The art of creating and maintaining healthy boundaries is something that only a few people truly mastered.
This is because we tend to learn by following the example of others and when such an example is missing it often causes us to get stuck.
There are two dominant tendencies in our society today in terms of interacting with others: submissive and aggressive. Although different on the surface, they both originate from the same underlying cause, which is the lack of connection with one’s inner truth and power.
In other words, healthy personal boundaries naturally develop when you know what you stand for and what value you offer to the world. The healthy boundaries have a lot to do with your personal dignity and your personal story, your concept of the Self.
Uncovering that truth takes time and dedicated effort, but with the right guidance, such a journey can be a fascinating adventure in its own right. Most importantly, by tapping into your truth and functioning in the world in the most efficient and harmonious way, not only do you make the quality of your own life much higher but you also set a positive example and an inspiration for others. Such a ripple effect is what can produce a true and lasting change in society.
Being disconnected from your power creates a feeling of unworthiness and insecurity often mixed with the anxiety based on what other people may think of you. This triggers a subconscious tendency to please others and adjust your words and actions according to what you imagine those people may expect. Doing so takes you even further from your natural way of being and becomes a self-perpetuating vicious circle.
If you have noticed such attitudes in yourself, don’t judge yourself harshly. There are several reasons why it has become your modus operandi. Firstly, most people subconsciously copy the social paradigm they were exposed to since childhood. Secondly, you may have had no example nor experience of what the healthy boundaries are supposed to look or feel like and it’s very hard to create something you’ve never seen. And thirdly, to get that balance just right, you need the sense of personal dignity and connection with your Truth, which something that requires both awareness and training. And the fourth reason comes out of our basic self-preservation instinct—if you don’t feel strong, you want to ‘keep out of trouble’ by not angering anyone.
For example, refusing a party invitation that you’re not interested in, letting go of an energy-sucking business client or declining a drink invitation after work can trigger a fear of ‘losing your status’ and being cast out of the group. While in prehistoric times such ostracism was likely to have threatened our survival—and so the fear was very real and justified—it holds no validity anymore. But even though there’s rarely any physical risk in saying ‘no’ in our society nowadays, the subconscious fear, when left unchecked, remains very real.
Another aspect that causes you to avoid conflict when being cut from your power is this.
Your mind is aware that human interaction happens not only on a verbal but also on the energy level. This is the main reason why many people step back when they should have stepped forward, and remain silent when they should have spoken up: a condition that in society is referred to as ‘shyness’.
That condition comes from the inner awareness that one’s energy level and resources are low. When this is the case, the mind automatically switches to ‘self-preservation’ mode, guiding its owner to whatever option it perceives to be ‘the safest’ at the time, without any regard for the long-time consequences. This happens because while in the ‘survival mode’, the brain executive functions, such as long-term planning, analysis, memory and a future vision are subdued. (The opposite is also true—those functions grow and expand in response to the growing feeling of personal power.)
Do you have an experience of getting a bad headache or sore eyes after someone had been really angry with you? If yes, then you know how a basic energy attack works. Your mind is acutely aware of it, too.
When people are angry, disappointed or frustrated, they often send a blast of negative energy towards the person who has caused those feelings or someone who just happened to be around. If your personal power is low, subconsciously you sense that such an energy blast would easily penetrate your natural defences and get through causing some feasible damage. This is why your mind tells you to step back and to keep quiet.
Since in most people this process is automatic, you will notice that simply raising your energy level diminishes the grip of shyness without any additional effort. A high energy level by itself is not enough, though.
A high-energy, low self-worth state causes the person to flip into the other extreme of being arrogant or even abusive in the attempt to establish and protect his boundaries. Rather than keeping low, he makes aggression his form of defence. This kind of insecurity typically manifests as excessive swearing and open disregard for decency or civility. It creates a type of person who’s uncalibrated, explosive and hard to deal with.
Some people mistake being loud and arrogant as signs of confidence and even develop a level of admiration toward those who do so. This is because a display of true confidence is rare, and so anything that stands out is often wrongly taken as such.
True power and true confidence are always quiet.
They never look for an external confirmation or endorsement.
This is not the timid silence of a rabbit, though. It is the calm of an ocean on a peaceful day, or the indomitability of a mountain. The power is there, ready to turn into a crushing storm or a fearsome volcano if the situation calls for it, but until then the force remains dormant, coiled within.
Your personal power grows in the proportion that you align with the Truth of who you are. This may sound a bit abstract to you right now, but just remember this statement and keep in mind moving forward. There will come a time when this knowledge simply ‘clicks’ and becomes your guide.
You don’t have to wait until then, though, to start building healthy boundaries and reassessing your interaction with the world to a more empowered state.
There are three aspects that you can claim control over and start working with right now.
Posture: Become aware of your posture and train yourself out of the habit of slouching. Don’t use posture correcting braces for this, or at least don’t rely on them for too long. A straight posture will encourage healthy energy flow and the subconscious feeling of inner strength, and well as aid correct breathing. Be mindful of the tension in your shoulders—every time you become aware of it, relax your shoulders and pull them down a little backwards.
Breathing: Low personal power typically manifests as shallow and insufficient breathing (exacerbated by the rounded shoulders that constrict your lungs). Teach yourself to breathe with your diaphragm and provide your body with a higher oxygen supply.
‘Breathing for Inner Power’ exercise: lie on your back with your arms resting lightly just under your ribs. Take a few breaths in your usual way to become familiar with the pattern. Now, start breathing as slowly and as deeply as you can without causing strain. (If you’re practising on your own, be careful to keep the balance and stop if you have any signs of dizziness or discomfort.)
Make the air fill your abdomen first (if you’re doing it right, your hands will be lightly pushed to the sides by the expanding diaphragm). Next, allow your lungs—the thoracic area—expand as well from top to bottom, up to the upper part of your lungs. The inhale should be performed in a continuous motion with no pauses, travelling from the diaphragm to the top of your lungs as one unbroken wave.
Exhale in the same order, pushing the air out of your diaphragm first and going all the way up until your lungs are empty. Follow the same rule: the exhale should be smooth and even throughout, with no breaks, slow-downs or speed-ups.
Breathing provides our body not only with air but also with vital energy, sometimes referred to as ‘prana’. Symbolically, your inhale represents your readiness and openness to accepting gifts from the world, and your exhale shows your wiliness to share yourself and your gifts with others.
Watch your breathing while doing the exercise and note your observation in the diary later. Did you have to put more effort into exhales or inhales? Were your breaths smooth and even or did you struggle to overcome a shortness of breath?
- Start with 3 minutes and gradually expand the time when you feel comfortable to do so. Your goal is to eventually train yourself to make this style of breathing your normal style.
Voice: Become mindful of the way you speak. The lack of a solid connection to your inner power tends to manifest as a constricted throat producing a flat, high-pitched voice. This may also be accompanied by using more words than you need to and speaking too fast. If you notice those symptoms in yourself, consciously relax your throat and lower the pitch of your voice whenever you become aware. Ask yourself, ‘how can I express this thought as concisely as possible?’ before giving an answer, and decrease your speaking speed to a reasonable degree.
The easiest place to start your practice is replying to messages, both in writing and sending voice recordings. Having the space to think your reply over gives you an opportunity to turn it into a mindful exercise. When you feel confident, start implementing your new skill in real-time conversations.
- Do not attempt to master all three aspects at once hoping to get the results faster. Doing so would overload your system, cause frustration and actually slow down your progress. Choose one trait to work on first that you’re naturally drawn to, then go through the rest one by one when you’re satisfied with your current achievements.
Raise your energy level by practising the Tejas technique regularly, as well as becoming mindful of your diet, exercise routine and sleep patterns, and adjusting them where necessary.
We function and interact with the world according to the story that we’re telling ourselves. The previous two aspects (the body and the energy we wield) are closely related to the self-image that we hold.
Negative feelings of self-doubt, anxiety, low self-worth and a lack of confidence are symptoms of ‘living in your mind’ or in other words, associating closely with your ego.
Your ego is only an interface the mind creates to communicate with its surroundings. It is part of you but not the entirety of you. Your True Self is the serene and powerful awareness beyond your thoughts, a spark of the universal Light, eternal and immortal.
In contrast, the Ego is temporary. It is imperfect, limited and fragile—the truth it’s acutely aware of. This is simply the nature of the Ego; and not an issue in itself. The problem only appears when we start to believe that our current story coined by our mind is all there is. When we merge with our Ego, we absorb all its weaknesses and insecurities.
This is why we should always strive to reach beyond the Ego and keep it in its place, so it can do its work and nothing more. When you are able to awaken that awareness within yourself, the shadows of the ego naturally disappear.
The process of spiritual growth takes time and effort though, so until you achieve clarity on your personal truth, begin with consciously designing your story.
First, adopt a moral code, a set of values that strongly resonate with you and help define you as a person. They will serve not only as a powerful reminder to keep you on track but also help define healthy boundaries with others. Having your Code gives you a clear blueprint for knowing what decisions to make and what behaviour to accept from others. The ARIYA Code is a good example of this.
Secondly, you need a personal story, a new empowered identity for yourself. Your story is not set in stone, you can and should adjust it as you move forward. Seeing yourself as a warrior on a mission, someone who strives to improve himself and leave a positive mark on the world is an excellent place to start.
Once created, you need to embody your new story, live it, so it truly becomes part of you. When wondering what you say and how to react, imagine what a warrior or a superhero version of yourself would do and go with it. Think of a personal mantra or a motto that you can repeat to yourself to stay focused and empowered when times get tough. ‘I am a warrior, and warriors fight’ is an example of such a soul-igniting mantra.
Thinking and speaking in a new way will feel strange to begin with, as though you’re involved in some role-playing game. It’s worth keeping in mind though that it’s no different from what you were doing before. The only change is that your old role was unconscious. It followed a script written by someone else. Now, you’re reclaiming your power to manifest in the world the way that feels right to you. As you keep persevering, the initial awkwardness of changing the script will fall away.
You will also begin to see the positive effects of your new confirmation bias—our beliefs, choices and attitudes are reflected back to us helping to keep our view of reality consistent. As your focus and the perfection of Self changes, you will see new opportunities, events and people entering your life that are congruent with your new story.