love yoself

Know your limits

Love yo self series part 3  

Line drawn on road, with shoes on either side

Boundaries. Something that is very important to me. Learning about boundaries was my light bulb moment in therapy.

Sometimes, we go through life, struggling, feeling hurt, suffering with depression and anxiety, and just not understanding why, or how to heal, or change situations so that we don’t feel these ways. And this was me, I had been in therapy for a while, and we had delved deep into my past, my relationships with all the people in my life, multiple diagnoses, and still we couldn’t figure out what was the issue. Until I sat in a lesson on boundaries.

I remember going, ag, I know what a boundary is. Until we started talking about the different kinds, about how we don’t hold our boundaries with others, but also with ourselves. Yes, you will always have people who encroach on your boundaries, or test them, but once you are in a habit of holding your boundaries, you can maintain the good mental health that comes from that, no matter what others do.

Circle with "your space" and circle with "their space" and the overlap labelled as boundary

What are boundaries

A boundary is what defines what a healthy interaction with other people is for you. It’s the outer limit for where you are comfortable in relation to others.

And they are scary, and when we first start exercising these, you can get a lot of resistance from others, especially from people who are not used to you having these boundaries. Also, it can feel uncomfortable to hold these boundaries, which is counterintuitive based on the definition, but it feels weird in the beginning so that you are comfortable in the future.

The benefits of boundaries outweigh the awkwardness you initially feel when setting them though. Benefits like improved self-esteem and relationships, conserved emotional energy, being able to grow and be vulnerable. Also, it’s key to remember that boundaries can be flexible, depending on the people or surroundings.

Types of boundaries

There are a lot of different boundaries that we can exercise, and that relate to different areas of our identities or our lives. Some of these categories, I’ve listed below

  • Physical/personal space: relating to your body and the contact people can have with you
  • Sexual: relating to your sexuality and what you are comfortable with
  • Intellectual: relating to your thoughts and opinions and what you do with them
  • Emotional: relating to how you feel and what you feel and feeling your feelings
  • Things/possessions: relating to what belongs to you and what you want to do with them
  • Financial: relating to how you spend your money and what you choose to do with it
  • Time/energy: relating to where and how you spend your time and what you do
  • Culture/religion/ethics: relating to your choice of beliefs that you want to follow
person drawing a circle around themselves with highlighter

How to set and maintain good boundaries

  1. Know your limits

One of the first steps in having boundaries, is knowing what they are. So start by defining your boundaries in terms of the different areas. You need to know what your boundaries are in order to protect them. Know up until which level you are comfortable, so that you can say to others that they are overstepping. Your boundaries can be defined according to your values, your personal beliefs, and what your gut generally tells you about what you feel comfortable with.

  • Be assertive

One of the things you will read most often when it comes to setting boundaries is to be assertive when you are setting your boundaries, or holding them. Be confident in what is important to you and what you believe about what makes you comfortable, no matter what category of boundary is being encroached. People may not understand and continue to encroach on your boundaries, however, it’s important that you stand your ground and remember why you need the boundary, and why you are communicating it.

  • Learn to say no

No is a full sentence. But when you have grown up, taught to be a “nice girl” and hence grew up to be a people pleaser, means you struggle to say no, and feel the need to always give a reason, to make people feel more comfortable. Holding boundaries, though, is about making sure you are comfortable and asserting what you need to feel secure in this world. It’s ok to say no.

How to boundary: say this: no.
  • Practice makes perfect

Holding boundaries is a skill, and if you grew up without boundaries, then you need to learn that skill. It takes a lot of practice, it’s not easy in the beginning, but don’t get disheartened, keep at it, because it’s taken people a lifetime of holding boundaries to get it right, and if you are starting in adulthood, you need to give yourself time to get it right. So keep going, the more practice you get, the better you’ll get at holding boundaries.

  • Get support

Reach out to supportive family and friends and, if you have access to, psychologists/psychiatrists/social workers for support in holding your boundaries, defining them, and perspective on if you are being too rigid because you are uncertain on how to have boundaries because you have never exercised them before.

Something we don’t often speak of is boundaries for others – other people have boundaries too, and if we have grown up without boundaries, we may have unknowingly encroached on the boundaries of others. So key things when trying to notice others asserting their boundaries are:

drawing of woman behind a fence
  1. Watch for cues

People will show you that they are feeling uncomfortable so look out for body language that suggests they are no longer comfortable with what you’re saying, how close you are. If they are consistently saying no, take no for an answer, if they are disengaged in the conversation and not saying anything or just nodding and using interjections like uh-huh, or hmmm, or I see, it’s possibly them giving an indication that they are no longer comfortable.

  • Be inclusive of neurodiverse behaviours

People who are neurodiverse can either have boundaries which are much looser, but also much stricter, and we need to take that into account. Sometimes they can become overwhelmed, or uncomfortable a lot quicker than others, so be aware of these moments, and we have to accept that there are many different people out there who have varying degrees of boundaries that we are not always going to understand.

  • Ask

When all else fails, don’t be afraid to ask people how they are feeling.

woman in a bubble with people crowding
Young woman sitting inside transparent glass bubble and crowd of people. Concept of separation from society, social isolation or solitude, unsocial person. Flat cartoon colorful vector illustration

I hope this has giving some clarity to boundaries, which are all over the internet and social media at the moment, but it’s not always clear of what it means to hold a boundary or the gravity of not having boundaries, and the impact on your mental health when you do eventually manage to assert your boundaries.


love yoself · mental wellness

Have an attitude of gratitude

The love yoself series part 2

    I had a few sessions with an ADHD coach about 2 years ago, and one of the things that stood out for me in one of our first sessions was when we were in the middle of our session, and my kids came rushing into the lounge and climbed all over me to greet me when they got home from school. I immediately apologised for the interruption and in response, the coach said to me, “Don’t apologise. Be grateful that you have children who can interrupt you to show you love”. That, as they say, was a watershed moment for me.

    As a person who struggles with clinical depression, remembering what I am grateful for in this life is helpful, having a list of things I’m grateful for that I can refer to when I’m really low is mental health first aid for me. My gratitude log (which is what I call it in my bullet journal) is a list of things in my life that I’m grateful for, but also reminders about me as a person and what I like about myself and that I’m grateful for.

    Gratitude is the best attitude, surrounded by leaves

    According to Psychology Today, the 7 scientifically proven benefits of gratitude are:

    Although I can see the surface level benefits for myself, I have wondered what is the psychology behind gratitude, is there any scientific benefit to it? Because it can feel really pointless, or fake, if you cannot see the value in it.

    1. Having gratitude helps build connection and relationships.

    Acknowledging someone’s contribution to your life, even if it’s something small, like holding a door open, makes an acquaintance desire to seek an ongoing relationship. So being thankful can help you make friends (it really is a magic word)

    • Gratitude improves physical health.

    Grateful people are less likely to experience health challenges and are more likely to take care of themselves (which is probably why they are less likely to experience health difficulties). That’s reason enough for me, I’m grateful that I am able to participate in sports like triathlon, because I don’t get bored, and it’s always a challenge for me.

    • Gratitude improves psychological health

    Being grateful can reduce the experience of emotions like envy, resentment and regret as it’s been known to reduce depression. It makes sense because if you are looking at your own life and what is great in your life, it’s very hard to be jealous of what others have because maybe they make more money, but they don’t have a family, for example. Also, it’s very hard to feel regret if you are grateful for the life you have experienced, instead of longing for a life you don’t have.

    • Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression

    Grateful people are more likely to behave in a prosocial manner (also going to win you some friends). In the studies where they have measured gratitude, they found that grateful people are more likely to behave more kindly even when others aren’t showing the same type of behaviour. And I guess, if you start your day being thankful for life’s small mercies, it only matters what you do, and not how others choose to live?

    • Grateful people sleep better

    People who write in gratitude journal before bed have found to experience better and longer sleep. I may have to try this one out, because I sometimes forget what sleep feels like. I don’t know when last I woke up well-rested, so on some days, I need to end my day with gratitude.

    • Gratitude improves self-esteem

    Gratitude has been known to reduce social comparisons, which in tern, helps build self-esteem, because the focus goes from envying someone else’s life, to appreciating your own life, and being able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments, without feeling resentment.

    • Gratitude increases mental strength

    Grateful people have been found to be more resilient in the face of trauma. The basis of this is that being able to recognize what you have to be thankful in your life helps you to build resilience for those moments when you are struggling with a really challenging situation.

    The key message I have taken out of all the reading I have been doing on gratitude and self-love, is the renewed focus on yourself, and teaching yourself to appreciate who you are and what you have achieved, what you have in this life. It’s something small, you can do it when you wake up.

    I challenge you, for at least 30 days, to write down one thing that you are grateful for each day. Find those things in your life that will remind you why you should love yourself.

    Blank page, with header "Gratitude log" and pen lying on the page


    love yoself

    To know yourself is to love yourself

    Love yo’self series

    The first step in learning to love myself, was getting to know myself. To start doing all the things that I enjoy, to go back to my childhood to all those things that I did because I loved them but maybe stopped them because someone judged me for it. To think of things that I like, if no one knew I was doing them. What would I do, if I was completely free of judgement? What would I do if I knew no one would find out?

    All these questions to truly find out what makes me tick, without fear of anyone shaming me, or putting my interests down, no fear of not being interesting enough or cool enough or good enough. Just me, figuring out who I am.

    Woman in front of sign that says "love"
    Me and all my quirky

    Part of this journey, and to gain self-knowledge, meant that I had to start spending time by myself, to figure out who I am, and what I like. It’s almost like dating, you go out with a person, and over a series of outings you learn about who they are, what they like, what they don’t like, and whether or not you are comfortable with this person. And self-knowledge is exactly like that.

    You spend some time with yourself. Talk about your past, how you grew up. So with yourself, you think back to your childhood, and who you were, and what energized you and what you were passionate about. What could you do, or talk about, for hours without getting bored.

    As a mother of two, with a time-consuming job, it’s not always easy for me to find these moments, but I try and create them where I can. If I have 30 minutes spare on my weekend, I’ll go for coffee by myself, and journal, or colour in. Or if one of my kids has a party, I drop them off, and then use the next two hours to be by myself, and figure her out.

    Also, think about what is important to you – just you, whether or not society, your family, and friends will agree with them, or think they are bad or good. None of that is important – it’s just about what is important to you. Later on, you can decide if this is the person you want to be and you can always readjust your values. People are always growing and changing, and while you are on a journey to know yourself, doesn’t mean that who that person is static and unchanging.

    Last year, I was lucky enough to have an ADHD coach and we went through my values, and there were a lot of values that I thought I had, but when she asked me to write down all the things that I wanted to do with my life, frankly I had to admit that wanting to go snowboarding, and complete an Ironman 70.3 had nothing to do with humility. And for someone as health conscious as I am with a strong interest in how the body works, and keeping fit, and wanting to be a triathlete again, not once did I mention health as one of my values.

    We worked through a lot of self-limiting beliefs I had, especially around money, and unpacking my thoughts around “the love of money is the root of all evil”. A lot of my values had to be re-thought because the good girl people pleaser in me wrote down my first set of values, and I had to go back and be real about who I am, not who I want people to think I am. It was not easy. And I’m still working on it.

    Are there any activities, or things you have always wanted to try but didn’t because of whatever self-limiting beliefs, or judgement from others? If you have the means, try these things out, see if you like them. See if they fit into who you want to be. Do you enjoy them? Then roll with it.

    Towards the end of last year, I had a random thought about wanting to do tennis. And because my kids were interested in doing tennis, I thought I may as well, because then it can be a fun activity that we can play together. I started Tennis coaching, and it was like a light went on. I had so much fun, and I had clearly forgotten how much I enjoyed playing tennis as a kid. I recalled that I had played from about the age of 10, all the way to the end of high school. I didn’t place any value on my enjoyment of the sport because I only played socially, I never tried out for the team. But, I had to admit to myself that this is something I really enjoyed.

    This journey of self-knowledge has been a hard one, and I’m still learning new things about myself every day. Sometimes it’s this great feeling of learning something really positive about yourself that you hadn’t realized before, and other times you have to admit to yourself that you have qualities that are maybe not that likeable. And you can keep them, or put them in the self-improvement bucket, but as long as you acknowledge all your parts… and we’ll get into the self-love and acceptance part later. But for now, all we need to know is who am I?

    love yoself

    Love yoself:

    Self love is the best kind of love

    Cartoon woman dancing surrounded by butterflies with text stating self love is the best love

    I recently had a breakthrough in therapy, which, to be honest, while I’m going through it, feels like a breakdown. As I was speaking, all my psychologist said was, you can cry here, and as she spoke those words, I thought, ‘But I don’t need to cry’, and before I knew it, I was bawling about why I don’t matter.

    But more important, than my incredibly vulnerable admission, is what came next. The realization that I do not love myself (more vulnerable admissions), and while for the longest time, I ‘knew’ this, I didn’t actually know it.

    Following our appointment, where she allowed me to cry and talk for 15 minutes after my allocated time, she sent me multiple links about self-love, and how to develop self-love, which I then binge watched when I got home.

    I think I had spent a lot of brain power rationalizing and trying to understand the origins of self-hatred and what happens when you don’t love yourself, and what it looks like. And a lot of cerebral thought analysing my behaviour, and relating it back to feelings of self-hatred. It was all educational and in my head.

    But finally, in the month of love (when I said recently, I meant February), I realized what it felt like to not love yourself. And why I didn’t love myself. And how I allowed myself to remain in situations that continued to validate my feelings of self-unlove.

    "A new start and way to go" with stars at the top and bottom

    But the real work begins now. I bought myself a beautiful journal with a motivational message about thriving on the cover, etched into a colourful image of plants and flowers (always start with a beautiful journal). And I took copious notes from the youtube videos from my psychologist. I did some desk research on sites like psychologies, and school of life, and this is what I learnt so far:

    The academic stuff

    According to Psychology today, self-love is comprised of four elements: self-awareness, self-worth, self-esteem, and self-care. What this means, is that we need to become aware of our bodies, and our feelings, and how they are expressed within us, and how to identify our emotions. Self-worth is then acknowledging what the good parts of us are – we all have them, but the world we grew up in tells us that it’s not enough, it’s reconnecting with what you deem to be your good parts (they’re in there). A high self-worth leads to a high self-esteem. Self-esteem is all about how comfortable you are with yourself and where you are in life. It’s being ok with yourself and your good (and bad) parts. Finally, self-care is all the activity we do to keep ourselves (both body and mind) healthy.

    A journey starts with the first step

    Pink background, with woman hugging herself, surrounded by bed of flowers, with text saying welcome to my self love journey

    I’m in the beginning of my self-love journey, and so far, I’ve been focusing on getting to know myself, by doing things that I enjoy, or enjoyed in the past. It’s almost like starting to “date myself”, well at least, using the same principles of dating. When you start dating someone, you spend a lot of time getting to know them, and what makes them tick, figuring out if you like them or not. So, I need to spend time with myself, to learn who I am, and what I like and don’t like.  

    Feel free to follow my monthly series of “Love yoself” posts, as I continue along my self-love journey, and share what I learn. Watch out for the first post of each month.  

    Some further reading: