Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Emotional health: Boundaries

Continuing with my Healthy and Strong theme, I want to talk about emotional health.

I think our emotional health is easy to dismiss. We stuff/ignore/invalidate our emotions. We try to pretend everything is fine and then substitute or numb out with food later.

A particularly tough area for me is healthy boundaries. It is a little embarrassing for me to admit this. I thought I had really good boundaries but I realized a couple of things:

I am prone to taking on other people's feelings and making decisions for them. For example, my mother-in-law appears tired. Therefore, I assume she is exhausted and unable or unwilling to help care for the baby in the evenings. I overexert myself trying to care for the baby by myself, running myself into the ground in the process. In reality, my mother-in-law was a little tired but totally fine and willing and able to help care for the baby. By making this decision for her, I ruined my night and made for an awkward/tense evening.

I overpersonalize. Example: my coworker is having a hard day. I ask her to complete an additional task and she snaps at me. Instead of checking in with her and figuring out what the heck is happening, I become defensive and avoidant, assuming she doesn't really like me. Totally rational, right?

This also leads into another boundary issue, or cognitive distortion: black and white thinking. I either like you or I don't. I have a hard time with gray areas or liking someone in pieces (as opposed to having to like all aspects of their personality in order to accept them). If I think you're mad at me, I shut down and shut you out. I used to think the wall I put up was a good boundary when, sadly, it is just a defense mechanism for mistrust or discomfort that helps no one.

It's hard to open up. It's hard to feel our feelings and also let others know how we are feeling. It's much easier to eat our feelings or self-abuse in some fashion. I think self exploration can be a really powerful tool towards healing emotional hurts or insecurities and opening up in a safe, comfortable way.

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