Before I loved myself, I wasn’t able to say no.
I would take on too much at work, because I just knew that if I said no, I would lose my job. I would end up with mountains of work that I couldn’t get done, feel stressed, and there was this nagging sense that I was being exploited.
In relationships, I would take pretty much whatever came my way and just absorb it. Mean comments and jokes at my expense would sit in my skin like splinters, festering within while I “laughed” it off, thinking if I said “stop”, I would lose the people who “loved” me.
My intimate relationships suffered because my “no” was nonexistent so my “yes” was weakened.
Once, I went to a boss when I was feeling completely overwhelmed and begged him to help me. He said “I will set this boundary for you now, but it’s your job to keep it” and he handed me a book titled “Margins”. It was my first introduction into creating and learning to keep boundaries (Thanks, Pastor Russell!).
I began to learn where I stopped and another started. I learned that it was my divine right to be able to say “no” when something didn’t feel right, or if I just didn’t want to. I began to learn the beauty of not living to please others and as I begin to create my own sacred space, I learned to love myself.
I learned that boundaries are not a rejection but an act of love.
Boundaries are a way of keeping ourselves safe and a way of communicating to others our worth. In Bible times, the inner sanctum of the tabernacle was called “the holy of holies”. No one but the high priest could enter there and that was only once a year. To get to the holy of holies, the priest would go through a series of sanctification rituals in order to purify himself. No one could enter the holy of holies — it was a sacred space that one must enter with reverence and with the level of respect due such a high place.
When we know that we are divine beings — souls having a human experience — we too begin to recognize that we are our own Holy of Holies. Not anyone, or anything, can enter such a sacred space without first being prepared. Just like you wouldn’t allow someone to march through your house with muddy boots, as you know who you are, you stop letting people drag mud into your space. You learn to say no. You learn to tell people to clean up their act before coming into your sacred space.
Those boundaries are a gift to yourself. Your space –physical, mental, spiritual and emotional — are no longer tainted and when they are, you know how to correct course. Every time you say “no” to something that is causing you pain, or isn’t in your highest good, you are guarding the door to your sacred center.
They are also a gift to others — when you say “no” to a person who is metaphorically dragging mud into your home, you are letting them know that they are not welcome to do that. Your boundaries will either challenge them to “clean up” or they will choose to remain the same but you’re willing to name the issue, which gives them an opportunity to see it as well.
Setting boundaries is an act of love, for the self and the other because if I care enough to set a boundary, it means I am invested in the relationship.
It means I trust you enough to reveal my innermost core and show you how to take care of it. If I didn’t care, I would simply distance myself or walk away completely. Setting a boundary is essentially saying, “I love you too much to let you behave this way unchecked”.
In therapy, we talk about setting a container for the work to happen. In that container, there are certain things that are acceptable, things that are not and certain behaviors that can be expected. Setting boundaries sets a container for our own lives, our relationships and helps us keep ourselves safe while teaching those around us how to treat us. When others set boundaries with us, it does the same.
Boundaries are not a rejection; they are a container within which love, honesty, integrity and compassion can thrive. It is only within those parameters that love can truly thrive.