Setting Healthy Boundaries is the Key to Relationships
“When it comes to boundaries, most victims of abuse are a bit shaky on setting boundaries to protect themselves. As a child of a narcissist, I never learned to set boundaries. I never knew I could say, ‘No, I am not comfortable with that request.’ When we are dealing with a narcissist, they test us. They push your personal boundaries to see how much they can abuse you.” ~ Tracy A. Malone
As a Certified Trauma Recovery Coach and abuse advocate, the top theme that repeatedly comes up with my clients is boundaries. It is very common and normal for trauma survivors to not have boundaries. In most cases, as children and grown adults, they were not taught about establishing clear boundaries in their relationships. Even if they tried to create limits or boundaries, most of my clients have shared how their boundaries had been crossed by toxic people, especially their family members and/or intimate partner.
When you were a child or teen, were you taught to set boundaries? Did your parent, relatives, or teachers model healthy boundaries? As an adult, have you implemented personal boundaries?
As a child, teen, and young adult, I wasn’t taught boundaries. My mother didn’t have boundaries. She never modeled it, nor practiced it. Instead, she pushed every single button of mine. She disrespected me. She treated me like I was an unworthy object; not a special human being.
Her unspoken message to me: “You have no value. You’re not important. Obey my rules or you will suffer the consequences. Do as I say, not as I do.”
In my work as a Certified Trauma Recovery Coach, I know it's hard for some survivors to set clear boundaries. Please know this is a normal trauma response. Abuse survivors were taught false information about what’s right and wrong. Oftentimes, abuse survivors had accepted unhealthy and abnormal behaviors to be normal. In reality, they are abnormal. Yet, it’s all they have known.
Through brainwashing, gaslighting, and manipulation, we’ve been taught four lies:
1. You are a bad person.
2. The abuse was your fault.
3. You should be ashamed of yourself.
4. You are powerless.
Dear Beautiful Souls, it's time to dismantle the lies that you were brainwashed to believe. They are not true. Even if the perpetrators didn’t take accountability, they are responsible for what they said and did to you. You are not meant to carry a heavy burden of toxic shame, guilt, or blame for what the narcissist or perpetrators had inflicted upon you.
May you know you are deserving to be treated with tenderness, dignity, compassion, empathy, and love. Your personal boundaries should be respected by others.
Most survivors have experienced the narcissist and flying monkeys who disregarded their boundaries. Oftentimes, they punished you for setting healthy boundaries. They push back. They don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. I’ve experienced this by my mom, sisters, and some relatives for my entire life.
In effort to understand boundaries, let’s first define what it is. According to Wikipedia, “Personal boundaries are guidelines, rules, or limits that a person creates to identify reasonable, safe, and permissible ways for other people to behave towards them and how they will respond when someone passes those limits.”
The only people who get upset when you set boundaries are the ones who benefitted from you having none. This quote resonates with my own personal experience. Of course, this is why I have intentionally upgraded my healthy boundaries in all of my relationships. Online and face to face.
I am going to be transparent and keep it real over here. If I could get $1 for each time someone tries to tell me how to run my life and my social media accounts, especially on my YouTube channel, I'd be a millionaire by now. I'd be RICH! It is my life, my business, and my choice to do as I deem fit. It's very disrespectful for people, including strangers, to insist that I meet their unrealistic needs. It is a hard pass. Being respectful of my healthy boundaries are the bare minimum.
Setting boundaries is a way of caring for myself. It doesn't make me mean, selfish, or uncaring because I don't do things your way. I care about me, too. My clear boundaries are nonnegotiable. Have you set boundaries in your relationships?
Our boundaries are not about other people. Rather, it is about us and our perimeters. We set our own standards. We determine what is right or inappropriate for us. We set our limits on what types of behaviors we accept and what isn’t tolerable.
Psychology Today defines boundaries as “An invisible line you draw around yourself to identify what is acceptable behavior.”
Healthy boundaries are a line between two people. For each person, this can look different. Each one of us may have our own set of guidelines for what we permit versus what we will not permit by another person.
For those who were raised in a dysfunctional family where you may have experienced bullying, gaslighting, manipulation, and abuse, there are higher chances that your parent’s or caregiver did not teach you about healthy boundaries.
Therefore, as a child and/or teenager, you were not aware of boundaries, due to lack of having a role model. For many of my clients and YouTube viewers, it was not until they were an adult when they set better boundaries.
Various Forms of Healthy Boundaries:
1. Physical Boundaries – This relates to your personal space, privacy, and your body. For example, some people who may stand too close to you or get in your face are a sign of overstepping your boundaries. Another example is when children are told to hug a relative or stranger, such as an uncle who they barely know. It may feel quite uncomfortable to the child and cause them great distress.
2. Emotional Boundaries – This is a limit that protects ourselves from manipulation, mistreatment, and being hurt. An emotional boundary is standing up for your beliefs, values, thoughts, and morals. It is a healthy expression of our self-respect, self-worth, and dignity.
3. Financial Boundaries – This is how you save, spend, give, earn, and budget your money. A healthy financial boundary in a marriage is freely opening up your own bank account, especially if you have a professional business. When a spouse or partner refuses to let you have your own bank account, credit cards, or your own money, it is a red flag for overstepping your financial boundaries. It is financial abuse.
4. Online Boundaries – This is important for social media, emails, text messages, and the internet. It seems like no one talks about this topic. Yet, how many of us are being silenced, censored, bullied, stalked, and verbally attacked online? An example of a healthy online boundary is to not participate in hurtful and cruel comments, especially on social media. My personal online boundaries for Twitter and my YouTube channel are essential. For now, I am on a long YouTube break. It has been the most incredible uplifting, peaceful, and eye-opening experience. I don't have to be everything to everyone. My time, energy, and resources are up for me to define. Nobody else gets to dictate how I run my life, my social media accounts, nor my professional practices.
5. Sexual Boundaries – This means that you have specific rules pertaining to your comfort level around physical touch, intimacy, affection, your physical body, and sexual behaviors. An example of someone crossing your line of sexual boundaries is when you meet someone new and they instantly start asking you for nude pictures or private messaging you their own nude pics. It’s inappropriate.
6. Spiritual Boundaries – Each person has their own personal beliefs about organized religion. Not everyone has the same upbringing, understanding, educational background, religious beliefs, or spiritual beliefs as others. Some folks believe in God, while others may believe in a Higher Creator, or something totally different. Religious gaslighting is when someone uses the Bible, verses, or God as a weapon to hurt you, to shame you, to condemn you, and to ostracize you. For example, on social media, I’ve seen so-called Christian’s demand abuse survivors to 'forgive the sexual predator’ or ‘forgive the perpetrator who physically abused you.’ This is rude, insulting, and repulsive. It is re-traumatizing for survivors. There is nothing "Godly" about this type of vindictive behavior. It’s not up to anyone else on whether you forgive the abuser, predator, or narcissist. It’s your life. Your choice. Only you can make the best decision for yourself. A person named Autumn Shroud sums up this toxic mindset about forgiveness. He said, “The concept of forgiveness allows the abuser to still abuse, and keeps the victim in a constant state of victimhood.”
Common Reasons for Unhealthy Boundaries
Perhaps, you were not taught healthy boundaries as a child or young adult? Your needs and wants may have been ignored, denied, ridiculed, or minimized. Do you find yourself people-pleasing in effort to keep the peace? You don’t want to offend anyone. You prefer to go with the flow. You may try to avoid conflicts. You may fear standing up for yourself. You may avoid speaking up when other’s hurt you.
Another reason you may not have built better boundaries is because you were raised by an abusive parent, caregiver, or narcissist. It may have been one or more narcissistic parents, a grandparent, or a toxic sibling who bullied you. Most narcissistic parents expect that all of their needs and wants are met, despite how unrealistic it is to expect that from a child or teen. Lastly, you may have suffered intense abuse by your intimate partner, spouse, or friend who’s a narcissist. They may have insisted you ‘submit’ to them. The covert narcissist may have ridiculed you, condemned you, silenced you, and psychologically tormented you for so long that you couldn’t set boundaries for yourself. Or even if you did have boundaries, the narcissist incessantly violated them.
How to Create Healthy Boundaries:
1. Educate yourself about healthy boundaries.
2. Determine what your limits and rules are for yourself.
3. Be aware of the signs when someone crossed your boundaries.
4. Learn to bravely speak up if someone oversteps your boundaries.
5. It is perfectly fine to say ‘no’ to someone who isn’t in alignment with your morals, values, lifestyle, and beliefs.
6. Release feeling guilty for creating boundaries. There is nothing to be guilty or ashamed of. It’s for your own protection and peace of mind.
7. Be clear in what you ask for and what you want or need.
8. Seek emotional support from a trauma-informed professional.
9. Learn to express your authentic emotions even if you disagree with someone or when you have your own unique perspective. Understand that not everyone will respect your boundaries. You do have permission to show them to the door.
10. Trust your gut instincts and body signals that are alerting you of potential danger. Listen to that soft voice within you that guides you to safety.
Creating better boundaries is a superpower! It puts you back in the driver’s seat of your life. You become the CEO for your standards and limits. Healing Trauma Requires Boundaries & Self-care
“Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give the care it requires, we do it not only for ourselves, but for the many others whose lives we touch.” ~ Parker J. Palmer
Looking back on the process of my trauma recovery to regain my health and emotional well-being, it required self-care. Not just occasionally, but on a consistent daily basis. According to Dictionary.com, self-care is “Care of the self without medical or other professional consultation.” From my experience, self-care is actively engaging in the productive activities that may help us to maintain optimal wellness; to enhance our body, emotions, and spiritual health.
Self-care is doing what we can do with what we have on a consistent basis to improve our whole being. This proactive approach can place us in a better position to heal. To go from barely surviving to thriving!
Over the course of two decades, when I consider how I got from there to here, it wasn't one particular method helping me along my healing path. Rather, it was multiple therapeutic, self-care strategies, which proved highly beneficial. My overall condition improved from being disabled and homebound to becoming healthier and independent. For the full story, read my memoir, Soul Cry: Releasing & Healing the Wounds of Trauma. Here's the Amazon link: ttps://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B085X3Z79S/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vp
This doesn't mean I'm ‘cured’ of fibromyalgia, narcissistic abuse, sexual assaults, CPTSD, and compounded trauma. It means that despite my challenges, I've gained better insight to lead a higher quality of life. More so, I've actively sought practical life-style changes to improve my physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Each one was like finding a missing piece of a puzzle, which gradually led to my restoration. After these past five years, I have done a significant extent of the trauma recovery work. I am in a MUCH better season of life now. My soul is at peace.
In a nutshell, self-care is an empowering expression of self-love. Despite our failings and weaknesses, we learn to love ourselves and view ourselves as worthy. We care for our inner child. We learn to mother our own selves. We appreciate ourselves in such a positive way that we flourish.
During my darkest and gloomiest moments, self-love was not easy. It wasn't automatic. Having emotional dysregulation and triggers came easier for me. I've learned the hard way that how I respond to stress greatly influences my health; for better or for worse. Caring for oneself and loving oneself requires diligence. It can evolve through time.
What Does Self-Care Look Like?
• Loving ourselves means taking good care of our body, mind, & soul.
• Caring for ourselves is not selfish.
• Self-care & self-love require being true to ourselves.
• By being true to oneself, we create healthy boundaries.
• We let go of people-pleasing.
• We listen to our body's signals to eat, sleep, reduce stress, be still, etc.
• We trust our intuition.
• No rehashing past mistakes or regrets that can hinder our progress.
• We take responsibility for our own words, behaviors, & actions.
• We seek wisdom, discernment, & ask God/Source/Universe for guidance.
• We don’t seek permission to be ourselves.
• We give our body the nurturing, rest, exercise, & comfort it needs.
• We are honest with ourselves about our strengths & weaknesses.
• We grow spiritually & connect to a Higher Power on a deeper level.
• We feel our emotions without berating ourselves or feeling guilty.
• We strive for self-improvement and accept ourselves where we are now.
Consciously, we choose to give ourselves the gift of self-care. To honor, respect, and love the precious life in which we’ve been blessed with, including the good, the bad, and the downright painful. It's an enriching process of self-growth that can lead to acceptance.
We may not like how we look or feel right now, but we can come to terms with it. We may despise our triggers, flashbacks, emotional meltdowns, or our trauma wounds, yet we go beyond the superficial to love and care for ourselves fully.
Regardless of our age, gender, or season in life, at some point we may find ourselves carrying heavy burdens. Extra stress. Broken relationships. Painful betrayal. Grief and loss. Illnesses. Disappointments. Isolation. Narcissistic abuse. The list is endless. Any which we look at it, carrying heavy burdens, especially over a lengthy period of time, can take a toll on us. To move forward to healing, it will entail self-care.
Before I explain practical steps to achieve self-care, let's first cover the basics of what self-care doesn't involve. Self-care is not:
• Getting intoxicated with alcohol
• Indulging in street drugs
• Abusing pharmaceutical medications
• Gambling & addictions
• Living in a toxic environment
• Self-harming or injury
• Binging & purging
• Destructive behaviors or lifestyles
• Neglecting your safety and health
• Staying in abusive, destructive relationships
Self-care is a set of practices that help you feel nourished. Self-care is taking time to refresh, renew, and recharge in a manner that is meaningful to you. Based on the fact that we each have our own likes and dislikes as well as unique personalities, self-care may differ from person to person. For example, an introvert may desire to be alone and rest for self-care whereas an extrovert may want to be in a social environment and active during self-care.
As for myself, I've always been a social butterfly as an extrovert. However, during my initial recovery process in 2018 when I upgraded my boundaries and went no contact with my birth family, I needed to take a break from the nonstop drama and chaos. In order to be true to myself and honor the dark place where I was at (narcissistic abuse/sibling abuse), I accepted my difficult season. How ironic that acceptance is a stage of grief. Ultimately, I had hope to recover. I invested in my trauma recovery, and it was worth the hard work.
One eye-opening quote that I read hit home for me. It’s by an author, trauma expert, teacher, and psychiatrist, Judith Lewis Herman. She wrote, “Many abused children cling to the hope that growing up will bring escape and freedom. But the personality formed in the environment of coercive control is not well adapted to adult life. The survivor is left with fundamental problems in basic trust, autonomy, and initiative. She approaches the task of early adulthood – establishing independence and intimacy – burdened by major impairments of self-care, in cognition and memory, in identity, and in the capacity to form stable relationships. She is still a prisoner of her childhood; attempting to create a new life, she reencounters the trauma.” (The excerpt is from Herman’s book, Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence – From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror)
"Boundaries allow us to take better care of ourselves - emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually." ~ Author Unknown
My Unique Stages of Healing & Self-care Involved:
• Journaling - In search of peace, I journaled. I’ve been doing this since I was a young girl. It feels freeing to release all of my hurt, frustrations, and baggage. Journaling gave me the opportunity to vent, cry, and ponder the bumpy road I’ve traveled. Expressing my inner thoughts and feelings were a godsend. With pen and paper in hand, I ranted about my harrowing trials, my abusive siblings, and my narc mom. It felt good to let go of negative energy. I poured out my heart on paper. I wrote my deepest dreams and aspirations. Most importantly, journaling provided positive benefits by reducing stress, clarifying thoughts, effectively solving problems, exploring my strengths, praying, and increasing my awareness of my hidden blessings. Journaling became a blissful sanctuary. A safe place to be real. No pressure or worry about being harshly judged. It brought calm to my storm. New insight. Peace of mind. Personal growth. This amazing form of self-care powerfully awakened my inner voice. Ultimately, it helped me to reconnect to my inner child who needed me to rescue her. Today, we lovingly walk hand in hand.
• Gratitude – In effort to improve my outlook on life, I started compiling a list of things that I was grateful for. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude begins with counting our blessings. Gratitude is expressing thanks for special blessings we receive. When life gets hectic or we feel overwhelmed, we can take a moment to focus on the people or situations we are most grateful for. When we have an attitude of gratitude other things will fall by the wayside. The more we are grateful for what we have, the more we can live fully in the present moment. When we live in the present moment, the greater we build stepping stones for a brighter future. Being thankful helps us to take into account all of the positive in our lives. It gives us a whole new perspective.
• Soothing Sounds - During long nights when I was plagued with insomnia, I dimmed the lights and listened to soft music, which promoted relaxation. One CD combined flowing, ethereal music with soothing sounds of waves lapping against the shore. Closing my eyes, I was magically transported to a tropical island where I could envision sea gulls soaring overhead, feel the warm sun radiating on my skin, and envision myself walking barefoot on the beach. A cool breeze ruffled through my hair as I knelt down to pick up a beautiful sea shell. As I listened to its tranquil sound of ocean waves, blissful peace gently washed over me. Other musical options included soothing soundtracks of calming atmospheres, strings, piano, and guitar. For stress relief, some people enjoy nature music with the soft pitter-patter of raindrops, birds singing, or flowing waterfalls. While your preference may vary, choose a style of soothing sounds that resonates within your own spirit.
• Tranquility & Aromatherapy – Sometimes when I felt sad, anxious, or restless, I created a relaxing environment by lighting candles or diffusing pure essential oils to encourage solitude. My favorite scents for aromatherapy were Lavender essential oil (relaxing & stress reliever), Bergamot essential oil (calming & uplifting), and Wild Orange (joy & peace). If my fibromyalgia flared, I’d soak in a hot bathtub filled with Epsom salts and a few drops of Lavender essential oil. It was very common for me to light scented candles around the tub to simply relish in the tranquil atmosphere. In my experience, this form of self-care made a world of difference; physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
• Home Spa – A sure way to lift my spirits and help me to feel better about myself is personal self-care; otherwise known as girly girl pampering. It's amazing how a little bit of lip gloss, flat ironing my hair, and a pedicure dramatically transformed me from feeling blah to exuberant. I'm a huge believer that when we physically look better, we emotionally feel better. Taking time for personal hygiene and adding a little pampering into my self-care routine most definitely boosted my attitude and self-confidence.
• Shifting the Subconscious Mind with Positive Affirmations – At first, this felt a bit awkward for me, but I started saying positive affirmations out loud or writing them down on index cards as little reminders that I was healing. An affirmation is a statement or phrase that we declare is true. The purpose of verbally saying daily affirmations is to motivate, encourage, and transform our subconscious minds. It’s a form of manifesting our deepest desires to become our conscious reality. Regardless of the physical world, we state what we desire the outcome to be. It's kind of like faith; being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. I woke up in the morning and affirmed, “I am emotionally supported and protected,” “I am divinely loved,” or “I am grateful to be healthy, happy, and whole.” Verbally, I affirmed, “Peace, prosperity, and abundance easily and swiftly flows into my life. And it is done.” For those who battle pessimism or negative self-talk with the inner critic, the kindest act of self-care you can provide for yourself is to speak positive affirmations into your life. Consider learning about The Law of Assumption by Neville Goddard. While it can take effort, speaking positive affirmations and taking power over your own thoughts/beliefs can increase your self-worth, mindset, prosperity, abundance, health, and overall frame of mind.
• Clean Nutrition – Along my wellness journey, it became very clear that I needed to clean up my diet to improve my moods, memory, and physical health. I learned about specific foods and drinks that helped me to decrease my inflammation, digestive issues, and fibromyalgia pain. Through time and consistency, I gained wisdom, knowledge, and insight into the truth about genetically modified organisms (GMO), artificial sweeteners, processed foods, and how it affected how I functioned on a day-to-day basis. Clean nutrition has worked wonders for me!
I hope that you will receive this message with openness and love. We cannot go through life neglecting self-care by beating up our bodies with nicotine, alcohol, drugs, toxic behaviors, abusive relationships, unhealthy lifestyles, destructive addictions, and chronic stress without reaping long-term, negative results. Along our life journey, our choices do have a significant impact on our future.
The good news is you can start over. You can have a second chance. You can actively increase the quality of your health; physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
When you take good care of yourself, you are in a better position to take better care of others. While there are only a certain number of hours in each day and you may have responsibilities, it's important that you carve out special time to focus on your self-care. You are worth it!
The main purpose of self-care is to nurture yourself. To take time to replenish your body, mind, and soul. To build awareness of your physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. To advocate for vibrant health.
Self-care is not merely existing on earth or barely surviving. Rather, self-care is intentionally taking the best care of yourself in order to transform your life to fully thrive.
“Rest and self-care are so important. When you take time to replenish your spirit, it allows you to serve others from the overflow. You cannot serve from an empty vessel.” ~ Eleanor Brown
Today, I sincerely hope this blog post offered you encouragement, credible information, and the courage to set healthy boundaries in all of your relationships. Remember to practice self-care in effort to replenish your body, mind, and soul.
If you are interested in receiving emotional support with me for Certified Trauma Recovery Coaching, feel free to reach out to me on my website. Here's the link to my coaching page: https://www.danaarcuri.com/coach For those who are interested in releasing emotional baggage, negative energy, energetic blocks, and/or trapped trauma, I offer Distance Energy Healing. To learn more, check out my page: https://www.danaarcuri.com/energyhealing
NOTE: The content in my blog is from my sixth book, Soul Rescue: How to Break Free from Narcissistic Abuse & Heal Trauma. It is available on Amazon in print and an eBook. Here is the link: https://www.amazon.com/Soul-Rescue-Break-Narcissistic-Trauma/dp/0991076893/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1637964686&sr=8-1&pldnSite=1