September 19, 2019

How to “Turn Off” Survival Mode by Setting Boundaries like a Boss.

I never really had a chance to learn much about boundaries.

In fact, I don’t know that I have ever used the word in the same context as I do now. It was not on my radar.

When I was assaulted at 12 years old, it programmed me to believe that I wasn’t worthy of boundaries, and even if I was, I couldn’t enforce them. So, I just went along with life. Never to stir the pot or make waves, I was just the people pleaser going along with everyone and everything. As if I was on autopilot. A robot. Every day. Survival mode.

My new therapist used that term a lot yesterday: “Survival mode.” His first question to me was, “What is your goal in therapy? What would you like to see change within yourself?” I told him I wanted to feel safe. That is my ultimate life goal. Of course, I added that I would like to be more self-confident, self-aware, and secure. I would like to be able to trust again. I would like to eliminate the shame and guilt I carry. But mostly, I want to feel safe.

I haven’t felt safe in so long. He asked me if I had been living in survival mode. It caught me off guard, but yes! He reminded me that it was not my fault. And with some boundaries in place, I can start to feel safe again.

I told him that my reason for going back to therapy this time was for maintenance. I’m not drowning anymore. I’m not falling apart. I feel stronger than ever. I just want to stay on this path of not going anywhere near the damn water. I refuse to go backward. So we devised the plan.

With my therapist and my new-found discovery of personal boundaries, I’m going to heal.

It’s hard to heal though when you’re in survival mode. You set yourself up inside this cocoon of conformity. You disregard what is good for you and your well-being. You sacrifice your own desires, peace of mind, and emotional health for the sake of fitting in, feeling loved, and being accepted. But that isn’t the same as being safe, and feeling loved is not necessarily being loved.

Love accepts and respects your boundaries and what you will or will not tolerate. In healing, we have to tear apart that cocoon and use the pieces to shield ourselves from the things that disregard what’s good for us. That does not mean putting up a wall to keep people out—it means drawing a line in the sand. Those who cross that line don’t value what matters to you. It’s a tough pill to swallow, I know.

The concept is not so difficult though. “A lack of boundaries invites a lack of respect.” Boom. There it is. If someone doesn’t respect your boundaries, they do not respect you. Period. It’s really hard to do—this boundary-setting stuff—because you have to stick to it if you’re going to get anywhere. But once you do it, once you draw that line and decide that you matter and you really mean it, it feels like you’ve defeated a giant.

You’re doing something for you, for your mental and emotional health and maybe even your physical health! Your overall well-being is now a priority and that makes you fierce. You might hurt someone’s feelings or even decide you’re going to carry on without them (and the disrespect). But on the flip side, you won’t be compromising your beliefs and what is best for you any longer.

Despite what someone might say, it’s not selfish. It’s not selfish in any way to say, “Hey, I’m not okay with that” or “It’s not okay to treat me this way,” or even “I’m not comfortable with this in my life.”

It’s imperative that you speak up for yourself and protect yourself from anyone trying to cross that line. Protecting yourself in this way takes courage. It means acknowledging that your comfort zone matters. It means accepting the hard truth that if someone truly values you, they will also value your limits and what is or is not permissible.

Some people don’t understand that “no” is a complete sentence. Mainly because your “no” is not catering to their wants. Over-stepping your boundaries simply means that what you want doesn’t matter. We are the keepers of our hearts and minds. We are. No one else holds that power unless we give it away.

Little by little, we can turn off “survival mode.” We can raise our standards for ourselves. We can be fully responsible for who we invite in and who we let stay. We can take the lead. Take charge of our lives. But we have to be willing to learn what is and what is not healthy for us. And then we have to be brave enough to act on it. To say “this is just not okay” and no longer allowing it to happen to you or affect you. That right there is courage.

I wanted to title this “boundaries like a bitch” but I’m not a bitch for wanting to be happy. I’m not a bitch because I won’t allow someone to hurt me or disrespect me. And I’m certainly not a bitch for wanting better for myself.

I’m shutting down autopilot and taking a stand for me! I’m not just going to survive anymore. I’m finding my voice. I’m orchestrating my life the way I choose to. I’m creating my happiness.

I’m the boss of me.


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