Spiritual growth, to me, is defined by a conscious desire to continually evolve.
You expand who you are by first knowing who you are, and then recognizing opportunities for growth that will allow your relationships, thought patterns, and actions to come into alignment with who you are.
You peel away layers of old scripts and ways of relating to people that can come from unhealed wounds and unexamined areas of the psyche.
These old habits may no longer serve you and can prevent you from expanding.
In this article, I talk about what healthy boundaries are, the often painful process of personal evolution, and how we can push through the pain and discomfort to come deeper into our true selves.
What Are Boundaries?
Boundaries are personal limits and guidelines through which you feel comfortable and respected by yourself and others.
Boundaries can be about your physical space, possessions, emotional needs, financial matters, sexuality, spirituality, or how you use your time or energy.
When boundaries are violated, you can feel confused, disappointed, over-responsible, guilty, angry, overwhelmed, or a myriad of other emotions.
When boundaries are respected, you may feel calm, balanced, fulfilled, safe, confident, or happy.
Boundaries are up to you to set and uphold.
Healthy boundaries are unique to the person and only you know how to set them.
There are a lot of common themes for people who have difficulties setting healthy boundaries. People pleasing, fear of abandonment, and a tendency to repress difficult emotions like anger, guilt, or resentment are some commonalities.
They may find themselves entering intense relationships quickly, oversharing, over-giving or overtaking, or violating the personal rights of themselves and others.
If you often find yourself feeling overcommitted, like more is expected of you than you can handle, like you have a hard time saying "no," or like you do not have energy or time for your own personal self care, this could be a signal that working on healthy boundaries would be valuable for you to do.
Expanding Through Evolution
We evolve by challenging ourselves. It is difficult to grow when you allow yourself to stay in the same habitual patterns of relating, behaving, and understanding the world.
You may have learned some unhealthy boundaries either in your childhood or from some other early experiences.
Maybe you were taught to put "family first" above all, to find romantic love and do whatever it takes to keep it, or to always try to be a good friend, polite and helpful.
First, our work is to identify any underlying beliefs that put us in situations where we can feel taken advantage of, burnt out, unsafe, over-involved in someone else's life, or allowing others to be over-involved in our lives.
Identify the times you tell yourself "I should..." or "I am a person who..." and see if these things truly serve others and more importantly, your ultimate highest truth.
Continually examining your underlying beliefs and relationship patterns fosters your evolution, expansion, and ability to have deeper intimate and more conscious relationships with others.
Learning to put your own needs first actually gives you more space to expand beyond yourself in order to serve the greater community around you.
Pushing Through the Discomfort
This work is not easy. Sometimes we actually need to grieve unhealthy patterns of thinking, relating, and behaving.
Letting go of things or people can hurt, even when we know it is for our greatest good.
As you alter your personal boundaries, expect some resistance from those around you. People are used to you fulfilling a certain role or playing a specific part in the greater system that you are a part of.
These systems include family systems, romantic relationships, friendships, and work relationships.
The process can be painful, so try to keep a focus on doing what you need to do for yourself.
This is not meant to be done in a selfish way, as your needs do not need to inherently compromise the needs of others.
Instead, see how you can maintain healthy boundaries for yourself first, while maintaining compassion for others.
In some extreme cases, you may come to understand you need to end or significantly alter a relationship, especially if the other party or parties are unable to understand and respect the boundary shifts you are trying to make.
Remain Gentle, Yet Committed
Just like the butterfly who has to push through their chrysalis in order to emerge into the world and come into their fullest expression -- you will struggle.
With determination, and practice, you too can emerge transformed with beautifully expansive butterfly wings (as least figuratively!).
Shedding the old beliefs and patterns is necessary to evolve and expand into the person you truly are that is aligned with your highest truth.
Be gentle with yourself if you find yourself regress in times of stress or around certain people.
Stay aware and committed to living your life defined by your own healthy boundaries and maintain them the best that you can.
The more you practice, the more it will become habitual for your brain and it will come more naturally.
Stay on track with loving patience and self-compassion. It is an ongoing process that will involve regular inventory of your relationships.
There is no rush! So, enjoy the ride.