These days I am lucky enough to do lots of different writing – writing for work, and writing to gain an education. I get to stretch my writing muscles in lots of different directions, and that really fills my bucket, because I love to express myself through words.
I also write for inspiration, connection and to understand, and I have done much of this kind of writing here. In fact, over the past six years, in this blog, I have charted the journey of the discovery and uncovering of my self, which has been the most important journey I have ever undertaken.
It was the most important journey because it was uncharted – I had to navigate it from scratch, following my yearnings, heeding my frustrations, and using discomfort and inspiration as my fuel.
It’s the kind of journey we must all go on at some stage; the heroine’s journey. The hero’s journey is well documented: we leave home, sometimes reluctantly, face a series of challenges, and then bring what we have learned back home to benefit the tribe.
I was well acquainted with the hero’s journey – I had undergone several manifestations of this experience, and I quite enjoyed it. It suited my Aries nature to leave home and go on adventures, and I loved the feeling of going to a place I had never been before and making it my own.
But the heroine’s journey – well, that is something less understood in our culture, and is often framed in the negative – a break down, a break up, a mid-life crisis, an illness or some other catastrophe that befalls us in midlife.
In the heroine’s journey, we heed the call to adventure from within – we hear our own yearnings, our own desires – and they may often be contrary to what our tribe wants for us and from us. Thus begins a long journey of self-discovery, where we take little steps towards our dreams, juggling two worlds; the expectations of others with the insistent demands of our selves, until finally we are able to integrate the two.
Anyone who has actually navigated this journey, knows that this humble paragraph does not go anywhere near describing the great joy and great difficulty of this process. But in our hearts, we know that the price that we pay for not doing this work is far greater than the price we pay for doing it.
By the way, a hero’s journey is not just for men, and the heroine’s journey is not just for women. One is an external journey, and one is internal, and both are necessary.
This is all very interesting, but why am I telling you this? Well, I am six years into my own heroine’s journey, and there are things that I have learned which may help people setting off on their own journey. As I have gone along, I have been writing and writing, because that’s what I did to make sense of what I was feeling.
I want to share some of this writing with you in the hope that it may act as signpost on a deserted road, a lighthouse flash while navigating a rocky shoreline, or the flash of sunlight after days of storms.
So, first things first; let’s talk about boundaries. In order for us to do our work, whatever that work may be, we need to be aware of our boundaries – where they start, where they finish and what constitutes a violation or a crossing of those boundaries. This may be a touchy subject, but let us be brave.
Boundaries are about respect – mostly, the respect that we have for ourselves. Our boundaries are the wall over which nobody can climb without consequence; and we are the guardian of our boundary lines. We know where they are, and we are responsible for keeping them secure.
Everyone has different boundaries: what is okay for one person may not necessarily be okay for another. That doesn’t matter, because we don’t decide what our boundaries are by looking at other people’s boundaries, we figure them out by listening to ourselves and learning by experience.
Mostly, we learn where our boundaries are by having them crossed. Life is like that. Thank those people who taught you where your boundaries are: it’s likely that you’ve never forgotten them.
Self-respect and boundaries go hand in hand. Sometimes it can be painful to realise that other people are only treating you the way that you treat yourself – they are just following your lead. The good news is that you can make a big difference by paying deep attention to your inner self, respecting what that inner self tells you, and taking your responsibility as guardian seriously.
The first step is not crossing your own lines. Do not disrespect yourself. Honour your agreements, commitments and promises, both the ones that you have made to yourself and those you have made in the world. If you have put aside a half a day a week to do your creative work, honour that. If you have put aside half an hour in the morning to meditate and do yoga, honour that. Be firm.
Inform those who support and love you of your new intentions – they will respect you for it, and not only that, they will be inspired by your own example. If you have children, this is one of the most important lessons they can learn from you. Respect yourself first and the world will follow suit.
If inspired, do some journaling or meditation around this topic – ask yourself:
- Do I have good boundaries? Why or why not?
- What are my boundaries? Where are the ‘no-go’ zones in my life?
- Do I feel like my boundaries are respected? What can I do about it?
- How has my lack of self-respect contributed to my boundaries not being respected?
- Are there particular areas or places in my life where my boundaries are more likely to be challenged than others? Think: motherhood, work, community, intimate relationships, family.
- How can I maintain my boundaries in these sensitive areas?
I always thought I was pretty good with boundaries, until I had children. As they grew up, I would find myself thinking, “If anyone else treated me like this, they would be out on their arse.” And I started asking myself why my children didn’t respect my boundaries like every other human did. When I followed this line of enquiry deeper, I discovered that I had a core belief that there should be no boundaries between me and my children. And I guess that’s understandable – for a while, there was only the thin wall of a placenta separating us. But at 9 and 13, boundaries need to be well and truly in place for a healthy, lifelong relationship to develop.
There are often deep, core issues of how we think we need to be available for certain relationships, and often they are unexamined beliefs that we have absorbed from the people around us. Dig in – it’s interesting work, and if you want to, share what you find <3.