What it means to have boundaries with yourself

This one single topic I believe can change your life forever.  Stay with me here, this isn’t an infomercial.  I want to share with you the idea that the boundaries you have with yourself can drastically affect the relationships you have with yourself, with God, with your friends, family, coworkers.  How in the world do you have a boundary with yourself?  What is a boundary anyways?

First we need to define what a boundary is.  It’s much like a house with a yard and a fence.  I often think of my emotional self as a “house” with different “rooms” (parts of myself).  I also have a “porch” where decisions take place: It’s there that I decide what I’m willing to take inside my “house” (my emotional self).  For example, when someone gives me a compliment I literally picture it as someone giving me flowers on my door step.  I choose to bring them inside to admire them for a while. Those flowers (compliments) look good, smell good, and brighten my day in my home but do not determine its worth or valueMy house is the same whether or not there are flowers inside.  Another example would be when some people try to hand me a heaping pile of steaming poo that also looks like a guilt trip.  I can choose to bring it inside into my house where I have to smell it and hold it and cry over the effects of this lingering gift.  Or I can stand on my porch and hand it right back to them and say “currently I am not accepting guilt trips.”  No poo in my house!  But outside my house is my yard with a fence. It separates me from other people, everyone in fact.  I am the only one who lives in my house and it is my job to protect it.  Sometimes I have neighbors on the other side of my fence that I call friends and family who help me from time to time but ultimately this is my responsibility to decide who comes in and out.  If someone crosses that line without being invited there will be consequences.  Now, don’t get me wrong I do let people in.  Those people have my trust and I allow them into my home, some people different rooms than others.  This is the vulnerability glue that holds us together with other humans.  It is part of our ingrained primal instincts to be a part of our herd, our humanness.  Some let others come and go in and out of their house, leaving it in ruins, with little value because they didn’t protect their fence line and then resent them for ruining their house.  Others have let no one in their house in years because someone tried to burn it down once- so they live like hoarders with piles of stuff they haven’t gone through.  So much so, they can’t even walk around, they just stay in one room.  (Are you following, this analogy is getting deep…)

So now we are operating under the assumption that our emotional selves are a house with one owner and it is our job to protect the house, yard and fence.  What happens when someone crosses it uninvited? It really depends on what it is. Maybe the person didn’t see it – they didn’t know it was there and you just need to bring it to their attention- in a kind way.  Like “Hey I saw you texted me last night.  I turn my ringer off at 8:30 so I won’t be answering any texts or phone calls after that.”  Or maybe you need to reinforce it:  “Like I said before, I don’t want your wet bathing suit to be left on the floor.  Please respect our household rules or there will be consequences.” But sometimes people do not respect your boundaries and mow over them- almost challenging you to enforce them: “Next time you choose to come to my house without calling me first you will not be allowed in.”

The main thing that makes a boundary a boundary isn’t the fence – it is what happens if someone crosses it. Otherwise, why would it be there? Consequences to boundaries ideally should be considered at the same time of placing the boundary; Although, sometimes you don’t have time to think about it, because you thought it wouldn’t be crossed. For instance, a guy grabs your butt at a party- do you slap them?  Tell them off?  Call the police and file a report?  The last one is a bit extreme but you get the point.  The consequence should be one that “fits” your conviction to the boundary. If you don’t want your mother-in-law absolutely to not give your children ice cream, and this is extremely important to you, then you may threaten that they may not spend time together unsupervised.  But this may not be an issue for others.

One reason I am in love with PD (personal development) is because I realized I get to grow and learn and become a better version of myself through teaching myself things like boundaries.  A fascination with psychology of humans, I suppose.  Because, like many others, I didn’t grow up in a household where these things were talked about, or even known about.  I am so grateful and honored that I get to be the one to stop these patterns of behavior and instill them in later generations.  I get to alter the course of my own family and help others do the same.  I am by no means perfect and need do overs, permission slips to be human, and have to clean up messy deliveries of information.  But that’s ok because that means that I’m trying and that I care.

Which brings me to my main point- we know how to have boundaries with other people and the consequences but how do we have boundaries with ourselves?  This is something so many people struggle with and it looks like self-control– which is a piece of boundaries anyways. It takes self-control to not blow up on your husband for not putting his dishes in the sink.  Instead of yelling (which is what we want to do because we probably feel unappreciated) is realizing first that it is NORMAL that we want to yell- we are being human.  But we have evolved and realize that he is also human, we assume he did not have ill-willed intention toward you, we give him grace and say “Hey babe, I saw you left your dishes in the sink after dinner.  It would really mean a lot to me if you put them in the dishwasher next time.”  Chances are when your husband, who loves and cares for you, hears that kind request, instead of yelling, he will probably respond with a willingness to help- rather than look for a spiteful defense from the attack of all the yelling.

Grace + Self-control + Kindness = Boundaries with self (aka a term I’m going to coin as Autogenous Boundaries).

What does this look like?

I go through a process in my head.  For an easy example let’s say there’s a warm chocolate chip cookie in the breakroom at work. I’ve been on a diet and lost two pounds and really I don’t want to eat the cookie because I know it will derail the rest of the day.  But my salad is gone from my stomach already and I have 3 hours left of work.  So first I acknowledge my primal human self: “Of course you want to have that cookie! It looks and smells so good and you’re hungry!”  Then I set the Autogenous Boundary: “But the reality is you know what will happen if you eat the cookie, it negates the salad you worked so hard to choke down and will probably come with a autogenous guilt trip which will mean a stop for some fried chicken on the way home.  So if you decide to eat that cookie you will regret it and not lose the weight OR you will have to have that protein shake for dinner (consequences).”  It sounds simple because it is.

Something I was not taught, but now that I am in my thirties, I am fortunate to have learned what types and flavors of abuse there are: physical, emotional, spiritual, verbal, sexual, and there may be more.  I wish everyone was taught not to accept certain behaviors but also how to have Autogenous Boundaries to avoid it themselves.  Behaviors I may have used to but no longer tolerate without exception are:

  • Violations of my body (physical or sexual aggression or threats)
  • Name calling and belittling
  • Violent intimidation, threats, or violent behavior (slamming doors, throwing things, breaking things, punching things)
  • False accusations of my intentions
  • Snarky comments
  • Blaming
  • Guilt trips
  • “Always and never” statements
  • Cursing
  • Voice raising
  • Actual finger pointing
  • Threat of harm to myself or other living things, including suicide

These things stay on the other side of the fence and if they occur all kinds of alarms get set off. Once, I went to buy a clock from someone.  It was not as described and was broken.  I politely declined to buy the piece.  They then started cursing, yelling, and threatening to “beat up” my husband who was not present.  I quickly removed myself from the scene and filed a police report.  While some might say “he called you a mean name get over it,” he threatened the safety of my husband and disrespected my boundary of how I feel I deserve to be treated.  You teach people how to treat you based on what you tolerate- what you allow will continue. That is a necessary piece to drive the whole idea of boundaries- your house has to be worth protection TO YOU, regardless of the value others place on your house.  (Click on What God Says About Me for how to find value in your house).  It is how you (and God) value your house- whether it is a pristine mansion or a shaky shack- it’s up to you to place enough value on it to protect it.  Whatever kind of house you have emotionally it is worth protecting at all costs.  Until you can believe that, you will not have the stamina to protect it.  If you don’t currently identify with that statement: “my (emotional) house is worth protecting at all costs,” you can use progressive language like “I’m figuring out how to value my house,” or “I’m on my way to see what it looks like to value my house in order to protect it.” If you are consistent then eventually you can believe it.

So now we have our valuable house with a yard and fence and we are standing on the porch with a gun. Okay, maybe not a gun, maybe welcoming arms with a discerning alarm system.  These alarm systems are like muscles – the more you use them the better they become.  So don’t beat yourself up if you are “trigger happy” when you first start to protect your fence line.  But trust your gut- if it smells fishy it’s usuallya fish.

All this lead up to say: Autogenous Boundaries are like boundaries with others, except with yourself. Acknowledge the human wants and gut reactions.  Give yourself grace and an allowance to be a human.  Then understand the consequences and don’t allow yourself to fall into patterns of behavior because you didn’t have good boundaries with yourself.  This is how people gain weight, get lazy at work, gain additions, quit brushing their teeth, live their life being swallowed in unnecessary guilt and shame, and tolerate being a people-pleasing doormat.  (How to be a Christian without being a doormat). I have heard myself in an argument say in my head “no self, you’re not going to say that!” Or “If you don’t brush your teeth I’m going to spank you!”-not a real consequence.  But what about a mom who has a child with an addiction: “Of course you want to give him money to get his car out of impound, but we are not going to do that because he has to suffer the consequences of his own actions.”  Or the very rampant problem, infidelity?  Go through the process: “Of course you want to go flirt with the security guard at work. You have been going through a lot in your marriage lately.  It’s human to crave belonging.  BUT there are some SERIOUS consequences to that- so we are not going to do that.  We will instead avoid the temptation and take the stairs.”  (Just to clarify that was a made up scenario). But you get the idea.

If we can give ourselves grace for our human wants, and even primal needs, then we can better set behavioral boundaries with ourselves- whether it’s about our weight, our arguments, our addictions, or our relationships. That understanding will then free us to live our best life- one that we can be proud of.

 “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us. power, love, and self-discipline.” -II Timothy 1:7

Photo credit: Lauren Garrison Photography

What God Says About Me…

I’ve been meaning to post something sooner- I have a lot of posts started but haven’t finished yet. In the mean time we’ve experienced two deaths in our family, traveling, a pipe burst, Christmas and all its glory, etc etc. So I dug into my “archives” from early in my journey with God. I am very grateful for my journaling because I can look back and, not only see how far I’ve come, but also remind myself of things I’ve forgotten.

Sometimes I get hung up in finding material for my blog. I’ll spend two hours writing something and then I’ll say to myself: “This isn’t good enough.” Or “This is too basic and common sense.” But I have to remind myself – if I think I’m a 5 or 6 on the knowledge scale then I get to help the 3’s and 4’s, not the 7’s and 8’s.

Just this morning I heard about a study where people who were trying to change their habits were either instructed to say “I can’t” versus “I don’t.” Those who said “I don’t” were far more successful at avoiding the unwanted behavior than those who said “I can’t” because “I don’t” is associated with their identity. It’s who you are. Such a small change but a good reminder. It’s all semantics. How we talk to ourselves can be life giving or take the wind completely out of our sails. I get it. When someone else your entire life has told you unkind things about yourself- these can be hard to dispel. But you didn’t believe those bad things right away- you were convinced after the repetition. To replace the good with the bad it takes repetition. And you won’t always believe it. But don’t forget WHOSE you are. This is why I personally need to read the Bible every day. (I’ve just started the ‘read the Bible in 365’ plan on the Bible app! You can do it with friends too!) I need the constant reminder to love myself and others, to remind me that I am wanted and loved and pursued. I even saved this picture of Jesus laughing to my phone lock screen. I needed to picture Him as my best friend, not the angry judge above me. I’d imagine him reclined in the chair beside me, so intrigued and intently listening to what I say.

Once in my life I only cared what others thought of me. My favorite adjective was the F bomb. The tighter my clothes the better. The dirtier my jokes the funnier. I thought my only value was in my body and my ability to earn money. Any and all transformation is absolutely God’s doing (for His glory) and I am forever grateful for His guidance and freedom from my shackles.

So without further ado I give you my list of things I felt God saying to me as I first started to read, pray, and study the Bible. This is what the Holy Spirit did inside of me those mornings I couldn’t wait to get up at 4:30am to spend time with Him. I hope it touches your soul.

What God says about me

I love you.

I appreciate you.

I am grateful for you.

You are a rare and beautiful treasure.

I forgive you. Even for the things you’re not sorry for.

I’m proud of you. I’m proud to be your dad.

I smile and laugh and clap with unending joy for you.

I created everything for you and want you to enjoy it. You are why I do everything I do.

I want to spend time with you because you are important to me.

You are worth listening to, worthy of sacrifice, worthy of time and love and attention.

I hold you to a high standard.

You’re free from bondage.

I give you grace, undeserved favor. No matter what you do I will always love you and pursue you.

I’m not going to beat you up for what Jesus already got beat up for.

You have a special calling today.

I believe in you and I’m cheering and clapping and jumping for you.

I believe you will succeed.

I’m not going to give up on you.

I relentlessly pursue you.

I’m not going to give you what you think you deserve.

You are my prized possession.

I am patient with you. I am ready when you are.

I will come to you wherever you are.

I have compassion for you.

I get you. I understand what you’re going through. Don’t give up.

Everything you do- do it for me.

I delight in you.

My power that raises the dead to life is in you.

I give you infinite peace.

I am your greatest comfort and hold you in my hand. Close your eyes and surround yourself with my warm arms of grace.

I have bottled every one of your tears because your pain is important to me.

I’ve put you in my parade of victory and triumph.

I never grow tired or weary- you can depend on me. I will make you strong physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

Do not be shy or ashamed- you are free from all guilt and regret.

Trust me. I will always be honest.

I’m renewing your spirit and give you endless hope.

Don’t worry, you won’t be on earth for long before I bring you to my home with me. I’m preparing your castle. You’re going to love it.

Everything awesome is from me, my gift to you.

The old you is gone. I’m proud of the you that you’ve become.

No matter what you’re going through in right here. I’ll never leave you.

I’ve made you brand new. You are my bride. Your dress is sparkling white.

Celebrate your weaknesses for without them I could not work inside you. I need you to need me.

Trials are my way of making you strong. You’re tough and I’m preparing you for something amazing. You’ll see.

Please don’t doubt me- I will give you all the knowledge, wisdom, and things you need. Let me be enough for you.

I will never tempt you- I will show you the way out, just ask.

Isaiah 9:6

Isaiah 25:8

2 Corinthians 2:14

Isaiah 40:28-29

2 Corinthians 3:17

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Isaiah 41:10

2 Cor. 5:17

Isaiah 43:2

2 Corinthians 5:21

2 Corinthians 12:9

James 1:2-4

James 1:5-6

James 1:13

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Fear Camping

A couple weeks ago I was talking to someone who is afraid of heights- even 2nd story balconies gets them woozy. I thought of the most extreme heights activity: sleeping, hanging on the side of a mountain (cliff camping). I asked if they could do that for a briefcase full of cash (my favorite game of inquiry). Their response was so intriguing to me I’m still thinking about it weeks later:

“If I had to do that I think I would just jump.”

To clarify I asked, “so you’re saying you’d do the very thing you were afraid of happening just to avoid the feeling?

“Yes.”

Ok y’all let’s break this down. Let’s say you’re doing something that causes a heaping amount of fear (stuttering while public speaking, standing up to your boss) so you DO the thing you’re afraid of happening- you end up stuttering during your speech, you appear timid when standing up to your boss. To avoid the feeling of fear you just jump right off the cliff into the pit. By this we can deduce that:

The pain of dying (jumping into the feared action) is less than the PAIN of fear.

Satan loves fear! We literally become self-fulfilling prophesies by jumping to the thing that we fear happening. Since then I’ve called this scenario jumping off the cliff. For example, your mom makes a triggering comment that makes you FEEL like there’s a hint of rejection in it. Rather than sit there in your “fear-filled cliff hammock” and just FEEL THE FEAR, you jump off the cliff and go strait to rejecting HER with the cold shoulder or a snarky comment. It’s more comfortable to sit in that familiar pain than to feel the feeling of fear.

There’s nothing wrong with being afraid- fear is one of those instincts gifted to us by God to keep us safe. Without it we would surely die to lions and tigers and bears (oh my!). But fear is just an EMOTION- like sadness, excitement- it is just another red light in our dash board. Our emotions (dash lights) alert us to POSSIBLE issues. As with any emotion- anger, sadness- it matters what you DO when you’re feeling these feelings. Feelings will always come and go but you have the CHOICE of what to do when they come.

Once in my late teens my “service engine light” came on the dash of my car. I informed my mom and she told me to service it right away because it could be a serious issue. I took my car into the shop. They ran a $75 test. The results came back as my gas cap wasn’t screwed on tight enough. I was thankful it wasn’t an expensive issue – but it was a $75 lesson. Likewise, our emotions are warning lights that show up on our theoretical ‘feelings dashboard.’ They are only there to alert us of a POSSIBLE problem. It takes our discernment and wisdom to run the “test” and decide if it’s the transmission or a screw cap came loose (hah!).

Where we live in the Midwest of the USA we are mostly threat free majority of the time- we get in our vehicles, go to work, pick up the kids, do homework, go out to eat, watch a movie, go to bed. Very little actual threats to our lives happen- there are no bears jumping out of bushes, no wolves hiding in the darkness. But we still maintain the dashboard lights for these primal instincts. So we replace them with other threats: fear of rejection, fear of the unknown, fear of heights, fear of loneliness, fear of intimacy, fear of imperfection.

I invite you to take notice of what your fears are. Thank your soul for giving you these fears in order to help keep you safe. Then make a note of what your actions are when you’re afraid. Are you doing the very thing you’re afraid of? Are you becoming a self-fulfilling prophesy?

I’m a firm believer in the theory of thought: Whatever you think you are, you are.

What is the connection between fear, faith?

“As He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him. Suddenly, a violent storm arose on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves. But He was sleeping. So the disciples came and woke Him up, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to die! ” But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, you of little faith? ” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea. And there was a great calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? — even the winds and the sea obey Him! ””

Matthew 8:23-27 HCSB

The only weapon we have to combat fear is faith.

I don’t have to fear if my Heavenly Father loves me- I know he always will. I don’t have to fear how I’m going to pay the bills if my husband divorces me- I know God will find a way. I don’t have to fear what I will do with my life after my house has burned down- I know God will provide. I don’t have to fear what the girls are saying about me behind my back- I know who I am in Christ.

Let me remind you that you have been given an incredible power. You can call upon it at any time! Give voice to your fears, tell God about them. And then tell your fears these truths:

“For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.”

2 Timothy 1:7 HCSB

http://bible.com/72/2ti.1.7.hcsb

There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear involves punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love.”

1 John 4:18 HCSB

“Cast all your care on Him, because He cares about you.”

1 Peter 5:7 HCSB

“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable — if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise — dwell on these things.”

Philippians 4:8 HCSB

“I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.””

John 16:33 HCSB

“The Lord is the One who will go before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not be afraid or discouraged.””

Deuteronomy 31:8 HCSB

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Remember that one time when…

My first post! I hesitated immensely and really thought for a while about what I wanted MY FIRST post to be. It sets the tone. Where do I want to take this? How much sharing about my personal life do I want to divulge? What’s the theme? (Cue eighth grade writing assignment nightmares).

It just so happens that yesterday marks the 3 year anniversary of a decision I took that would change my life forever. No, I didn’t decide to become sober (a very brave thing indeed). But I did choose to embrace the fact that life is short and that I’m the one in control of how it goes (for the most part).

August 12, 2014 was the last day I would be who I “was.”

August 13, 2014 I sped home at 7am after my 24 hour call shift at the hospital. I walked in, looked at everything for about 10 seconds, not knowing where to start or what to do. Then I snapped out of it and quickly starting snatching overnight bags, stuffing them full of essential clothing and toiletries I could quickly get my hands on. In the silence of me standing in my bedroom after zipping my bag I heard the front door unlock as clear and loud as I’ve ever heard it. I sprung to the bedroom patio door and bolted out as fast as I could around to the side gate. It truly was in slow motion, like a bad dream, trying to run through quick sand. I sprinted as fast as I could until I got about 3 houses down-literally running FOR my life. I peered back over my shoulder to see the 6’1″ man standing there in the front yard staring at me in his white t-shirt and work jeans. The rest of this story involves me waiting at flagpole for the police to come (God’s symbol of my freedom). Three hours later the two police cars would drive off, I would hug my neighbor goodbye, my mom, her friend (I had never met before), and myself would drive to my new sanctuary.

THAT was the day I made the very brave decision to leave the abuse, the gaslighting, the threats, the narcissism, the lies, the blaming, the victimization, and the martyring in my marriage.

This blog isn’t JUST going to be about the perils of abuse. But whatever topic presents itself I always want to bring it back around to “The Fruits of the Spirit.” I want to notice the God in my life. Feeling Him move and seeing His plan come into action. I owe all I am today to the one moment, on my bed, feeling absolutely hopeless, pleading: “God save me. If you do exist you HAVE to do something to help me. Because if you can’t then no one can.”

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light — for the fruit of the light results in all goodness, righteousness, and truth —”
Ephesians 5:8-9 HCSB