A lot of people get to the point in their journey of self-love where they realise the importance of setting boundaries with other people. I’ve met many beautiful, kind souls who are constant givers, loving everyone and anyone because of their empathetic nature. Unfortunately, they do this to the point of self-depletion. Sound familiar?
It is so healthy to set boundaries with others. However, this is something that I increasingly see people struggle to do. If this is you, the real reason you might be finding this difficult, is if you don’t know how to actually set boundaries with yourself.
Hang on… what do you even mean by that? Setting boundaries with yourself… there’s only one of me, that makes no sense! I hear you, I hear you. Let me explain.
There’s you and there's the mind
There isn’t one of you, there’s actually two. There’s your true self, the one that watches and observes the experiences you have. The constant part of you that Is the experiencer, shall we say.
Next, there’s the ego. The ego is the involuntary voice that comments on what we experience and the choices we make. It’s essentially the same thing as the mind. Considering western society constantly suggests to us that we are not enough as we are, we are not beautiful unless we buy products, we are not successful until we are rich, we are not worthy unless we are contributing… it’s no wonder that the feedback from our ego is usually quite critical and self-deprecating.
Even if this voice isn’t being nasty, it’ll still want to problem solve, help you out and keep you safe by predicting all sorts of potential future threats and outcomes.
We cannot just shut off the mind or turn down its volume, we can only observe and accept, as talked about in the blog post ‘How to accept your ego’.
In this post, I want to expand on this concept a little bit more. A way to love yourself through the noise and to cultivate your own much needed space, is to learn how to set boundaries with yourself.
Be your own parent
I like to think of it as being your own parent. Visualise it like your mind is a toddler. You can’t blame it for what it says and how it acts. The toddler is freely expressing itself and is not doing anything wrong.
At first, it doesn’t realise it is separate from you. It thinks it needs to be around you 24/7, needily attaching itself to you. You wouldn’t judge it for this, it’s a toddler, that’s all it knows how to do.
You have to parent, guide and help it to grow into being kind, loving and respectful. You have to actually be the one to teach it when to give you space.
Anxiety, and being in battle with the mind is like a parent and a toddler who constantly are screaming at each other. The mind won’t respect you and give you space because you’ve never truly loved and accepted it, and you won’t want to love and accept your mind because it’s constantly screaming.
Ask your mind for space
But one of you has got to give up the battle first, and it sure won’t be your mind. You have to be the first one to calm, find your centre, and let it scream, let it chat, let it cling on to you. Just be the one to listen without reacting.
Practise listening without reacting often. Then, when you need your own space, you can begin to gently tell it that. You can say “Hey, I’ll listen to you later, but this is my time right now.”
It won’t understand at first, it’ll probably keep muttering on. Don’t get reactive, just repeat yourself… “Hey, I’ll listen to you later, but this is my time right now.”
Eventually the mind will begin to get the gist. Every now and again, when it really needs to be heard, you can listen without attachment. When you want your own space to be mindless and peaceful, you can ask it for that.
Building a healthy relationship with yourself
The journey of self-love really is just about cultivating a healthy relationship between you and your mind, not you abusing your mind for not being what you want it to be.
When you can teach your mind when to give you space, and you can listen to it when it has something to say, it’ll end up growing and maturing to be a voice that supports your journey, in exactly the same way that any other positive, healthy relationship flourishes.
Once you learn how to set boundaries with your own mind, then setting boundaries with other people in your life will become second nature.