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What I've Learned About Boundaries: From the 'Great Wall' to a picket fence.

In our journey of personal growth and healing, it is imperative that we understand not only how to set boundaries but also why they matter. Setting boundaries often comes with challenges, including facing gaslighting, projection, and external energies that compel us to make choices: either internalize them or pass them along.

For many of us, particularly those who are accustomed to people-pleasing, establishing and maintaining boundaries can feel contrary to our core selves. These patterns often take root in childhood, where they become essential for survival, helping us navigate home environments, family dynamics, and the emotions of parental figures. As children, we often have no choice but to adapt. However, as adults, we gain the power to choose.

Yet, what we sometimes overlook is the journey our bodies undertake while managing these childhood experiences. Just as our minds store trauma, memories, and experiences, our bodies, too, bear the weight of our past. They remember what it felt like to be powerless and voiceless, learning to make themselves small to navigate emotionally or physically unsafe situations. Our bodies are remarkably efficient, adjusting to their environments and programming automatic responses, patterns, and habits to protect us and respond to the fight-or-flight state.

A disconnect often occurs when we embark on our healing journeys. We tend to focus primarily on our minds, forgetting that our bodies also need to unlearn, heal, and accept love. This is why we sometimes overlook the choices we have as adults. We don't have to let others speak to us disrespectfully or continuously cross our boundaries. As we age and heal, we begin to realize that it often comes down to a choice between ourselves and others. Life teaches us that many will choose themselves, and it's crucial to do the same while rejecting the societal notion that retaining boundaries is selfish.

It's easy to become entangled in others' reactions to our boundaries. We might find ourselves caught up in gaslighting language, hearing comments like "you're changing," or struggling to transform alongside people who've known us in a different way. It's here that a coworker once shared a simple yet profound insight: "Sometimes it's simply a 'Them problem.'" These words have become a personal mantra, reminding me that not everything revolves around me. Often, people are navigating their own internal challenges, projecting their experiences onto us because, in these interactions, we serve as mirrors, reflecting both what they love and dislike about themselves.

I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't reflect on feedback, consider alternative perspectives, or engage in dialogue that leads to understanding. What I am encouraging is clarity in recognizing when someone is attempting to saddle you with their own issues through gaslighting, projection, or a lack of respect for your boundaries.

The key is to be clear about who you are, what you stand for, and what your boundaries are, and then to respect them. We often hold others to standards and boundaries that we ourselves don't respect, and this inconsistency becomes apparent to those around us. Let us learn to identify our truths, establish boundaries, and understand what makes us tick. This self-awareness enables us to gain clarity around our boundaries, set them lovingly, adjust them as needed, and maintain our peace.

Many people haven't learned the practice of setting boundaries and holding space for themselves, so when you do, it may feel disruptive, alarming, or frustrating to others. Perhaps they've never encountered the level of accountability your boundary presents to them. But remember, it takes time for everyone to adapt. Sometimes, it's not malicious gaslighting or an unwillingness to understand; often, it's simply a struggle to process that they've hurt someone or difficulty coping with change. It might even be rooted in their own resentment, seeing that you can hold a boundary firmly, an area they themselves still struggle with.

I've learned over the years that when I first began my healing journey, I went from being boundaryless to suddenly having something akin to the Great Wall of China around my heart, vulnerabilities, and existence. It was as if this newfound choice in adulthood to hold someone else accountable and at bay also felt empowering. The issue is, it can sometimes morph into limits that disconnect us from others and ultimately ourselves. We forget how to feel. We learn to run on autopilot to keep the body and mind safe and this ultimately fuels deeper disconnection than inviting the souls and connections we actually want into our lives. The very walls we developed to protect us or out of simple survival (no shame at all) ultimately become fortresses that keep us in and others out doing the exact opposite of what we most desire; Belonging and connection. I still carry many of my walls and most likely will until my final breath. It's human, but they look more akin to a picket fence. A visible delineator that serves as a mutual understanding but one that I can also see through and vice versa. Holds a boundary while still allowing connection.

In conclusion, there are numerous scenarios that lie beyond your control and have nothing to do with you. Let us all learn to distinguish between what belongs to us and what simply belongs to others.


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