Modern society rewards us for being capable, efficient and productive. Have strong boundaries, be assertive, know what you want and go for it, have good structure and habits in your life. In a world dominated by men, these masculine traits are highly valued.
In my twenties, I was convinced that in order to achieve success, I needed to be able to push through any difficulties I was facing. “No pain, no gain” This belief did help me succeed in some ways, but it left me feeling empty and numb.
Because I believed in pushing through pain, I wasn’t very good at setting boundaries, and I was just as bad at accepting other peoples’.
It took me many years of working with my mentors to accept that sometimes real strength comes from the ability to soften. To be able to stay open to another person while we are feeling activated requires a huge amount of self-trust. This sense of trust is the yin (feminine) element.
(I’m not talking about masculinity/femininity in the gendered sense, but the yin and yang characteristics that are a part of each and everyone of us, regardless of gender. We’re not looking to be wholly one or the other, the aim is to have balance between the two.)
Just like the shadow side of the masculine is being over-boundaried, closed up and not in touch with emotions, the shadow side of the feminine is the complete lack of boundaries, bringing a whole heap of underlying resentment along with it.
In learning to value the feminine, my mantra for the past year has been: surrender does not equal submission. It’s something that I still find difficult. Surrendering into the unknown, not having control and not needing to have control.
The inability to set boundaries is generally based on fear. Fear of being rejected or being seen as a b*tch for standing up for yourself. These underlying self-doubts are the real wounds that need to be attended to, NOT the techniques of setting boundaries. That is just dealing with the symptoms of a much deeper issue.
So how do you get to the root of the problem? It starts with getting to know yourself better, getting familiar with your emotional landscape, your triggers and reactions. Developing a deeper connection to your feelings and learning to interpret the signals your body is sending you.
The next time you wish you were able to set better boundaries, ask yourself these questions:
- What are you trying to achieve?
- And more importantly what is it you are trying to avoid?
- Are there any insecurities you are trying to cover up by setting boundaries?
- What would happen if you let your defences down?
- Are you afraid that others would take advantage of you?
- Do you trust yourself enough to know that this will not happen even if you don’t set hard boundaries?
In our self-study course, Own Your No, we look at how we can use boundaries as a tool for deepening understanding and building intimacy. We share easy to follow practices and exercises to empower you in setting healthy boundaries and to communicate your desires in a compassionate way.
When you cultivate a deep connection to yourself, you become attuned to your needs and wants. You won’t need to think about how you can set better boundaries, it will just come naturally.
Boundary setting is our most popular workshop topic, so we know it’s something that a lot of people can struggle with. Let us know how you feel about boundaries by sharing your thoughts in the comments below.