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How I worked on my issues and traumas

By STEPHANIE ZUBIRI, The Philippine STAR Published Oct 15, 2023 5:00 am

Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others. – Brené Brown

I have a confession. There have been moments where I am so overstretched and so tapped out that when my children say “Mama, mama, mamaaaaa” my blood starts to boil and I literally scream.

I’m not proud of it. But let’s face it, we’ve all been there. To feel so drained and empty that you blow up, and oftentimes it’s with the ones you love the most and who deserve it the least.

I had one of those moments about two years ago, and as I was staring back at my children’s startled, blinking faces, I realized it was unfair not to give them the very best of me at all times. I marched into my room riddled with guilt, sobbing, and realized that I had been snapping back at people I cared about, overreacting to small things, and was just in general always stressed and high-strung.

Apart from this, the stress was manifesting physically in my body. I had gut health issues, terrible sleep habits, chronic shoulder pains, heavy and debilitating periods… It was consuming me and turning me into someone I didn’t like.

I turned to meditation and therapy but still, there was something that needed to be done. I needed to set clear boundaries. My therapist reminded me that people will take for as long as you are willing to give and until we are clear with our limits, we will always end up burning out.

As a very non-confrontational culture, I find that “No” is not a word we Filipinos use often. It’s almost better to ghost someone or disappear rather than say no to a request. We are such a kind, caring and generous people that we are hardwired to say yes to everything.

This means you often end up saying yes to things that you don’t want to do or things that don’t align with your values. Not only does this result in feeling drained but also feeling resentful. It’s particularly true for women. We are often defined by our roles in society—daughter, wife, mother. The idea of self-sacrifice is so lauded that whenever a woman decides she wants to live her life for herself first, she is often branded as selfish or “ambisyosa.” Adjectives that are not usually associated with men.

Boundaries are there so you can say yes to the right things and no to whatever is not aligned to your values and your most authentic self. In this light, the awareness of your values is key.

The problem is, if you sacrifice yourself, then eventually you end up with nothing to give. I like to think of it as the oxygen mask situation on airplanes. You must first put the mask on yourself before you can help others. You must take a moment to breathe and focus on your own well-being so you can be of service to everyone else.

“You are only allowed to give from your overflow,” declares life coach Kimi Lu in the latest episode of my Podcast, “Soulful Feasts.” “You have to make sure your cup is full first, then give from the overflow. We often like to say that we are giving ‘our all,’ (but) if that cup is half empty then you’re not really giving your all. In reality, it’s just five percent and eventually, there will be nothing left.”

Setting boundaries is difficult because this requires hard conversations about what you want and what people can expect from you. We are afraid to hurt or offend our authority figures, friends, family, and partners. It is also challenging because we must actually know what we want. This takes time and a lot of inner work. If you think it’s hard to have a conversation with your peers, it’s even harder to have a conversation with yourself.

“Boundaries allow you to be aligned,” says life coach Kimi Lu. “Boundaries are there so you can say yes to the right things.”

“Boundaries allow you to be aligned,” Kimi expounds. “Boundaries are there so you can say yes to the right things and no to whatever is not aligned to your values and your most authentic self. In this light, the awareness of your values is key.”

I started my journey with therapy when my marriage ended a few years ago. My life was messy and I was on a path of chaos. It wasn’t the kind of life I wanted to give to my children, and most importantly, the kind of life I want for myself. It was critical that I worked on my issues and traumas, to understand my behavioral patterns, positive and negative, and comprehend why I was doing what I was doing.

Jungian Psychology really helped me get to the heart of the matter and held my hand through the individuation process. How is this related to boundaries, you might ask? Well, I had to actually discern for myself what were my own true belief systems and values versus the ones that were imprinted and passed down on me since childhood.

I realized that many of my choices were made based on beliefs and values that were not necessarily my own and in the spirit of “wanting to please” and “do the right thing” or “be a good girl.” In the end, when things are not fully aligned to who you truly are, the universe has a way of blowing this up into one explosive mess that forces you to look inward.

Once you get to know your most authentic self, the next step is to commit to honoring her at all times. The ultimate act of love is to love yourself first by creating healthy boundaries so that your heart and spirit may give in constant abundance.

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For concrete tips on how to set boundaries in the workplace and with friends and family, please listen to the latest episode of “Soulful Feasts” featuring Kimi Lu.

Available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. Follow me on Instagram and @soulful_feasts for regular updates!