Food for Thought: Waking Up to Our Boundaries

“Boundaries are the lines we draw that mark off our autonomy and that of other people, that protect our privacy and that of others. Boundaries allow for intimate connection without dissolving or losing one’s sense of self.”   

– Amy Bloom

I love this definition of boundaries by Amy Bloom – psychotherapist, author, screenwriter and probably my new shero.

Boundaries make it safe for us to engage with others, without compromising our independence.  They separate us from each other, while at the same time allowing us to be close. Rather than a barrier to relationship, boundaries give us the means to connect authentically.

But what if we don’t know where they are?

If our personal boundaries aren’t respected in childhood, we struggle to find them in adulthood.

Without an understanding of our own and others’ boundaries, relationships are tricky. What happens if someone wants more from us than we’re willing to give? How do we say no?

Boundary violations can become so habitual we never stop to consider what’s OK with us and what’s not – we just accept without question and sleepwalk our way through our interactions.

It’s hard to define something that’s invisible. But while we can’t see our boundaries, we can feel them. Rather than ignoring what it feels like when someone steps over the line, we can use that sensation as a guide to identify our line.  Then, instead of sleepwalking, we can wake up to our personal boundaries and begin to define them clearly.

Ultimately, we can learn to engage with others in a meaningful way while still protecting our autonomy, our integrity and our sense of self.

Gentle Reminder: You are Enough

If I were to ask you why you’re not enough, you’d probably say “I don’t know, it’s just what I feel”.

But a feeling isn’t truth. It’s not fact.

It’s just a feeling.

If I challenged you to give me a list of your deficits and defects, would you struggle to produce concrete evidence?

Continue reading “Gentle Reminder: You are Enough”

Gentle Reminder: Something about Feelings

This is the blog post where I wrap up the theme for the month – in this case hope and hopelessness – and link to an older post from the archives.

There’s just one problem.

It’s the first day of my holiday and I’m currently sitting in the kitchen of a gorgeous little cottage in the Cotswolds. The countryside is unbelievably beautiful. The weather is perfect. The only sounds I can hear are the gentle hum of the fridge, birds chirping in the courtyard outside and the tap-tap-tap of my fingers hitting the keyboard.

Why is this a problem? Well, I’ve come down with a severe case of lazyitis (must be the change of water, I think) and I’m struggling to write the post I was planning to write which, I recall, was something about feelings. Continue reading “Gentle Reminder: Something about Feelings”

Expert Insight: The Purpose of Disappointment

“Although disappointment feels awful, it can provide you with a wealth of valuable information about yourself and your world. Its purpose is to keep you moving toward what’s beneficial and away from what’s going to come back and bite you. It’s meant to teach you how to make realistic, well-informed choices by recognizing the delicate balance between what you have power over and what you don’t. Examining disappointment with an open mind will help you distinguish between being foolhardy, childish or demanding, and courageous, generous and willing to take appropriate risks. In short, it’s there to help you get the good things you deserve.”

Karen R. Koenig, The Food & Feelings Workbook

“Examining disappointment with an open mind” is the phrase that jumps out at me in this quote. We’re often so busy trying to escape disappointment we don’t stop to think that it might have something to teach us.

Continue reading “Expert Insight: The Purpose of Disappointment”

Food for Thought: Staying Connected to Hope

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me…Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” – Shel Silverstein

It’s that time of year again when I ask myself the searching question: “why didn’t I take two weeks off work so I could watch the TV?”.

Yes, it’s Wimbledon – the tennis tournament most beloved by players and fans alike.

One of the things I love about tennis is the way a match can turn around.

Continue reading “Food for Thought: Staying Connected to Hope”

Gentle Reminder: Make Movement Joyful Again

Exercise.

I can practically feel the groaning and eye rolling.

In preparation for writing this blog post I did a bit of research. I googled some exercise slogans. What I found ranged from the ridiculous – “squat till you puke” (eww) – to the downright offensive, which I won’t repeat here. (Guys, seriously?).

Many of the so-called “motivational and inspirational” quotes I found conveyed the message that to have the body you’re “supposed” to have, you must punish it into submission.

No wonder the ‘e’ word has such a bad rep.

Continue reading “Gentle Reminder: Make Movement Joyful Again”

Expert Insight: Body Appreciation vs. Body Loathing

“Advertising for many commercial goods functions by cultivating our body insecurity or hatred in order to sell products.  If we all believed we were attractive as we are, for example, we would have little need for most commercial beauty products.  Women in particular are taught that their self-worth is determined by how well they match the cultural standard of beauty.  Most of us therefore feel inadequate and that we can never measure up.  And it seems as if advertisers have recently realized that they were so busy exploiting women’s insecurities, they’d forgotten half the population. So now they’re doing their best to make men feel equally horrible about themselves.  Buying into these images doesn’t benefit anyone but the advertisers”.

– Linda Bacon & Lucy Aphramor, “Body Respect”.

A few years ago, when I was facilitating a workshop on emotion-driven overeating, I was talking about not buying into “the cultural standard of beauty” that Linda Bacon and Lucy Aphramor describe.  One of the participants became quite angry and said something like “it’s all very well to say that but this is how the world works”.

Continue reading “Expert Insight: Body Appreciation vs. Body Loathing”