The path to self-love involves taking responsibility for our own emotions, because if we’re not showing up for ourselves we can feel like our self-worth depends on the whims of others. By taking the helm we can start to re-address the balance.
Emotional responsibility is a major factor in self-love, self-worth and self-care.
(c) Michelle Gilberthorpe, She Holds The Bowl, 2017
In terms of Shadow work Fear is the granddaddy of them all. All our Shadows boil down to Fear – fear of failure, of not feeling accepted or good enough, fear that we’ll be judged, fear of what’s different… fear of owning our greatness and shining our light out into the world.
Fear doesn’t want to be caught; it keeps on shifting and changing. It’s slippery, a quicksilver eel. You think you’ve healed and then it presents a new challenge. But maybe Fear doesn’t have to be the enemy.
Like any Shadow Fear has lessons and challenges for us. Becoming more aware of Fear and what it’s challenges are may help to quieten it’s voice.
There are genuinely things in this world to fear, and in that respect Fear seeks to protect us. Other things we fear are there to challenge us. Fear, at its heart, in its most loving aspect, wants us to grow. When a fear is faced it can lead to tremendous potential and growth, showing us we are capable of more than we ever believed possible.
Fear is our ally. Fear wants to help us. It is our own discomfort that makes it ‘bad’. Fear protects, and it also pushes us to grow. It is our choice as to whether we heed the genuine warnings or ignore them. It is our choice to let fear of the unknown hold us back and stop us in our tracks.
Heeding Fear’s genuine warnings protects us. Facing Fear’s challenges expands us. And yes, sometimes the things we’re afraid of and challenge ourselves to face don’t end well, but there is always something we can take away and learn from that situation. There are always lessons to learn from Fear.
Shadow work is uncovering the diamond in the rough,
then implementing what you’ve learned
to reveal the unique beauty
– the faceted diamond within –
that is your true Self.
(c) Michelle Gilberthorpe, She Holds The Bowl, 2017
Asking yourself these kinds of questions can help to build up a better idea of what your boundaries are, and what constitutes a crossed boundary, or a boundary pusher/ crosser.
I would suggest categorising the answers into level of importance. Try using the traffic light system – amber is an advanced warning, red is a no-no. You then need to decide how many ambers constitute a bigger warning, and how many reds make up a more serious warning.
Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist or expert; these are questions I’ve formulated for myself to try and help me identify, create and build stronger, healthier boundaries. I share them here so they may provide food for thought.
A note on triggers: some people trigger reactions in us that make us uncomfortable because they bring up unhealed wounds or unresolved issues. Check in with yourself to see if this may be the case, or if someone is genuinely displaying behaviours or saying things that test or cross your boundaries. This is all about taking responsibility for your own emotional health, and blaming others for your own ‘stuff’ doesn’t help with that.
- What warning signals does my body give me with boundary pushers or crossers?
- What sort of people drain me?
- What experiences in the past illustrate people crossing my boundaries?
- What sort of personality types do I need to be aware of because they may be an unhealthy influence on me?
- What behaviours make me feel uncomfortable with, and ‘threatened’ by, others?
- What sort of things do people say that give me warning signs they may be boundary pushers/crossers?
- What values do I have that I will not ‘allow’ others to chip away at?
- What types of viewpoints are so opposed to my values that those who aggressively pursue or stand for them may be best kept at a distance?
- What behaviours or actions would I never engage in or tolerate in myself towards others?
- What behaviours, actions or words would I not want my loved ones to be subjected to?
- How do I feel when I’m not in contact with someone? If I feel better/calmer/stronger could they be a boundary pusher/crosser?
- Am I indulging/ ignoring/ not confronting the behaviours, words or actions of someone because it’s ‘easier’ or ‘safer’?
- Do I have growing frustrations based on a person’s behaviours, actions or words towards me?
- Are there times when someone deliberately or aggressively undermines me?
- Does someone treat me like their personal therapist or emotional dumping ground (to an unreasonable degree)?
- Does someone actually engage with me, or do they just try to push their own agenda and dominate the conversation?
- Am I being deliberately steered into conversation, behaviour, events or situations that are not for my own good?
- Am I allowed to express my own opinion about something without it being seen as an attack/ affront, or without being ‘corrected’ or ‘educated’?
- What behaviours and traits have I worked hard to heal or rectify in myself? Do I really want people in my life who display these kinds of behaviours, especially if they seem stuck in them?
Note: I refer mainly to friendships and attachments that are not family- or partner-based in this article. Although the sentiment of allowing people their privacy stands, in terms of partnerships or family relationships I do understand that other factors need to be taken into account. This article is also not referring to those with mental health or anxiety conditions that have an unhealthy insular effect. This article refers to personal inclinations and boundaries in people who generally prefer more privacy or may be more socially introverted.
When taking responsibility for setting and creating healthy boundaries it is also important to learn how to respect the boundaries of others. If someone is a private person they may not feel comfortable opening up to you, or else they may be willing to share so much and nothing further. Please try to respect this need, even if you wish to know more. It is not deception to keep things private, nor is it necessarily a reflection on you as a person.
When set healthily, boundaries serve to keep us protected, and also to keep a hold on our integrity. If a person does not wish to open up further then allow them their space. Don’t try to tell them they’re too closed off just because you may have a more open boundary style, or just because they won’t tell you all you want to know. Unless someone is actively evading or deliberately withholding information, it is not your place to push for an answer. People have many good reasons for not revealing all, or for not talking about certain subjects.
Consider, as well, that even if this person cares for you they may not wish to share all that you might want to know. Respecting this boundary – putting your wish for further knowledge aside to respect the others’ need for privacy – shows compassion and care. Pushing at this point, in your own quest, can lead to discomfort and even feelings of being intruded upon for the other person. If they then give information reluctantly, because they feel pressured, it may lead to resentment as they go against their own integrity and needs to put your desire for more information first.
Be patient. Over time this private person may open up more. Or they might not, and you have to learn to accept that is part of their boundaries. If you cannot accept this then try talking to them and explaining how you feel, without being accusatory. Some people are more introverted than others, and more private, and may not reveal much of their inner life or workings to anyone.
If you cannot reach a healthy compromise on both sides then you will have to consider whether you really want to allow resentment to build (on either or both sides) because of over-compromise. In this case, though you care for each other, it may be that you have to interact on a less personal level, or decide that it is healthier for both of you to go your separate ways.
Creating healthy boundaries of your own is one thing, but respecting those of another is also of importance. Boundary work goes both ways.
The Autumn Equinox (22nd September) is a time of change, as we leave Summer and enter the dark half of the year. It is also a liminal time, where the boundaries between worlds (the human and Other worlds) are said to be thin. It’s a time of winding down, bringing in the harvest and preparing for the arrival of Winter.
This week I am focusing on Boundaries. As we come into the Equinox it’s a time of reflection, and traditionally looking at what is important and going to help you survive Winter. This means ‘stocking up’ on the things that are good for you. It is also about letting go of things that aren’t, as anything that wastes easily is of no use in the depths of Winter. Our ancestors had to prioritise meats, crops and harvests that would get them through even the coldest conditions.
In our own lives this can translate into looking at self-care priorities, but since Equinoxes are about weaker boundaries between worlds they are also useful points to take stock of our own boundaries, and those of others around us.
Generally we are encouraged to be accepting of people, so we put up with behaviours that are not healthy because we are taught that being accepting is the same as being compassionate. Being accepting of someone’s inappropriate behaviour is not the same as being compassionate. Being compassionate still allows you to accept or love the person for who they are, but it also allows you your own boundaries, does not condone others’ poor behaviours, and allows you to gently but firmly say, “I care about you but I do not have to accept/ put up with this.”
Sometimes learning about our own boundaries comes in the form of a relationship (friendship, romantic or otherwise) that displays unhealthy boundaries – our own, theirs or a mix of both. They teach us by example, because many of us believe we have good boundaries but when faced with our desire to be ‘accepting’ and someone else’s boundary pushing we can find that, actually, our boundaries aren’t so good after all.
Sometimes a relationship comes into our lives and it can leave you wondering, “What on earth can I learn from this?”
I looked deeper into a friendship that ended earlier this year to find the lessons within. I turned it into a self-respect manifesto to remind myself of my needs, values and boundaries. I hope it can provide inspiration for others to do the same.
I respect my boundaries.
I respect my need for self-care.
I respect my need to withdraw from relationships that do not work for me.
I respect my need to speak my Truth.
I respect my gifts, abilities and pathway.
I respect my values.
I respect my knowledge and experience.
I respect my contributions.
I respect my need for discernment.
I respect my need for honesty and integrity.
I respect my intuition and gut-instinct.
I respect my trust in my Beloved Inspirer(s).
I respect my need to be among loving, open, optimistic, nourishing, supportive people.
I respect my inner power.
This week has been different, in that a lot of it has been about inner healing, self-discovery and things that have inspired me. To change things up a bit I thought I’d express this in a kind of ‘doodle diary’ of all those things I’m grateful for from this week.