In our lives, and in relationships, we create personal boundaries to define the space we call our own. We set boundaries and say "no" with our words, but even more so with our behavior and actions.
We may tell white lies, come up with excuses, or throw ourselves into activities like work, working out or even volunteering — essentially creating boundaries by making ourselves unavailable.
In this sense, personal boundaries allow us to "locate" ourselves within relationships (or within the world) in a way that's familiar and safe. Our boundaries help us to honor the balance between taking care of ourselves, and taking care of others.
Here are four practices that will empower you to update your personal boundaries and take ownership of your life:
Honor yourself. What parts of your life are in need of care or attention? On a daily basis, find simple ways to honor yourself. Choose three things you like doing every day, and then do them. You might pick something as simple as taking a walk, reading, or having lunch with family or friends. Whatever you choose, know that you deserve to have pleasure, so let pleasure be your guide.
Examine your decisions. Are you living the life you want to live? Or do you feel like you are stuck and don't have a choice in what's happening? In these moments, stop and recognize the feeling of "choicelessness," check your assumptions, and acknowledge the needs and desires you're afraid won't get met. With practice, you will find that cultivating this awareness is profoundly soothing to your soul.
Embrace choice. Every time we make a decision, we have an opportunity to determine a course of action: "Do I stay here and face the situation, or do I run out the door?" By recognizing that you have control over your own reactions and actions, you'll also have the opportunity to reinforce, change or alter your boundaries.
Accept yourself and your life lessons. Shame and disappointment about our lives causes us to create false boundaries and interactions with the people we care about most. It's important to accept who you are and what has happened in your life. When faced with a challenge or disappointment, ask yourself: "What is my lesson here? How is this challenge a way for my soul to grow?" Use your answers to create boundaries that reflect acceptance of your true self, as opposed to isolating yourself from the people you love.
Cyndi Dale and Andrew Wald are co-authors of the book, "Togetherness: Creating and Deepening Sustainable Love" (Deeper Well Publishing).