March 15, 2024

One Step on our Way to Becoming Fierce Protectors of our Hearts.

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This is an excerpt from Emily’s new book Love Notes: How to Tend to Your Broken Heart, Navigate Your Emotions, and Befriend Your Inner Child After a Bad Breakup or Divorce.


“Instead of the focus being on boundaries as walls, a way to ‘keep out,’ I like to think of these as nourishing conservation and self-development spaces.” 


One of the many things I’ve learned from my divorce is boundaries are vital in supporting my own sense of self.

During the confusing time leading up to filing for the divorce, I had an internal alarm system that told me things like, “This isn’t right” when thinking about my relationship, but clearly it was not loud enough to be heard.

Sometimes this happens. When we don’t have explicit boundaries to protect and sustain our voice, it dwindles to a soft whisper as we allow someone else’s expression to take the lead. 

Solitude, silence, and stillness are paramount to hearing ourselves again.

Instead of the focus being on boundaries as walls—a way to “keep out”—I like to think of these as nourishing conservation and self-development spaces. 

We want to foster and sustain our new growth, give space for our voice to speak, and safeguard our hearts. 

We will start to set all kinds of boundaries when we are using boundaries intentionally to support us—not to keep people out. This focus makes all the difference.

Our boundaries work to validate the belief that we are valuable and to be treasured. 

The basic element of a solid boundary is this: “I will do (a specific action) when you do (a specific action).” 

For example, “I will leave the room when you begin to shout at me,” or, “I will say, ‘Stop,’ aloud and immediately write down two good things I like about myself when I hear an unloving voice in my head.”

The most vital point when crafting boundaries is to clarify that we are in control of what we will be doing when our boundary is breached. 

We do not put the onus on them to recognize how they dismissed our boundary or let them decide the consequence of their infraction. We understand how to work with pushback.

We become the judge, jury, and enforcer of our boundaries. 

Conveying boundaries is a muscle as much as it is an art. The more we do it, the stronger and more eloquent our boundaries become. 

This is a part of taking ownership of our lives and embracing our sovereign selves. 

We will have to learn to work with the tense energy that surrounds these interactions. 

We may have been taught to avoid confrontation or conflict, so our bodies go into freeze, flight, fight, or fawn mode. Come to know your inner response, as it will help you to learn how to work with yourself to build a stronger internal foundation. 

When you see how you are holding yourself in reaction to setting a boundary, you can find support and skills to help alleviate the initial strangeness of standing in your power. 

Like other skills we have been learning, cultivating tolerance to asserting our boundaries and dealing with pushback comes in small increments of exposure. We can initially practice with low-stakes boundary setting to increase our confidence. 

One easy skill that works across the board in response to pushback is becoming proficient in the pause.

The pause is as simple as it sounds. Before responding to pushback, you pause. You can protect the space you need by saying something like, “I need time to step away from this to sort my feelings out.”

You recognize when you feel awkward for asserting yourself in this new way, and yet you don’t cram a bunch of apologies or defenses of your boundary in response to their pushback. You stop yourself before you go into “defending/proving/pushing” energy. 

Instead, you deliberately stop talking and sit with the silence (like you have already been working on). 

This gives you time to purposefully determine what you want to happen next. It gives you time to check in with yourself before moving forward.

In this space, ask yourself an imperative question surrounding boundaries: “Where am I losing myself here?”

You come to notice where you are being pushed out of your values and pulled into theirs. 

Are you being dragged into changing who you are because you can’t deal with being disliked? Are you being cornered into making a decision you will regret?

Boundaries reinforce our strong center or what psychologists call our internal locus of control. When we have a healthy internal locus of control, we take initiative, feel a sense of personal responsibility, and believe in our ability to attain interpersonal skills that benefit our relationships. 

Boundaries offer us a way of relating to the world that both protects us and nourishes us as well as protects and nourishes our relationships. 

When you become efficient in declaring boundaries, you meet yourself in an empowered way.  

You take ownership of your life, strengthen your personal sovereignty, and operate in a solid centeredness. 

Boundaries help you see people clearly for who they are based on their behaviors and patterns.

That does not make you over-reactive and judgmental. 

That makes you self-honoring and clear.

That makes you a fierce protector of your heart where you lovingly engage with people who make you feel safe and seen.


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