Stella Marin

Self-Love | Energy Healing | Coaching | Alchemy

Boundaries: The What, The How, The Why

Stella MarinComment
When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable, we feel used and mistreated. This is why we sometimes attack who they are, which is far more hurtful than addressing a behavior or a choice.
— Brene Brown

First and foremost, boundaries are about self-respect and valuing yourself and your time, AND respecting and valuing others. There are many reasons why a person may have a lack of boundaries, and they manifest in a variety of ways, but they all stem from how you feel about yourself.

Setting clear personal boundaries is the key to ensuring relationships are mutually respectful, supportive and caring. Boundaries are the limits you set for acceptable behavior from those around you, determining whether they feel able to put you down, make fun, or take advantage of your good nature.

Weak boundaries leave you vulnerable and likely to be taken for granted or used by others. Having self- respect shows others how you expect to be treated- people will only treat you as well as you treat yourself. Boundaries also protect you from harmful and unhealthy relationships, and help you avoid getting too close to people who don’t have your best interests at heart.

Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.
— Brené Brown

The two main boundaries are physical and emotional.

Physical boundaries need to be strong in order to protect you from physical harm; they include your body, your sense of personal space, sexual orientation and privacy. Other physical boundaries involve clothing, shelter, safety, money, space, noise, etc.

If you’re familiar with the show, Seinfeld, there were two episodes where Elaine is dating a guy named, Aaron, who is dubbed a “close-talker.” A close-talker is a person who stands unusually close to others when speaking to them, in essence disrupting the person's personal space. While it makes for entertaining comedy on t.v., in real life it can be quite uncomfortable.

Other examples of physical boundary crossing may include:
• Inappropriate touching, and/or making unwanted sexual advances.
• Looking through others personal belongings, files, mail, social media messages, text messages, etc.
• Not allowing others their personal space. An example would be barging into your boss’s office without knocking.

Emotional and intellectual boundaries are equally as important. They protect your sense of self-worth and respect, and your ability to separate your feelings from the feelings of others. When you have weak emotional boundaries you expose yourself to being greatly affected by others feelings and can end up feeling bruised, wounded and battered. This is especially difficult to deal with if you’re an empath! I had to learn the hard way that no amount of tourmaline, sage, and essential oils was going to protect me from other people’s energy zapping. While those tools can be helpful, you have to create an internal energy shield first. I learned that I am NOT responsible for another’s feelings, especially when my intentions are in my highest alignment, but I AM responsible for MY feelings. This meant learning not to take things personally, learning to stick up for myself, having the courage to speak my truth and honor my feelings, and learning that not only am I entitled to say no to whatever doesn’t feel good me, but I don’t have to feel guilty about it either! I don’t know how many times I’ve said “yes” to something I didn’t want to do, only to be left scrambling for a way out, or stuck dealing with my decision out of guilt. Guilt is a feeling that helps no one, and harms ourselves. While a healthy human would naturally feel guilt after doing something they have deemed as “wrong,” a healthy person will also know they don’t need to feel guilt about putting themselves and their well being first, or allowing another to make them feel bad for their choices.

Emotional and intellectual boundaries also include beliefs, behaviors, choices, relationships, responsibilities, and your ability to be intimate with others.

Some examples of a lack of emotional and intellectual boundaries are:

• Taking responsibility for another’s feelings. Not knowing how to separate your feelings from your partners and allowing their moods to dictate your level of happiness, sadness, etc.
• Sacrificing your plans, dreams, and goals in order to please others.
• Not taking responsibility for your self and blaming others for your problems.
• Telling others what to think, feel, behave, etc.

I’m never more courageous than when I’m embracing imperfection, embracing vulnerabilities, and setting boundaries with the people in my life.
— Brené Brown

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Boundaries

Setting boundaries is essential if we want to be both physically and emotionally healthy. Strong boundaries help maintain balance, self-respect and allow us to be interdependent in intimate relationships. A lack of boundaries is like leaving the door to your home wide open, anyone, including un-welcome guests, can walk in without hesitation. On the other hand, having rigid boundaries leads to loneliness and isolation, and is like having a fortress around yourself. This will lead to problems in intimacy in significant relationships, and unhealthy boundaries cause deep emotional pain that can lead to dependency, depression, anxiety and physical illness.

Healthy Boundaries allow us to:

• Be assertive by stating opinions, thoughts, feelings and needs in a respectful manner; ability to say yes or no, and are okay when others say no
• Separate needs, thoughts, feelings and desires from others
• Empower us to make healthy choices and take responsibility for oneself
• Have high self-esteem and self respect
• Share personal information gradually, in a mutually sharing/trusting relationship
• Protect physical and emotional space from invasion or intrusion
• Take care of our own needs
• Have an equal partnership where responsibility and power are shared

Unhealthy boundaries are characterized by:

• Inability to say no, due to fear of rejection or abandonment.
• A weak sense of your own identity; you live to serve others.
• Disempowerment; others hold the power and make decisions for you. Consequentially, you have no power or are not taking responsibility for your life
• Inability to protect your physical and emotional space from intrusion.
• Feeling responsible for other’s happiness and satisfaction

Think about your current boundaries and ask:

  • How much attention do people expect from you at a moment’s notice?

  • Do you always make yourself available? (e.g. do you answer the phone no matter what’s going on? This drives me crazy to watch people do this!)

  • Do you say, “yes” to things you don’t want to do in order to appease others?

  • Do the same scenarios keep playing themselves out in your life? (For example, I used to feel that people were always finding ways to scold me for things I did wrong.)

Dr. Dana Gionta, a psychologist and coach, has ten ways to help you build and preserve better boundaries:

1. Name your limits.

You can’t set good boundaries if you’re unsure of where you stand. So identify your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual limits. Consider what you can tolerate and accept and what makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed. Those feelings help us identify what our limits are.

2. Tune into your feelings.

Gionta has observed two key feelings in others that are red flags or cues that we’re letting go of our boundaries: discomfort and resentment. She suggested thinking of these feelings on a continuum from one to 10. Six to 10 is in the higher zone, she said.

If you’re at the higher end of this continuum, during an interaction or in a situation, Gionta suggested asking yourself, what is causing that? What is it about this interaction, or the person’s expectation that is bothering me?

Resentment usually “comes from being taken advantage of or not appreciated.” It’s often a sign that we’re pushing ourselves either beyond our own limits because we feel guilty (and want to be a good daughter or wife, for instance), or someone else is imposing their expectations, views or values on us, she said.

“When someone acts in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable, that’s a cue to us they may be violating or crossing a boundary,” Gionta said.

3. Be direct.

With some people, maintaining healthy boundaries doesn’t require a direct and clear-cut dialogue. Usually, this is the case if people are similar in their communication styles, views, personalities and general approach to life, Gionta said. They’ll “approach each other similarly.”

With others, such as those who have a different personality or cultural background, you’ll need to be more direct about your boundaries. Consider the following example: “one person feels [that] challenging someone’s opinions is a healthy way of communicating,” but to another person this feels disrespectful and tense.

There are other times you might need to be direct. For instance, in a romantic relationship, time can become a boundary issue, Gionta said. Partners might need to talk about how much time they need to maintain their sense of self and how much time to spend together.

4. Give yourself permission.

Fear, guilt and self-doubt are big potential pitfalls, Gionta said. We might fear the other person’s response if we set and enforce our boundaries. We might feel guilty by speaking up or saying no to a family member. Many believe that they should be able to cope with a situation or say yes because they’re a good daughter or son, even though they “feel drained or taken advantage of.” We might wonder if we even deserve to have boundaries in the first place.

Boundaries aren’t just a sign of a healthy relationship; they’re a sign of self-respect. So give yourself the permission to set boundaries and work to preserve them.

5. Practice self-awareness.

Again, boundaries are all about honing in on your feelings and honoring them. If you notice yourself slipping and not sustaining your boundaries, Gionta suggested asking yourself: What’s changed? Consider “What I am doing or [what is] the other person doing?” or “What is the situation eliciting that’s making me resentful or stressed?” Then, mull over your options: “What am I going to do about the situation? What do I have control over?”

6. Consider your past and present.

How you were raised along with your role in your family can become additional obstacles in setting and preserving boundaries. If you held the role of caretaker, you learned to focus on others, letting yourself be drained emotionally or physically, Gionta said. Ignoring your own needs might have become the norm for you.

Also, think about the people you surround yourself with, she said. “Are the relationships reciprocal?” Is there a healthy give and take?

Beyond relationships, your environment might be unhealthy, too. For instance, if your workday is eight hours a day, but your co-workers stay at least 10 to 11, “there’s an implicit expectation to go above and beyond” at work, Gionta said. It can be challenging being the only one or one of a few trying to maintain healthy boundaries, she said. Again, this is where tuning into your feelings and needs and honoring them becomes critical.

7. Make self-care a priority.

Gionta helps her clients make self-care a priority, which also involves giving yourself permission to put yourself first. When we do this, “our need and motivation to set boundaries become stronger,” she said. Self-care also means recognizing the importance of your feelings and honoring them. These feelings serve as “important cues about our wellbeing and about what makes us happy and unhappy.”

Putting yourself first also gives you the “energy, peace of mind and positive outlook to be more present with others and be there” for them.” And “When we’re in a better place, we can be a better wife, mother, husband, co-worker or friend.”

8. Seek support.

If you’re having a hard time with boundaries, “seek some support, whether [that’s a] support group, church, counseling, coaching or good friends.” With friends or family, you can even make “it a priority with each other to practice setting boundaries together [and] hold each other accountable.”

Consider seeking support through resources, too. Gionta likes the following books: The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a Time and Boundaries Updated and Expanded Edition: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life.

Also, if you haven’t noticed, I’m a big fan of Brene Brown, so check out her books as well- they helped me!

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn't): Making the Journey from "What Will People Think?" to "I Am Enough"

Rising Strong: How the Ability to Reset Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead

9. Be assertive.

Of course, we know that it’s not enough to create boundaries; we actually have to follow through. Even though we know intellectually that people aren’t mind readers, we still expect others to know what hurts us, Gionta said. Since they don’t, it’s important to assertively communicate with the other person when they’ve crossed a boundary.

In a respectful way, let the other person know what in particular is bothersome to you and that you can work together to address it, Gionta said.

10. Start small.

Like any new skill, assertively communicating your boundaries takes practice. Gionta suggested starting with a small boundary that isn’t threatening to you, and then incrementally increasing to more challenging boundaries. “Build upon your success, and [at first] try not to take on something that feels overwhelming.”

“Setting boundaries takes courage, practice and support,” Gionta said. And remember that it’s a skill you can master.

As time goes on, your boundaries may require updating. Perhaps the time you can give to others is much more limited after starting a new relationship or having a baby. Redefining your boundaries may mean swapping the belief “I want to please others” to “I value my time and want to keep some for myself.”

Bear in mind that those close to you may not be fully supportive in your attempts to change. They have been used to the old ways of doing things. As with any life change, extending boundaries has a price, and this may be losing acquaintances along the way. Of course, those relationships that are worth having will survive, and grow stronger.

Tactics to Deal with Objections

  • Be consistent with your new boundaries

  • Keep them simple

  • Stay calm at all times

  • Be responsible for your own emotional reactions rather than blaming other people

  • If it appears you need to compromise, be flexible, but take it slowly and don’t agree to anything that doesn’t feel right

Once you have established strong, clear boundaries, people will give you more respect. This means you can be yourself to a greater extent, asking for what you really want and need without fear of judgment. Emotional manipulators will back off and in their place sustainable, loving relationships will thrive. I can’t ever stress this enough, but when you change your inside world, the outside world changes to match up to your vibrations and feelings.

If boundaries are so helpful and necessary, then why are they so hard to set and keep? Fear. We’re scared that the person will be hurt or mad. Scared they won’t like us. Scared that the relationship will end.

But what is scarier is being in unhealthy relationships or tolerating behavior that feels hurtful. For relationships to grow, there are sometimes growing pains. The other person may very well get hurt or angry. You are not responsible for their reaction. You are responsible for communicating honestly and with love.

Remember: being loving is being real, authentic and courageous. Consider what boundaries it may be time to set to grow yourself and your relationships. There are plethora of examples I can give you as to how setting boundaries have completely changed by life for the better, but wait until my auto-biography haha. I can tell you that it began with setting boundaries with men. I learned that I don’t owe a man anything, I don’t have to tolerate uncomfortable or unwelcome conversation or behavior, and I can say NO whenever I want. I learned to be honest with friends, and to just say if I don’t feel up to making plans. I eventually learned how to set boundaries with my parents, mostly my father, so that I would no longer succumb to his manipulation and guilt tactics. Remember, you don’t owe anyone anything! I have created boundaries with bosses, co-workers, romantic partners, my child, and strangers. And most importantly, I realized I am not, and never need to be, a victim. When you start to see the results, it just gets easier and easier, and it makes life feel sooooooo much better and lighter!

The truth is, I wasn’t able to set theses boundaries until I decided that I deserve better, and I was going to start letting the world know. So I’m telling you, YOU are SO worth it! I respect you, now get out there and respect yourself. Discover your true, authentic self, then get out there and show it to the world!

Living a connected life ultimately is about setting boundaries, spending less time and energy hustling and winning over people who don’t matter, and seeing the value of working on cultivating connection with family and close friends.
— Brené Brown

February’s Theme: Self-Love Challenge!

Stella MarinComment

In my twenties, I thought I loved myself. I thought I was the greatest thing ever. What I really had was a huge ego that was a mask for all of the things I hated about myself. I didn't even realize it until I embarked on my journey to self-discovery and self-love, a journey that is lifelong. The more I worked on myself and switched to a more positive mindset, the more my life began to change for the better. Over the years, my relationship with my daughter improved, I began to feel happier more often, and I started realizing how unhappy I was in my last relationship, and that I should probably do something about it. 

The more I loved myself, the more friends I lost, and my ex and I grew even further apart, but of course, this was all for the better. The more I loved myself, it started becoming painfully clear to me how many people don't truly love and value themselves. They (myself included) stay in jobs, relationships, homes, and situations that make them miserable. They blame others for their problems. They wonder why they keep meeting the same types of toxic people and keep ending up in the same situations. They worry what other people think about them. They need everyone to like them. They beat themselves up. They're perfectionists or complete “failures.” Or, like I was, both. They don't respect and value their time, their worth, and their energy. I am still one of those people from time to time.

I have become self aware of when the lack of self love is showing up in my life- any time I experience anxiety, disappointment, impatience, frustration, anger, tension, or any feelings of lacking worth or not having my needs met, I realize I’m being triggered and not giving myself the love I need in that moment. It happens less and less often, and for shorter periods of time, but now I am able to sit and observe these feelings, and figure out what I need to give myself in order to feel better. Like I mentioned, I had a big ego to tame, and it still roars from time to time.

We are human, and life is a mystery. It can be really easy to become negative minded, especially in the societies we've created for ourselves over the centuries. We live in a world ruled by patriarchy, commercialism and corrupt governments that want to keep us down. They want us to be miserable, mindless drones, greedy for the next thing they want to spoon feed us and take our money for. Self-love takes constant work on a daily basis for life, and it can mean something different for everyone. Every person is on their own individual path, with their own particular set of needs. The most important thing to remember is that YOU and only YOU are responsible for those needs. YOU are in charge of your life, YOUR happiness, YOUR feelings. You don't need someone else to love you, adore you, compliment you, lift you up, etc. Only we can do that for ourselves. If we don't already love and value ourselves, then no amount of love or praise from another will ever be enough. We will never truly believe their words. I am so grateful to have people in my life who support me in every way, people who love me and believe in me. Despite all of my efforts towards self-love over the past six years or so, there are many days when I feel like a failure and a disappointment to everyone in my life. Days where I feel nothing I ever do is right or good enough. And that's OKAY. I have to remind myself why I feel this way. Usually, it stems from childhood, and I have to remember that isn't my life now. I don't have to hold on to those things, and I have the power to change what I believe and how I feel.

(I do a lot inner child work. A lot.) 

No one else's opinions matter; at the end of the day, you need to be happy and satisfied with yourself. Even though I still have my ups and downs, and my 'bad days', I have seen how drastically my life has changed because of self-love. I am less judgmental, far more compassionate, more patient and understanding. Years of anger issues have practically disappeared, and my relationships with others have improved tenfold. I don't take things personally anymore, and I take full responsibility for my feelings without blaming external circumstances or people.* Life has become so much easier and enjoyable.  

*Most of the time

Learning to love myself has taught me how to set boundaries, stick up for myself and my beliefs, to value my time and energy, and to not take shit. I learned who I am and what I'm willing to accept in life. Of course there are still situations that pop up from time to time that are out of my control, but I have learned how to tackle things as they arise and handle them like a big girl...even if I have an anxiety attack after the fact, which is better than when I allowed anxiety to paralyze me from taking any action at all. 

If you're feeling lonely or unloved, start showing up for yourself. Be your own best friend and companion. When you start meeting your own needs and giving yourself the love that you deserve and that is already inside you, you won't feel dependent on someone else...and that's exactly when you'll start attracting the right people and situations into your life. No one can be a better advocate for you than yourself. You already have all of the love you need inside of you. We are all made of love, we just have to start giving it to ourselves, so we can then give it to others. It's easy to think that you're giving your love away without it being returned, but if you don't have a healthy relationship with yourself, and don't send that love to YOU, then the love you give to others won't be healthy either. It will be filled with conditions and endless disappointment. 

I'm telling you these things because I have been through all of it for most of my life, and while I am still a work in progress, it pains me so much to watch the people I love suffer. YOU ARE SO LOVED BY THE UNIVERSE! Discover that love and BE that love; I promise you that miracles will happen! I am so thankful to have learned what unconditional love really is and that it is possible, and I want to start sharing it more with others.

This month, I’ll be posting ways to help you on your journey, like learning what boundaries are/which ones you need/how to set them, and follow along on Instagram for my Self-Love Challenge. Every day, I encourage you to post something that you love about yourself, and use #stellasselflovechallenge so I can follow and support you!

If you're reading this, I love you and you're doing great! 

Rewrite Your Story

Stella MarinComment
Photo: Stella Marin

Photo: Stella Marin

We all have a story we tell ourselves, tell others, or allow others to tell for us. Humans have a need to explain, order, and extract meaning from the chaos of our lives. The stories we tell ourselves don't get fact-checked, but they do have to feel authentic to our personal experience. Our ability to make sense of, and create meaning from, memories (often ones that have become warped or are bias) defines how we feel about ourselves and shapes the identity we create throughout our lives. We can’t change the events of our story, as the past no longer exists, but we can change our perception around the situations we experienced. The first step is no longer wanting to continue playing out the same old story lines over and over again. Is there an area of life you feel stuck in? Do you attract the same types of people into your life over and over? Do similar situations seem to repeat themselves? Do you believe your external circumstances control your life? Do you still believe you are the same person you were 5/10/20 years ago? If you answered yes to any of these questions, or have thought of another reason why you’re ready to change your story, then it’s time to take back control of your life.

I could list many examples of things I have needed to change my story around, but this isn’t my autobiography, so I’ll stick to the catalyst that inspired me to rewrite my personal story:

When I was nine, my parents noticed a change in my behavior and success (or lack of) at school. They sent me to a child therapist to have me evaluated, and a nifty little pamphlet was put together with the results. I don’t remember how old I was when I first found the folder as an adult, but I was in my early twenties I believe. I read it over on multiple occasions, the last time being a few months ago, and each time I cried. I cried not just because I was sad for the little girl that was being discussed, but because even into my 30s, I still felt like that little girl in many ways.

The positive points that were listed felt as though they had never been acknowledged- my IQ score put me in the superior range, I could read a Bernstein Bear’s book in it’s entirety at three and a half, and I was three years above my reading level, and I was essentially described as a caring, loving empath who wanted equality for all, and felt responsible for helping others. Instead, I somehow got trapped in the words that made me feel like something was wrong with me.

I was a people pleaser. I couldn’t handle anyone being upset with me, and I was terrified of letting people down. This led to a life of avoiding confrontation, lying, and having a severe lack of boundaries. According to my report, I had a huge lack of self confidence, and was highly critical of everything I did. I needed to be perfect, but my fear of being wrong and failing overpowered me. I allowed these beliefs to keep me from ever really trying in life; my fear of success kept me small and struggling for many years. I was told I had a mild to moderate visual-motor learning disability, which affected my drawing and math skills….and I have had a few meltdowns in art class at 36 years old.

There’s more, but the point is, I allowed this story to continue to play out for almost three decades. Just like all of the other stories I have allowed myself to believe about myself due to external circumstances, I am finally realizing that it simply is not true. I am not the teen that got bullied, I am not a victim of abuse and manipulation, I’m not less of a mother because I gave birth at 19, I am not the wild child that always has a story to tell, I am not a failure, I am not the black sheep…I am whoever I choose to see myself as. I get to determine who I am and how I feel. I have the power to change my perspective and rewrite my past in a way that feels good to me.

I started by taking a sheet of paper and writing down my old story. I then wrote down my new story on a separate sheet. You can write it out however you like! I started by making a list, and mostly writing opposites, ie. “Old story” I’m irresponsible. “New story” I am responsible for myself and others, and I am doing a great job. You can leave it at that, or start to get more elaborate. If you’re feeling creative, you can rewrite your life story as an actual story! “Once upon a time, there was a little girl who was scared of life, but now she is in love with her life and she is happy and thriving!”

A growing body of research finds that, on paper or out loud, reviewing setbacks after some time and distance, can help people find a new perspective, come to terms with who they've been, better envision who they want to be, and find a way to make a course correction. Reframing helps people see events as opportunities instead of the end of the road. Whatever works best for you, as long you reprogram your mind to let the past go, and reprogram it to be the person you want and deserve to be!