here is to speak honestly, and for us to be able to have meaningful dialogue. I am not here to fight.
You get the idea – show your cards first. Set the intention, let the other person know what they are going to embark upon and you’d be amazed at the space this approach creates for meaningful dialogue. If they say no – that’s okay, you tried. Give it some time to cool off and try again. Or, try the letter burning route – it’s really quite liberating.
Get ready. Stay centered, deliver your key messages. When the other person goes UP, stay neutral, remain calm – remember, you’ve processed the emotions, and they most likely haven’t yet. That’s okay – don’t take the bait. Let them do the real time processing, even if that means – they hang up on you (I recommend face to face, but well, COVID.) Don’t TEXT your boundaries. They need to hear your voice, your tone – the thought you put into this exchange. Also, texting is the easy way out - you are STILL avoiding feeling uncomfortable.
I can’t emphasize that enough – STOP TEXTING YOUR BOUNDARIES, IMMEDIATELY.
Enter into the conversation with an understanding that the way you perceived the situation is a reflection of YOUR stuff, your filters – the story YOU are telling yourself. If you go looking for a fight and for drama, you will find it. The tried and true, 'when you did this, it made me feel this way'.. is a great default here – but however you approach it, be genuine – not scripted.
By staying centered and processing your emotions, it can really urk people – showing them a mirror to their own rage and emotions. It’s okay – be comfortable with the process, anticipate it. Prepare for worst case scenario – that way, any other scenario is okay!
The closing, bring it back to the importance of the relationship – what this person means to you, also asserting what you need to feel loved, respected and appreciated in the partnership.
And finally, ask them what they need. They might not have a clue or know how to answer that – that’s okay, ask them anyways. What do you need from me in this relationship? What does a healthy, happy relationship look like to you and how can I honor that?
Yep, it’s a two way street – and, if the relationship is worth it, so too is the communication and accountability associated with it.
If you mess up royally, realizing mid-way through that maybe you didn’t really process the feelings – PAUSE. Take a deep breath, apologize for the delivery, but not the feelings.
Stay honest, stay humble – and above all else, stay open.
Good luck my friends, I am rooting for you.