As girls we're often told that saying "no" is perceived as rude, selfish and even defiant behavior. Sometimes the messages are explicit, but more often they are implicit.
If someone hugs us without consent, we should grin and bare it. We should attend a friend's party even if we're not feeling up for social time. If an adult gives directions that don't make sense, just do it.
It's no wonder then that many of the women I see in my practice arrive on my couch questioning when to set limits and how to hold boundaries in professional environments and personal relationships.
If these concepts are new to you and even if they are not, this process can feel daunting. So for the purpose of this blog post we're going to focus first on cultivating curiosity and observation skills so that we can later make a plan for action.
The challenge, if you are willing to accept it is this:
Begin by taking one day (and one week, if you're up for it) to hone in on your felt experience in the world using all your senses. Begin first thing in the morning and take note of how you feel moving through your home and then on your way to work or other engagements, followed by each environment you find yourself throughout the day. Take note of both physical and verbal interactions.
Some questions to consider:
1. Where do I feel most comfortable in proximity to others? Do I like being close? Do I need to stand a few feet away?
2. How do I know when I feel comfortable or uncomfortable in my body? Do my muscles feel tense/relaxed? Does my jaw clench? Do I smile? Do I laugh nervously?
2. What was my energy level a/o mood after talking to the person in question? Do I feel calm, irritable?
3. Did I say yes to something that I really didn't want to?
4. Did I avoid expressing my true feelings when someone upset me?
This list is not exhaustive, but a good starting place to begin noticing where your emotional and physical boundaries are and when they've been crossed.
Boundaries are personal and have as much to do with our unique preferences and personalities, as they do with our cultural upbringing and values. There is no right or wrong.
Next week we'll explore ways to take action based on what you've learned about your feelings and needs. Meanwhile, be patient and kind to yourself as you begin this process. You are taking a step into uncharted territory --how brave!
Till Next Time,