When we live our own lives we become sovereign as we find ourselves liberated from the energy sapping that pleasing others can create for us which in turn frees us and our energies to wholeheartedly show up with a full cup and in service to all that is.
For hundreds if not thousands of years, in cultures other than matriarchal ones, women have been rebuked and shamed for demanding the right to their own inner authority. Women in the West have been subtley conditioned to become invisible, to disappear and to cater to the needs and whims of men. However, having and holding boundaries are crucial to a healthy, vital and thriving life. Having them does not make us unpredictable or argumentative. Rather it makes us saturated in our own presence, authenticity and sacred ground. Boundaries are necessary for women who want to express themselves, honour their inner wisdom and work with other men and women together to disassemble the prevailing dominant paradigm and patriarchal systems that no longer serve anyone.
Let’s look at what boundaries are because boundaries are a prevailing theme at the moment. Learning to give ourselves kindness and compassion is crucial to having healthy boundaries. Boundaries are about tuning in with ourselves and our limits and are all about how we value ourselves. This can be a challenge when we are consistently told that we are not enough. Having healthy boundaries helps us to discern in whom and in what we invest our energy. As children, we may have been shamed by caregivers for needing boundaries so we may have absorbed conditioning and programming that tells us to view boundaries as being tantamount to being unfriendly or overly inflexible. Let’s face it, in the dominant culture women who are most desirable don’t have healthy boundaries and those who do run the risk of being considered “too much” or “too needy/demanding”. This is the no-win game of polarities. Lack of boundaries can lead to women consistently over-giving and adopting self-sacrificial behaviours, always putting themselves last and that pander to the brittle, fragile psyches. This often leaves women disrespected, depleted, overwhelmed and disempowered.
When I talk with clients about boundaries I often get a visceral, palpable response of confusion and dismay. We have been inculcated into a world that sees men as favoured and women as wildly unpredictable (at best…) and this can see us, in turn, muffled into silence and our lights dimmed. The prevailing programmes are so insidious that they have led to us even mistrusting (and often questioning) our legitimate need for boundaries. Indeed the mere whiff of drawing those important lines in the sand, having the courage to say “no” or “I don’t know” (which means “no” until it is a “yes) draws cries of us being “tricky”, “challenging” a “bitch” and much worse. What can then ensue once one has reclaimed or set new boundaries can result in the other perceiving the need for some kind of rebuttal. This can be the point at which a defended ego rears its head with a tirade of insults and judgments.
When we were small, we were exposed to powerful repetitive messages that we believed from our caregivers, schools, society and the media. We were conditioned to view our own needs, wishes, wants, desires, opinions, intuition, instinctual, animal, sexual behaviours as wrong and even downright hurtful to others. Such a “number” was done that some of us dislike our womanliness as it has become synonymous with the wounding and pain of not feeling good enough and the powerlessness that accompanies that… I cannot begin to tell you how many of my women clients have patterns of people pleasing behaviours that are exhausting them and that they have adopted unwittingly to fit in with the prevailing culture. However, often as children we have needed to adopt this as a survival strategy and to be a “good girl” who is “nicely behaved” often to please a tyrannical (rather than benevolent) Father figure. Hidden behind all this is the unspoken and somewhat dangerous subtext that results in us concealing our pain and we are conditioned to keep smiling and being nice. That involves a denial of our own truth and authentic selves. This can lead to bitterness and resentment and becomes a catch-22 situation where we are presented with the challenge of rejection/humiliation for being seen as difficult for setting or maintaining boundaries or we deny our own needs by not setting boundaries (a kind of fawning response) and end up exiling an aspect of ourselves and numbing to the pain of that experience.
The plight of the “too much woman”
Alongside the “not enough” messaging, ironically we also have the sense of “too muchness”. Wouldn’t it be a better world if women were respected and honoured for speaking their truth, maintaining healthy boundaries, expressing their gifts and independence of thought and action? Surely it is time we broke free from the lies that we are "too much" and a threat to the prevailing dominant and dysfunctional culture? Whilst it is initially a challenge to start to create/reclaim more boundaries, it has rarely if ever felt more important for us to do so and to do this from a place of deep love, integrity and self-compassion. Others around us may still be working from the old paradigm that says a “good” woman is an over-accommodating woman who doesn’t rock the boat. This may result in a backlash at work or in relationships when you start to trust yourself enough to speak up and make the decision to be clear, direct and honest about your limitations and to express them in a neutral fashion. Every “no” is a step closer to you.
There is a deep injustice that so very often we endure the projections of other peoples’ mothers in our lives. As we step aside to nurture ourselves and maintain our boundaries, this simple yet courageous and powerful act may serve to remind others of their own mother wounds. People may unconsciously feel abandoned and attack, gaslight, coerce or try to manipulate us back into the previous, more compliant, accommodating way that they have known (and most likely preferred) us to be. The timely support of others who see the truth of what is arising and have our backs is key here as at this stage it can be very easy to waiver under the pressure.
I sense that there is a new energy emerging in the world right now. There is a more self-empowered pattern that is bubbling up into the collective consciousness that is not bogged down by our conditioning and that is part of our journey towards self-mastery. It is partly a response to a call to action to re-parent ourselves in these extraordinary shifting times. It is also the uncomfortable (until it becomes easeful) yet needfully regular practice of setting intentions and boundaries in our daily lives. As we do we can stay more fully present, aware and ready to respond when life invites to the ever evolving and unfolding dance of what is.
I have shared before about having sovereignty and agency. These terms are often confusing because of the historical use of the words. For me, sovereignty is about self- respect, alignment and integrity of purpose. When we have and maintain healthy boundaries, we start living our lives on our own terms. Sovereignty is what happens when we become fully aware of, and are able to interrupt, childhood patterns that were once deeply held in our psyche as well as the influences of wider societal conditioning. These are the corrosive patterns of dis-ease and keeping ourselves small that result in us becoming people pleasers who only want a quiet life and that cause us to give our power away denying our own authentic and real need for boundaries.
When we live our own lives we become sovereign as we find ourselves liberated from the energy sapping that pleasing others can create for us which in turn frees us and our energies to wholeheartedly show up with a full cup and in service to others and the greatest possible good.