I was about 25 when I first learned the concept of boundaries. It was after reading the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. But I didn’t make it much further than awareness. I didn’t know how to apply boundaries to my life. As a child, I learned other strategies to keep myself safe by hiding my feelings, trying hard to just be good and people-pleasing.
I thought if I did what people wanted, they wouldn’t get frustrated or reject me. I was overly dependent on acceptance. Mostly, I wanted to experience peace and safety. But this coping mechanism brought on a lot of emotional stress. Even as an adult, it has been difficult to express my needs, to say no when feeling overrun or to share my true feelings.
It Takes Practice
It has taken me a long time to say the words, “what you said/did hurt my feelings.” I’m slowly learning to speak up rather than hold onto harm.
I’ve noticed a pattern whereas, in most situations, when someone has hurt me, it had to do with my own vulnerability. I thought it might be helpful to open up, to give perspective, but instead, I ended up feeling wounded.
These experiences have taught me there is risk involved with vulnerability. Maybe you can relate. Does this mean I stop opening up? Do I need to teach others how to hold my story with care? These are questions I’ve had to ask myself.
Thing is, there will always be people who will not be able to handle my story with care. The best answer is to learn how to hold my own story gently first.
Safety & Connection
I’ve been learning about shame triggers and shame resilience, terms used by shame researcher, Brene Brown. She says, “The likelihood of our finding the insight and courage to acknowledge our personal vulnerabilities is dependent on our ability to share and talk about those vulnerabilities with someone we trust and with whom we feel safe.”
It’s out of her book, I Thought it was Just Me, But it Isn’t-Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I am Enough.” She shares how we are wired for connection. She says, “Connection is critical because we all have the basic need to feel accepted and to believe that we belong and are valued for who we are.” She says sometimes that means making different choices.
I’ve been doing a lot more reading than writing these days. Part of my journey to wholeness has been recognizing my own shame triggers and growing my shame resilience by choosing to be vulnerable or not, especially online.
The most recent book I finished is called Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Kimmerer. There is a line in the book that says, “there is no hurt that can’t be healed by love.” I believe that includes learning to be gentle with myself, even learning to love myself as God does… another great book.
Maybe it sounds funny to talk about loving yourself. Perhaps you grew up learning it was more important to deny yourself over loving yourself. But even Jesus said love your neighbor, as yourself.
How are you holding onto your own story? Are you handling it with care? When was the last time you checked in with yourself? Let’s take a moment. Take three deep, slow breaths. What is your body telling you? I hope you hear that you are loved.