Strong women know who they are on the surface and deep down. They don’t alter their identity to please someone, especially a love interest or a significant other. They don’t compromise when it comes to the things that make them who they are, like the language they speak, the culture they come from, their unique style, the food they love eating, and the activities that bring them joy.
2. Belief System Boundaries
Strong women are clear about the way they see the world. They stand by their beliefs and they stand strong, which is one of the things that make them strong in the first place. They don’t bargain with their integrity. They don’t say something they don’t identify with, even if it means that they will be judged, criticized, or threatened for their morals or religious and spiritual practices. If they don’t believe it, they ain’t doing it. Period.
3. Standards Boundaries
Strong women stay true to their vision in life, whether it be a vision for their personal life, career, family dynamic, friendship connections, or intimate relationship. They hold people to the same standards they live by. They don’t lower their expectations or their needs so someone can match their level. Just like they won’t decrease their vibe to get to someone else’s vibe frequency. They choose their integrity and self-respect over the presence of someone who lacks both of them.
4. Emotional Boundaries
Strong women regulate their emotions. They don’t allow someone to impact their emotional state of being. They know that it’s not their job to regulate the emotions of others. They also know how to express their emotions with maturity over hostility, open over passive communication and ownership over blame. They call someone out when they cross their emotional boundary and take the necessary action accordingly.
5. Energy Boundaries
Strong women protect their energy with every fibre of their being. The people they choose to be around are people who have good, positive vibes. The things they invest in are things that motivate, inspire, and challenge them. They don’t stay in places where they are not appreciated, they don’t stay in environments where they are not seen, and they don’t stay in situations where they are not supported.
6. Mental Boundaries
Strong women practice mindfulness. They are aware of their inner voice. They believe their thoughts are not them, just another visitor stopping by. When they experience anxiety or depression, they know to take care of themselves and how. They reach out for support from their inner circle and help from a professional. They commit to routines/habits that improve their mental health like journaling, meditating, reading or therapy. They make their mental health a priority, and when they see that someone does not respect or take it seriously, they leave.
7. Time Boundaries
Strong women don’t entertain what does not entertain them. They respect their time. They don’t invest time on things, people, places or parts of them that don’t add value to their life. To them, time is the fuel to their passion because once invested the right way, it takes them places they never imagined were possible. When someone fails to value their time, they let them go immediately because they know it speaks volume about their intentions and character.
8. Physical Boundaries
Strong women respect their bodies. They cherish their personal space. They practice consent and expect the same from everyone else. They don’t stay in physically unsafe environments. They don’t take it lightly when someone tries to physically abuse or harass them. They know, however, that it’s not their fault if someone inflicts physical pain on them because they know they can’t always protect themselves from evil.
9. Sexual Boundaries
Strong women have a healthy relationship with sex. They don’t fake orgasms. They don’t engage in unsafe sexual acts. They don’t do things they are uncomfortable with just to pleasure their partner. They are confident with saying not right now, not this, not you. They don’t engage in casual sex when a relationship is what they want. They ask for what they desire and like in the bedroom, and if that is not their partner’s cup of tea, they aren’t afraid of ending it. Basically, they don’t settle for mediocre sex.
10. Personal Life Boundaries
Strong women keep their personal life personal. They don’t feel the need to disconnect or overshare. They reciprocate what they are given and disclose information with people who have earned their trust up to their comfort level, of course. They don’t mix personal with work and they don’t mix family with friends. They know how to live a balanced life because balance requires strength. They let go of anything or anyone that disturbs that balance because letting go requires strength. And they live by each boundary listed because living by what you believe in requires strength, too.
Most parents teach their children that you need to respect yourself by living in a manner that is consistent with your purpose, values, and personal goals. When you live with integrity, you set a positive example. Dealing with groups of children and teenagers, we encounter all the stereotypes: the kids who bully, the kids who sit on the sidelines, the gossipers, kids who take charge, and kids who are victimized. We encounter parents who have developed either negative or positive habits and push these habits onto their children.
We may not all be able to get along due to the different values and habits, but how can we live with more integrity despite our backgrounds and beliefs?
1. Identify your habits
We all do certain things a certain way every single day — the way you tie your shoelaces, the way you greet or acknowledge your neighbour or mailman, the way you like your coffee or play with your hair. Some of our bad decisions are down to force of habit and become second nature to us. Maybe you are always avoiding confrontation and people due to past experiences, or you are always late, or you fail to respond to emails or calls, or you spend too much time on social media, or you overspend your money. We sometimes fail to see our negative behaviour patterns and the way they might affect other people.
To be able to live with more integrity is to identify these patterns, recognize that they might be a problem for others, and aim to replace them with positive habits. Acknowledge your neighbour by saying hello, answer your phone, spend less time on social media, and give more attention to other things around you. You can even compliment a stranger daily and see the smile on their face to step into a more positive behaviour pattern.
2. Accept that we all make wrong choices sometimes
If you recognize negative habits that have affected other people around you, accept what happened and learn from it to make smarter decisions in the future. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and remind yourself that we all make mistakes at some point in our lives. Sometimes these mistakes guide us to see our vision for life clearer and eventually fulfill our purpose. Nothing in life is constantly perfect — we are always evolving and learning.
3. See each relationship as bidirectional
In our relationships, it is essential to have mutual trust and respect. This is not always easy, especially among children and teenagers who are all still figuring out how to build supportive relationships. Oftentimes, adults still haven’t learned how to be consistent with their values. It is important to make effective decisions in regards to helping others, as this adds value to your own life. When you listen to someone and give them a little bit of your time, you will encourage feelings of trust and compassion to your own life.
4. When you start believing in yourself, others will follow your example
You set yourself up to become successful in life only when you believe in yourself. Only then can you inspire and motivate others with your actions. Setting a positive example is not always smooth sailing, especially if you are up against complicated matters and people with conflicts.
The way to influence positively is to stick to your words and get things done by holding on to your positive habits, values, purpose, and goals. If someone doesn’t respect your values, it may be impossible to stride towards a healthy relationship. They might be even emotionally harming you with their anger which is toxic. We can sometimes try to hold space for anger if it’s a conscious expression of one’s feelings and unmet needs, but not when it’s holding blame or insults. We need to respect ourselves enough to be able to move on with integrity.
Always aim to keep your circle positive, as life is way too short for constantly dealing with negativity. When you learn to make effective decisions, you see the difference in positivity around you. We are all in a journey of evolution we don’t plan.
“Who am I?” and “What’s my purpose?” are two simple fundamental questions we need to remind ourselves of when we are feeling lost and need to get back on track with living with our best life.
It is making a spreadsheet of your debt and enforcing a morning routine and cooking yourself healthy meals and no longer just running from your problems and calling the distraction a solution.
It is often doing the ugliest thing that you have to do, like sweat through another workout or tell a toxic friend you don’t want to see them anymore or get a second job so you can have a savings account or figure out a way to accept yourself so that you’re not constantly exhausted from trying to be everything, all the time and then needing to take deliberate, mandated breaks from livingto do basic things like drop some oil into a bath and read Marie Claire and turn your phone off for the day.
A world in which self-care has to be such a trendy topic is a world that is sick. Self-care should not be something we resort to because we are so absolutely exhausted that we need some reprieve from our own relentless internal pressure.
True self-care is not salt baths and chocolate cake, it is making the choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.
And that often takes doing the thing you least want to do.
It often means looking your failures and disappointments square in the eye and re-strategizing. It is not satiating your immediate desires. It is letting go. It is choosing new. It is disappointing some people. It is making sacrifices for others. It is living a way that other people won’t, so maybe you can live in a way that other people can’t.
It is letting yourself be normal. Regular. Unexceptional. It is sometimes having a dirty kitchen and deciding your ultimate goal in life isn’t going to be having abs and keeping up with your fake friends. It is deciding how much of your anxiety comes from not actualizing your latent potential, and how much comes from the way you were being trained to think before you even knew what was happening.
If you find yourself having to regularly indulge in consumer self-care, it’s because you are disconnected from actual self-care, which has very little to do with “treating yourself” and a whole lot do with parenting yourself and making choices for your long-term wellness.
It is no longer using your hectic and unreasonable life as justification for self-sabotage in the form of liquor and procrastination. It is learning how to stop trying to “fix yourself” and start trying to take care of yourself… and maybe finding that taking care lovingly attends to a lot of the problems you were trying to fix in the first place.
It means being the hero of your life, not the victim. It means rewiring what you have until your everyday life isn’t something you need therapy to recover from. It is no longer choosing a life that looks good over a life that feels good. It is giving the hell up on some goals so you can care about others. It is being honest even if that means you aren’t universally liked. It is meeting your own needs so you aren’t anxious and dependent on other people.
It is becoming the person you know you want and are meant to be. Someone who knows that salt baths and chocolate cake are ways to enjoy life – not escape from it.
Boundaries are so important for those who are empathetic, and for those who love deeply.
When you have so much love to give others, when you just want to be the person who shows up, when you just want to be the person who fixes and helps and makes sure that the people in your life feel the sunniest kind of happiness, when you take on their emotions as your own, when you just want to make sure everything is okay, everyone feels seen, everyone feels loved — you attract human beings who are kind, and compassionate, and who give you that same love back, but you also tend to attract human beings who see your heart as something they can take advantage of at times. This is why so many empaths, or people who are deeply compassionate, fall into these relationships or friendships or family dynamics that end up draining them, or end up becoming one-sided, or toxic. The empathy, the love, the depth — it can be something so light filled and soft, but it can also, in a lot of cases, leave you feeling depleted, or leave you feeling empty because you’re not always poured into the same way.
And that is why it is so important to learn how to protect your energy as an empath. It is proven that a lot of highly sensitive people lack boundaries. They care very deeply, they want to nurture those around them, and they want to give and give and give. They pour out for the people they love. They have hearts that just can’t say no, that sometimes can’t walk away from situations that hurt them, or that drain them, because they ultimately don’t want to give up on the people in their life, they don’t want to turn their back on them, or abandon them, or make them think that they don’t care for them.
If you are like this — you don’t have to apologize for that. It is beautiful to be the person who cares, and often, a lot of us have grown up around this belief that love is sacrifice. That you don’t ever give up on someone. That you don’t ever walk away. That you give, and give, and give, and you fight for those in your life; you put them first. But that doesn’t mean you sacrifice at your own expense. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have boundaries and be empathetic, and compassionate, and of value to those in your life.
However, it takes a long time to learn that because, often, a lot of compassionate people don’t realize that they need to set stronger boundaries with those they care about. When you give so much of yourself, you often continue to give and you don’t pay attention to how your relationships or how the people in your life are affecting you, or your heart, or your happiness, until you’re burnt out. Until you feel alone. Until you’re in a toxic friendship, or relationship, and you just feel disheartened.
As an act of self love, it’s important to step back and find self-awareness. To really ask yourself what is building you up in life, and what is tearing you down. What hurts. What drains your energy.
Really ask yourself:
Do you ever feel like people take advantage of you or use your emotions for their own gain? Do you ever feel like you’re constantly having to “save” people close to you and fix their problems all the time? Do you find yourself deeply invested or deeply attached to very intense relationships, very quickly? In your relationships, does it feel like things are always either light-filled and beautiful or heavy and haunted with no in-between? Do you, in your heart, hate drama or anything along those lines, but you constantly are the person who gets put into the middle of it as a fixer or as a voice of reason? Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed when you have to go and see people in your life because you know it will leave you drained afterwards? Do you feel like you often don’t have enough time for yourself because you’ve promised it away to others? Do you feel like you’ve let yourself down, or let yourself go, because you’ve given so much of your energy and time to others, and now you don’t have any energy to pour into yourself?
If any of these questions hit your heart, or made your stomach flip — it’s time to stand up for yourself and to create boundaries that help you protect your energy. At the end of the day, you are your own home. You have to take care of yourself. You have to take responsibility for not only the energy you’re putting out into the world, but also, the energy you’re allowing around you. We teach people how to love us. We teach people what we can handle, and what we cannot. We teach people how to respect us. And you deserve love, and respect. You deserve the same empathy you give to others. Love should not be something that leaves you feeling exhausted and drained. Nor should friendship, family. There is only so much you can give, before you need to really defend your heart.
So — how do you start to set boundaries?
You do it by being intentional, and by really coming home to yourself and being honest with yourself. People who love deeply often need to most learn how to create balance and boundaries around the amount of time they give to those they care about.
Ask yourself — really take the time to think about what your heart needs, what you need, for once.
How much space and solitude do you need to feel nourished, and energized?
What genuinely refreshes and recharges you?
What tends to drain you, what asks for you to lose yourself in order to keep it in your life?
What people tend to drain you?
What people tend to make your heart feel like it isn’t being held, like your love is not being valued, or reciprocated, like you’re giving and giving and giving to the point of exhaustion?
When do you feel your best? The most you? The most free?
When do you feel your worst? The heaviest? The loneliest, even when you’re surrounded by certain people?
When do you feel anxious, like you’re trapped, like you know you need to walk away or give less, but you just can’t?
That is where you begin. The things that came up for you when you were asking those questions to yourself — you know them deep in your heart. You know where you need to be kinder to yourself. You know where you deserve to pull your energy from, where you deserve to let it flow. You know. It’s a matter of allowing yourself to create boundaries around those things.
It can start by allowing yourself to say no to helping someone when you genuinely know that you don’t have the energy to do so. A healthy boundary looks like taking time for yourself, really giving yourself space to do even 15 minutes of something that makes your soul come alive, or that grounds you. A healthy boundary looks like pausing before you say yes to something, and really checking in with yourself. Do you actually want to do that thing? Do you actually want to go to that event? Do you actually want to be surrounded by those human beings? Or are you just saying yes to please people? Are you just saying yes so you don’t disappoint the people you care about? A healthy boundary looks like reinforcing your worth, and your needs. It looks like really affirming that you are allowed to ask for space, for help, for time away from someone, and that doesn’t take away from the value of your love, and that doesn’t mean that you are letting anyone down.
A healthy boundary looks like checking in with your feelings, and your thoughts, and asking yourself — is this mine? When you are compassionate or empathetic you feel things very deeply, and you often can take people’s emotions home with you. You can take their problems on as your own. You can make it your responsibility to fix what is going on in their life, you bring it into your mind, your heart. It’s like having an emotional hangover in a way, you walk away with conversations, feelings, fears, negativity, and it’s all stuck to you and it can drain you and exhaust you and really impact your mental health. Learning to assess those feelings, those things you’re holding onto and reminding yourself that often they are not yours to hold, is important. Let them go. You are not responsible for fixing the people in your life. You are only responsible for loving them. And you can love them deeply, and well, and also take care of yourself, and your heart.
A healthy boundary looks like really being honest with yourself about what hurts, and giving yourself permission to let go. To stop fighting for those who aren’t fighting for you. To stop pouring so much of your love into those who cannot value it. To really stand for what you desire, and what you need from a relationship, or from a loved one, and understanding that if they cannot give that to you, or reciprocate, then it is okay, but that you might need to match their energy. There is only so much you can give. There is only so much you can fight for until it breaks you. A healthy boundary within this is truly standing up for your heart and really making the decision to uphold that each and every single day. It’s checking in with yourself whenever you are made to feel like you are hard to love. It’s checking in with yourself whenever your heart aches, or it is mistreated, or you feel like you’re not being valued or respected. It’s about saying “I deserve more than this.” And it’s about sticking to that. It will be difficult at first, it will be so tough, but you have to defend your heart, and the way you desire to be loved. Again — you teach people how to love you. You do that by being dedicated to what you deserve, what you truly want. You don’t settle for things that don’t nurture, or nourish you, or fill you with love. You commit to that.
However, boundaries are not easy things to set. They come with a lot of guilt for people who love deeply. When we set boundaries, there are so many voices inside of us that tell us that we are being selfish. Or that we aren’t being a good person, or partner, when we don’t put someone before ourselves. We tell ourselves that putting someone’s needs before our own is the compassionate thing to do, that it is the right thing to do. We convince ourselves that by not giving them what they need, or giving them our love, or giving them every aspect of ourselves, we are unkind, or uncaring. We tell ourselves that we are responsible for their happiness, that we can’t just turn our backs on them. We tell ourselves that we are strong enough to give even if we aren’t receiving, that we were made to be the people in this world who pour even if no one is pouring back into us, that we can handle it.
But this is something I want you to really understand and sit with. The guilt you feel when setting a boundary is not because the boundary itself is wrong, it’s because of all the deeper, limiting beliefs you have that tell you it’s wrong. That tell you it is selfish. That tell you it is uncaring. That tell you it is dismissive. That tell you it is cruel, or unloving. But the boundary isn’t any of those things. It’s not wrong to want to take care of yourself. It is not wrong to walk away from a love that only ever leaves you feeling unworthy, and trapped. It is not wrong to advocate for your heart. It is not wrong to stand up for yourself. It is not wrong.
Try your best to remind yourself of that whenever the guilt bubbles up in your chest. It will be often, and consistent, at first. But you have to talk it down. Tell yourself: A boundary is not a lack of compassion. Boundaries are not a lack of caring. A boundary is not a lack of empathy. Boundaries are an act of self love, that better help for you to love those around you. The more you show up for yourself, the better you can show up for others. It’s why we’re always told to put our oxygen masks on before those we are seated beside when we are on a plane. We cannot pour from an empty cup. Boundaries help for you to ensure your cup is always full. And imagine how much more love you can give from that kind of place. How much lighter it would feel.
Lastly — be aware of how people react to your boundaries.
It’s important to see these reactions as valuable signs. Pay attention to how others react to your boundaries. Do they push against them? Do they have a hard time taking no for an answer? Do they make you feel guilty or bad about yourself in some other way? Do they take you seriously or think your boundaries are unreasonable or don’t apply to them? All of this is helpful information about the quality of that relationship. It hurts when we come to terms with the fact that the people we love and care for don’t have the same consideration for us. But it can be a guiding light. It can be a moment of clarity that encourages us to invest more in relationships where our boundaries and needs are respected than in those where they are not. And that is what you deserve.
You deserve the love you give to everyone around you. Your heart deserves more than just exhaustion. And you know that. It’s time to stand up for that. To really commit to that. The most important boundaries of all are the ones that you set for yourself. Whatever behaviour you permit for yourself and the rules that you live by will signal to others what you’ll accept from them too. You can’t help others until you help yourself first, so the ultimate act of self-love is setting a high standard for what you will accept in your life. Know that you are worthy of that standard.
This year, promise to treat yourself like a friend.
This year, just be kinder to yourself. In everything that you do think of yourself like a friend, treat yourself like a friend. It can be difficult to change that mindset at times, because we live our own lives, and we all have these internal worlds where we are constantly in our own heads. And those internal worlds are not often the most peaceful places to be, because I know that we all hold ourselves to such a standard. We want to grow, we want to heal, we want to do better, and be better, so much so, that we can sometimes be extremely hard on ourselves. And that is valid, because it means you care. It means you care about what you’re putting into this world, about how you’re showing up in this world. It means you care about meeting your potential, about being who you want to be.
But within all of that, I think a lot of us have a hard time being kind to ourselves. We’re always pushing for more, always letting our pasts or our mistakes create this narrative of negative self talk, or self doubt within our minds, it’s like we are constantly putting so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect, that we’re not really allowing ourselves to be real.
So, promise to treat yourself like a friend this year. You care about so many human beings as if it were the deepest extension of yourself. You are empathetic, you have compassion for them. You want the people in your life to experience all of the beauty it has to offer. You want to remind them of their worth every single day. You want to protect them from anything that could hurt them or harm them, you want to encourage them to walk away from the things that ask them to settle for less than what they are deserving of. You encourage them when they doubt themselves, you remind them of their unique potential, you speak so much love into them on their hardest days. This year, I want you to promise to do the same things for yourself.
Ask yourself :
Would you talk to someone you loved the way you talk to yourself?
Would you allow for someone you loved to be treated the way you allow yourself to be treated?
Would you let someone you loved, someone you saw so much potential and beauty in, give so much of their energy, their time, and their heart, to those who did not value it?
Would you let someone you loved vilify themselves for their mistakes, for their pasts, for the person they had to be in order to survive or to heal?
You wouldn’t. You’d be in direct opposition of it, and you are. You are constantly defending the people you love, protecting them, reminding them that they are good enough, that they are worthy, and you do this because that is what you do for the people you love. So love yourself enough to be that for yourself, as well. Promise yourself that, even if it is hard at first, to work towards that kind of compassion for yourself. When you feel self doubt creep in, when you start to tell yourself that you aren’t good enough, when you stay in situations that hurt just to make someone else comfortable, or just to not be alone, when you know you deserve more but you can’t push yourself to stand up for that — remind yourself to treat yourself like a friend. Would you want any of that for them? If not, actively work towards being kinder within the thoughts, actively work towards fostering compassion for yourself in a situation, actively work towards giving yourself the same empathy you give to everyone around you. Make it an active thing, combat those thoughts, and that pressure, and that negativity, and meet yourself with kindness as best as you can. You are your own home. Make it a beautiful place to be.
This year, promise yourself to let go of almosts.
Promise yourself that you will stop allowing yourself to settle for less than you know you deserve. To keep giving so much of your heart to those who do not value it. To put so much time, and energy, and effort into those who are only loving you in halves.
I know how difficult it is to walk away from almosts. How difficult it is to be in a situation where you care so deeply for someone, or where you are genuinely excited about the potential you see in another human being. I know how dismantling those relationships can be, I know how hard it can be to see them for what they are, because they are often filled with a lot of hope, and a lot of intensity, and you’re just waiting for the day all of that is realized, and all of that is concrete, and rooted, and whole. I know how hard it can be to hold all of that hope within yourself, how heavy the weight of almosts can be. How much they can make you doubt yourself, how much they can make you question if you are enough for this person who only wants to love you in miminums. Almosts shake up your heart, they make it question itself, and you don’t deserve that.
Because the love you have to give someone is good love. The love you have to give someone is deep, and honest, and empathetic. And if someone cannot see that, if someone cannot value that, or meet that — you deserve to find the people who can. Please, just promise yourself to let go of the people who leave your heart confused. Let go of the people who make you feel like you are compromising all that you desire, all that you hope for, all the goodness and the beauty that you know exists in this world, for a malnourished version of love, for a skinny version of love. Let go of falling in love with potential, with falling in love with the idea of someone rather than who they truly are. Let go of the fears you have that keep you holding on to something that hurts, something that is so heavy, something that has only left you feeling misunderstood, or unworthy, or at war with yourself. Let go of waiting for the people you have always treated kindly, to treat you kindly. Let go of waiting for the people you have always treated with respect, to treat you with respect. Let go of waiting for the people you have always chosen, to finally choose you. Let go of waiting. Let go of holding your breath, just hoping that things change.
Let go. Don’t allow yourself to get comfortable existing in spaces where you know you deserve better. Love is not meant to hurt. Let me repeat that: love is not meant to hurt. Love is not meant to be given in bare minimums. Love does not require for you to be cooler, or less emotional, or less yourself, for you to be worthy of it choosing you. Love chooses you. In the good, and the bad. It isn’t an almost thing. It isn’t something you have to beg for. It isn’t something you have to fight for constantly, something that is always a source of pain and confusion and hurt. There is power in letting go of anything that is forcing you to let go of yourself. Don’t ignore what you know in your heart. Remember — it is better to be alone, than to feel lonely in what you’re settling for. It is better to be alone, than to try to fit your heart into the hands of someone who does not want to hold it. It is better to be alone, than to fight for someone who is not fighting for you. It is better to be alone, to be your own foundation, than to spend any more of your time waiting for someone to see the beauty in what you are giving them. You deserve good love. Promise you will let go of anything that does not feel that way, this year. Promise to stand up for your heart.
This year, promise to believe that nothing is too good for you.
This year, promise to believe that you are worthy of everything you want in life, and that you are not asking for too much. And I know that isn’t easy, because I know that the world has ways of convincing you otherwise. I know that we have all gone through this life, and have sometimes been weathered by it in ways we didn’t necessarily ask for, but in ways that have stuck. In ways that have caused us to doubt what we deserve.
And I am sorry for that. I am sorry that you had to experience things you did not ask for, that you had to go through certain losses that carved into you lessons you were too young to learn, or lessons that were heavy to carry within yourself. I am sorry that somewhere along your journey, society convinced you that you were not beautiful, that you had to be smaller, that you had to want less, or settle for things outside of what you always dared to hope for. I am sorry that at times the world made you feel like you didn’t hold space within it, that you didn’t deserve to be here, or to be loved, or to be the kind of person who achieves great and beautiful things. I am sorry that you had to endure things at the hands of love that made you stop believing in it’s goodness, that made you stop believing in just how possible it was for you to find someone kind, and honest, and committed, in this generation. I am sorry that somewhere along your journey, you were convinced that you couldn’t dream the way you wanted to dream, that you couldn’t strive to experience all of the beauty this life has to offer.
And I know that sometimes because of all that you have been through, you doubt the part of yourself that knows there is more out there for you. You doubt the part of yourself that is trying to push you to believe that your past does not deserve to control you anymore. But you have to do it. You have to have the courage to believe in things you have yet to feel. You have to have the courage to believe that you are capable, that you are strong, that you are worthy, no matter what the world tries to tell you. You have to have the courage to be your own guiding light, to validate your own purpose, to push yourself to believe that nothing is too good for you, that nothing is out of reach, that nothing you want in this life exists within impossibility if you’re willing to leap towards it. You have to have the courage to crash every ounce of your hope into this world, outside of your past, outside of the opinions of others, outside of what society tells you is appropriate or achievable. So whenever you feel that doubt creep in, remind yourself that nothing is too good for you. Whenever you doubt if you are deserving of the good things that come into your life, remind yourself that nothing is ever too good to be true for you. The things you want, the life you want to live, the people you hope to love, the way you want your life to feel — it’s possible for you. It’s possible. Don’t convince yourself that it’s just not in the cards for a person like you. Promise yourself to believe that you are worthy. Each and every single day, and especially on the days the world tries to weather you into believing otherwise. Hold fast in your hope. Believe in impossibility. You are worthy of all that is kind, and good, and awe-inspiring in this world. Promise yourself that you will never forget that this year.
This year, promise to remind yourself of just how far you have come.
I know that in a society that makes you feel like you have to constantly be moving forward, in a society that puts so much value in external achievements, and often sells this concept of success or achievement as being a very specific thing, it can be difficult to connect with just how much you’ve achieved along your own unique journey. It can be difficult to connect with just how far you have come.
Because, at the end of the day, while it is beautiful and inspiring to be the kind of person who is pushing themselves to achieve a level of happiness, and success, that exists on their own terms, sometimes we can be so focused on what is ahead of us, that we forget to honor and embrace what we have survived. Sometimes, when we feel like we haven’t grown at all, it takes looking at who we used to be, to realize that so much growth happened when we didn’t even feel it taking place. That in the dark, or moments of rest, we changed, we healed, in the quietest of ways. We pushed ourselves forward. We managed to evolve. We managed to stay strong enough to make it to where we are now, and that within itself is an achievement that deserves to be celebrated.
This year, promise to remind yourself of just how far you have come. When you feel like you are falling behind, think back to all of the moments in your life where you thought the same thing, and just how much those seasons of confusion, or slow growth, taught you about yourself. When you feel like you are never going to heal a broken heart, think back to all of the moments in your life where you held the same heart in your hands and you put it’s broken pieces back together — how you healed slowly, and in the smallest ways, day after day. When you feel like you will never get out of the dark, remind yourself of the moments in your life that enveloped you in a heavy kind of hope, remember how you tucked light into yourself and fought to be here today. Remind yourself of all of the ways you survived, when you didn’t think you were capable. Nothing in this life has ever had the ability to defeat you. If anything tests your resilience this year, remind yourself of that. Remind yourself of the ways in which you have saved yourself so many times before. You have come so far. Honor that.
This year, promise to stop comparing yourself to others.
Within the last year we have all grown even more attached to social media as a means of experiencing life. Apps like Instagram, and TikTok have the capacity to fill our days with so much stimulation, and so many perspectives, and illustrations of people, and while we know that most of social media is a highlight reel, it can be difficult to disconnect from that when it is a main form of what we are consuming each day. It can be difficult not to feel a little sad that we don’t look like someone we admire online, it can be difficult not to feel a little discouraged or lonely when we see beautiful videos of happy couples splashed across our feeds, it can be a little difficult not to feel like we are falling behind when we see the achievements of others scrolling across our phones constantly. Social media can be really disarming, and very polarizing, and it’s extremely difficult not to compare our lives to those we see online.
And so I just want to remind you that this is human. These feelings are very real, and very valid, and it’s important to really pay attention to them when they arise, because it is within that awareness that we can reframe how we’re letting them affect us. When you start to notice yourself comparing yourself, when you start to notice yourself wishing that your timeline looked more like someone else’s when it comes to their career, or their success, or their relationships — remind yourself that you are living your own unique life, and that your journey is an extension of that. You are going to achieve the things you want to achieve. You are going to find good love. You are going to heal. You cannot lose what is for you. You will never miss out on the things that are meant to happen for you in life. So you do not have to rush yourself forward, you do not have to force anything into happening before it is meant to happen in your life. Get clear with what you want, and more so, get clear with yourself on how you want your life to feel, rather than what you want it to look like on the outside, on social media. And go in that direction. Have intention with it. Believe that it is going to happen for you, that is unfolding within its own unique way in your life, and do not compare that journey to anyone else’s, because it is your own.
This year, promise to take 15 minutes out of each day to make yourself the person you want to be.
How can you take fifteen minutes for yourself each day? For your goals, for your self care, for your heart — how can you show up for yourself?
We build so many resolutions around these large and looming things, and while I think those hold space, I also think that they can be overwhelming. They aren’t always sustainable. So start small. Make a micro-shift in your day, each day. You don’t have to run for an hour — but you can push yourself to move your body for 15 minutes. You don’t have to read three books a week — but you can push yourself to read for 15 minutes before bed. You don’t have to only treat yourself to a self care moment when you are depleted, and you feel like you will bubble over with anxiety if you don’t. You can take 15 minutes each day to put your phone down, to connect with yourself, to do a face mask, to take a hot shower, to sit and drink water. These things sound so small, but they add up.
And it’s not often even about the specific things you’re doing, it’s more about the fact that you’re doing them for yourself. You’re showing up for yourself. You’re being kind to yourself. You’re taking time or yourself no matter what, on even your hardest or busiest days, to take care of yourself. To do something that makes you better, in even the quietest way. I promise, it improves your life, because you really start connecting with the fact that you are nurturing yourself, you are nurturing your body, you are nurturing your mind, and it becomes a habit. And that is really special. That is something you learn to embrace, that is something you learn to celebrate, because in a way, it’s teaching you to celebrate and honor yourself, to treat yourself with kindness, and to stand up for the future version of yourself that you’re becoming. Fifteen minutes each day. Whatever it may be, whatever that looks like for you — dedicate yourself to it, promise it to yourself each and every day. You deserve it.
When something happens that scares you, and then you do not ever get over that fear, you become traumatized.
Trauma is the experience of disconnecting with a fundamental source of safety. It happens most severely when our attachment is severed to our primary caretakers. But there is truly an infinite number of ways the world can traumatize you, and to varying degrees.
There are lots of theories about what trauma is, and where it comes from. Many believe that it is passed down physically through your DNA. Others argue that it is shared mentally and emotionally, through learned patterns and observations. Most commonly, trauma is believed to be an interpersonal experience we have in which we were challenged and then lacked the skills and coping mechanisms to rise to it. Instead, we fell.
No matter where it came from, if you have some kind of lingering trauma, you will know, because you will feel it. You will feel it physically in your body. You will feel anxiety, tension, fear, terror, sadness or guilt. It will be displaced. It will not have a clear, direct cause. You will overreact to certain things and even when a problem is solved, you will still panic. This is the mark of trauma.
Trauma is not in your head. It is in your body.
This is the first and most important thing you need to know in order to overcome it: trauma is a legitimate, physical issue. You store those emotions, energies and patterns at a cellular level.
Thankfully, we can use the ripples at the top of the water to trace back down to the problem at the bottom, so to say. You can begin to use your body to help you heal.
First, identify where the trauma is.
You do this by feeling into yourself, and noticing where you are tight, or tense. Our bodies harden in order to protect us. When we have a broken leg, our fascia tightens like a natural cast, so that we do not bend ourselves that way again. Similarly, when our hearts are broken, our emotions tighten, so that we do not let ourselves feel again.
Of course, eventually, we have to walk. We have to love. We have to experience life again. We have to slowly soften the pieces of us that are trying to protect us, so that we can move forward.
Healing trauma is not just a matter of psychoanalyzing it. It is a matter of literally working through it with your breath. The next time you feel yourself overreacting to some kind of stimuli, you will notice that your body is starting to tense up, and create a fight-or-flight response. To heal this, you have to force yourself to take deep, soothing breaths, until the part of your body that was once tense is relaxed again.
You will need to self-soothe in different ways. Meditating, breathing, drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, using aromatherapy or sound therapy or whatever else works for you.
You absolutely must work to take your brain and body physically out of panic, survival mode.
Second, reinstate a sense of safety.
You are traumatized because something scared you and you are convinced that it is still “out to get you.” This is what happens when we don’t face or overcome something difficult, we assume the threat lingers indefinitely.
The psychological aspect of trauma healing is that you have to literally restore the connection that was severed, in the exact same way that it was broken.
If you are traumatized about relationships, you need to build healthy relationships. If you are traumatized about money, you need to get really good with money. If you are traumatized about traveling, you need to travel again.
We do not find the resolution in avoiding these things forever. In fact, just underneath the fear we often find that they are the things we really want more than anything else.
Third, stop taking thoughts and feelings at face value.
Last, to overcome trauma, you have to stop engaging in psychic thinking. You have to stop pretending you are able to predict what will happen, you know other people’s intentions, or that what you feel and think is absolute truth and reality.
This kind of thinking is what takes a triggering feeling and turns it into a defeating spiral. You take one scary thing and make it into a prediction for what the future will hold.
You are not an oracle. You do not know what’s next, though you are always capable of choosing what you do now. Almost always, the thing you are most panicked about is a thing you do not know is happening for sure. It is usually an assumption, a projection, a fear turned into a terrifying potential reality.
You might think that trauma is something that other, more damaged people have, but that is not true. Everyone is traumatized in one way or another, but it is how we respond to it, how we ultimately grow and develop self-mastery from it, that determines the course of our lives.
Think of a current problem upsetting you right now. It may be related to a relationship, your finances, career, health, or otherwise. Try to get a sense of how it is affecting you, while distancing yourself from the mental chatter. The idea of acceptance is difficult to grasp for many because people believe it implies resignation or apathy. In fact, acceptance means letting go of worry, fear, anger and negative emotions and choosing peace instead. Often, what we experience isn’t the real cause of our suffering, as much as our thoughts about it. And since we cannot control our thoughts, we try desperately to make sense of what is taking place.
Can you identify with this regarding your experience? Because we are close to the experience, the pain feels real, and regrettably, we get caught up in negative thoughts and emotions. The good news is, there are several therapies such as ACT and CBT that focus on accepting our thoughts and learning to diffuse them. The premise underlying any unpleasant experiences is learning to accept our thoughts, which neutralizes our pain and suffering. This is because our thoughts are saboteurs that convince us things are more distressing than they are (known as catastrophizing). It is by better understanding the thinking process, we realize that thoughts come and go from our mind and there’s no use giving them more energy.
Acceptance allows you the freedom to be yourself, because when we’re consumed by pain and suffering, we are not our true selves. Have you experienced this before of not inhabiting your body but controlled by your thoughts and emotions? When we accept things as they are, we develop greater psychological flexibility and what happens is aligned for our greater good. Now, let me be clear, I am not saying we should accept any form of harassment, abuse, bullying, hatred, criminal acts of violence, etc. I am saying, to ease our pain and suffering, we must accept the situation as it is, even though we may not like what is happening. Acceptance opens the door to our healing, which should be our priority over feeling good in the interim. Can you see where I’m coming from? Our long-term wellbeing should take priority over feeling good in the meantime. Healing means developing a new lens in which to view our circumstances, instead of being caught up in negativity.
When we heal, we align with our authentic nature instead of being governed by fleeting thoughts and emotions. Healing is a journey into oneself to discover the true essence of who we are. It is not meant to be a pleasant experience and sometimes can be more painful than the initial wounds. But we must take that journey if we want to live authentically, otherwise we will continually run into problems. Sometimes, it is difficult because we may not be ready for what lies ahead. Here’s the good and bad news: No one has their affairs in order. I’m yet to meet a single person free of emotional wounds and whose thoughts are peaceful and harmonious. Each of us is afflicted by some form of mental and emotional suffering, and we’re all trying to find our way in the world. Some of us are doing a better job than others, but it doesn’t mean we cannot find our way.
Is this beginning to make sense, that acceptance leads to peace and harmony and the freedom to be yourself? If you sense resistance to what I’m saying, put the advice into practice. Do the healing work and test the strength of my statements. Non-acceptance is resistance, and as you know, what we resist persists. Even unfortunate experiences can teach us valuable lessons about ourselves.
What are you resisting through your current experience?
What is behind your resistance? What are you choosing not to see?
What are you believing about this? Is it serving you?
Who would you be without the story?
What does the vulnerable place within you want you to know? What does it need you to understand?
Take your time and connect with your wise self as you answer them, since there may be hidden gems contained within them. Go deeper into the core of your being to discover why these experiences are affecting you. It is once we accept all that is that we find true freedom to be ourselves once more.
Pain is inevitable throughout life, although to carry it unnecessarily fuels suffering. Even though our wounds are not our fault, our healing remains within our control. Healing is a difficult and yet liberating journey of self-discovery. Forgiveness teaches us self-resiliency and self-reliance. It awakens us to a greater love and peace that resides within us.
It is why I am drawn to the words of the spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle who wrote on his Instagram account recently: “If you cannot accept what is outside, then accept what is inside. If you cannot accept the external condition, accept the internal condition. This means: Do not resist the pain. Allow it to be there. Surrender to the grief, despair, fear, loneliness, or whatever form the suffering takes. Witness it without labeling it mentally. Embrace it. Then see how the miracle of surrender transmutes deep suffering into deep peace. This is your crucifixion. Let it become your resurrection and ascension.” Tolle reminds us not to resist our pain but surrender to it in order to transform our suffering. I realize this advice goes against what people want to hear. I equate it to running towards a lion instead of fleeing for your life. Nevertheless, by facing our fears we allow pain to move through us and realize pain is not who we really are; it is an emotional state we have held on to and kept alive.
Beyond our pain lies an ever expansive love which at its essence is our true nature. Even though our wounds may not be our fault, our healing remains our responsibility. To heal means to accept what happened to us and discover our true selves through the healing process. Let me be very clear: acceptance does not mean we like what took place. It simply means to acknowledge the events and work towards healing ourselves of the pain associated with it. People might say: “I wish the event never occurred because I wouldn’t have to deal with the anguish, let alone the long road to recovery.” Whilst that may be true if we believe everything happens for a reason, what if our pain is there to teach us self-compassion and forgiveness? Perhaps the lesson is not so much about the transgression that took place but how we love and nurture ourselves when we are wounded. How do you feel about this? I know it may be difficult to accept especially if your wounds are fresh. Let it sit for a while and try to see your situation through the lens of love and healing.
Dr. Mario Martinez, a clinical neuropsychologist, writes in The Mindbody Code: How To Change The Beliefs That Limit Your Health, Longevity, And Successthat “When you’re wounded, especially by significant people in your life, your empowerment is challenged, and your worthiness is called into question. The vulnerability your loss of empowerment creates within you allows the wound to damage your worthiness.” To reclaim our empowerment and worthiness once more, we must cross the threshold of pain and let go of our hurt and anguish. It’s essential you understand, I am not inviting you to forget, but to forgive yourself for being caught up in what took place. Through the healing process, we restore any sense of shame, guilt and anger we inherited as a result of our wounds. Dr. Martinez further explains, instead of trying to forgive the perpetrator or minimize the events of the past, we should focus on re-establishing our sense of self which is more important: “Rather than forgiving the perpetrator or minimizing the intensity of the misdeed, you recover the empowerment and self-worthiness you thought had been taken from you.”
What are your thoughts by now? Are you willing to take ownership of the past in the way you process it? There is rarely ever a right way to heal our wounds. Though, it requires courage to appreciate that our emotional wounds are not permanent and exist to awaken us to the loving presence within us. This presence can never be taken away or deprived through physical or nonphysical acts because, at its essence, this is the foundation of who we are. As a result, we lean into this oneness of love, knowing like a net which supports a trapeze artist should they fall, we will be guided through our healing journey. Our priority is to nurture ourselves foremost through the eyes of kindness and compassion however painful our wounds may be. After all, the love within us is far greater than our wounds because it is the greatest purifier and healer there is.
How would you describe your relationship with yourself? Is it a kind, compassionate and nurturing one or does it encompass a critical voice? It is important we understand the way we treat ourselves because it impacts how we relate to others. I realise many people have been hurt, whether it be through childhood wounds or intimate relationships. We have all experienced pain and suffering at some point. However, this shouldn’t mean we carry our emotional wounds around and unload them on others. Whilst we may not have consented to the experience that caused us pain, it is incumbent on us to heal the wounds and find our way back to wholeness.
Life is not fair at the best of times, yet if we buy into this narrative, we are bound to lose hope. It is better we see life as a process where good things happen and sometimes unfortunate things happen. I’m not convinced life is out to get us. However, in previous years I was certain it was, since unpleasant experiences seemed like I was being punished. It wasn’t until recently I realized it was my thoughts that regulated how I interacted with life. That is to say, the wisdom of the years has taught me that life is impartial and my thinking determines my outlook. I am the tuning fork and life echoes back the experience of my thoughts. Ever since then, I have become attentive to my surroundings and inner world. For example, if I’m ruminating on something negative, I will see evidence of this in my waking life, such as repeated TV commercials about what I am focusing on. I am attentive to it and snap out of it quickly. Have you noticed this in your life? Do you observe your surroundings and pay attention to your inner world such as your dreams?
The point I wish to make is that healing is an inside out job. It begins by nurturing our thoughts with what we want to show up in our life. What we believe at a deeper level becomes our destiny, whether we like it or not. We are not victims given the deeper meaning behind every experience that teaches us valuable lessons. I see life as one giant mirror and we are the architects and creators of our reality. What we call a deleterious experience is the universe shining a light on our thoughts. I know this may sound insensitive but the universe doesn’t care what we think about. The universe is aligned with fundamental laws and when we abide by them, the circumstances of our life flow like a stream. We create every experience through our thoughts. Therefore, if we wish to heal the past, we ought to concede that nothing is an accident but results from our thinking. Is this an idea you are willing to embrace? Irrespective of your life’s experience up till now, are you willing to give life a chance?
When you make it a priority to heal yourself first, everything falls into place. When we perceive life differently, outside circumstances begin to reflect our thoughts. Granted, it may take a while but what is the rush? I often hear people talk about healing to the extent it is now embellished on social media with inspirational quotes. But no one tells us what it requires because no two paths to healing are the same. Some people spend their entire life healing and are still wounded. Healing requires understanding we are already whole as spiritual beings, yet throughout life we take on beliefs that distort this sense of wholeness. Healing is seeing past the illusion we are broken or need to be fixed. Whilst healing is important, integrating our wounds into the wholeness of our true nature is vital. We were never broken to begin with but lose our way throughout our earthly existence.
Healing requires putting the pieces of our life back together and stripping away what is not essential. It requires letting go of negativity by way of: fear, anger, anxiety and other dis-empowering states. These states find their way into our psyche and just like a computer virus, cause destruction until it takes over. Our job is to heal these distorted beliefs and replace them with the truth. We are none of these things and that is why healing is a return to love; the place we originated from and where we will eventually return. This is the essence of the message espoused by the spiritual teacher and author Matt Khan who writes in Everything Is Here to Help You: A Loving Guide to Your Soul’s Evolution: “When rooted in the vibration of love, we don’t have to be completely healed in order to bring forth the kindness and care that already dwells within us. Love inspires us to console the innocence within our heart that wishes it felt something other than how things are.” With this in mind, your task over the coming days is to write down a list of what you believe is standing in your way of living a remarkable life. On a separate page, write down whether you know for certain this is true? How can you re-frame these beliefs? What needs to change to create empowering beliefs and are you prepared to do the work? Once we heal ourselves, life begins to mirror our inner world because we have attended to the root cause of our pain.
Each of us carries wounds from childhood. For some, the pain is intense, bringing with it a sense of relived trauma, while others may not be fully aware of their wounds, even when triggered by external events. Life is difficult and complex at times. We’re not born with an instruction manual and must learn to cope with life as we go along.
Has this been your experience in life? One minute, things don’t make sense, and the next, something comes along that you’re not prepared for? We never know what life has in store for us, but we can use this to our advantage, much like a surfer anticipating the next big wave that will take them on a wild ride.
To heal the past, we must find meaning in our trauma, otherwise we become victims instead of co-creators of our life’s experience.
As Denise Frogman refers to in the title quote: I made healing my responsibility, even though the wounds were not my fault.
Excluding childhood abuse, there are often important lessons contained within our childhood experiences. Sometimes it means excavating the past like an archaeologist and sorting through the ruins. There was an Instagram post recently that caught my attention that said: “Nobody really tells you this but sometimes the healing hurts more than the wound.” I can truly attest to this, as working through my healing has come with many challenges. We tend to turn away and give up on ourselves when we go on the healing journey because the wounds are too difficult to face. Rather than run away, we ought to tune into them and make peace with what is holding us back. Is this something you’re willing to give your attention to? It is why many don’t take the journey into themselves to heal their traumas. Healing is a difficult and sometimes a long journey that requires a commitment to move through it boldly.
Finding meaning in our trauma requires digging up the past and deciding what is worth keeping and what should be left behind. This can be difficult because no one wants to process pain, especially when things are going well. But if we don’t turn towards our pain with openness and compassion, it will come barrelling down on us when we least expect it. It will strike us like a cargo train out of control, and all we can do is brace for impact. So, we must decide to work through it at our own pace. In doing so, we heal the past and gain new insights about ourselves. I discovered an abiding spirit of resilience and tenacity throughout my healing journey. I never knew I could withstand the pain until I undertook the journey into myself.
How about you? Are you willing to heal your wounds and find meaning in your trauma? Perhaps some of you are already on that journey, perhaps working through it alone or with a trained therapist. Be kind and compassionate with yourself, because healing is a courageous and worthwhile gift to ourselves. Discovering the essence of who we truly are beneath our scars and wounds requires us to be sensitive to our emotional needs. Because the person who emerges from the pain is not the same person who experienced it.
With this in mind, I’d like you to give some attention to the following questions: Are you truly committed to healing the wounds of the past? What do you hope to achieve through the healing process? Who do you wish to become? Are there aspects of your past too painful to confront? It is once we take a bold step towards wholeness that we transcend our trauma and find meaning in our experiences.