11: Setting Boundaries and Navigating the Feel-Bads | Dr. Nicole LePera

Dr. Nicole LePera is a holistic psychologist and founder of the Mindful Healing Center in Philadelphia; and trained in clinical psychology at Cornell University and the New School. Her work addresses the connection between the mind and body and incorporates nutrition, lifestyle and psychological wellness practices. Today, we talk all things boundaries: what they are, why we need them, how to set them, and how to hold them. We also share stories from our own lives that illustrate why setting boundaries is so darn hard, what a truly effective boundary sounds like, and Nicole’s number one tip for keeping all of your relationships healthy.


Dr. Nicole LePera (she/her) is a holistic psychologist and founder of the Mindful Healing Center in Philadelphia; and trained in clinical psychology at Cornell University and the New School. Her work addresses the connection between the mind and body and incorporates nutrition, lifestyle and psychological wellness practices. Today, we talk all things boundaries: what they are, why we need them, how to set them, and how to hold them. We also share stories from our own lives that illustrate why setting boundaries is so darn hard, what a truly effective boundary sounds like, and Nicole’s number one tip for keeping all of your relationships healthy.

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Dr. Nicole LePera

The Holistic Psychologist


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MU: 01:10
Hi, my name is Melissa Urban and you’re listening to Do the Thing, a podcast where we explore what’s been missing every time you’ve tried to make a change and make it step. Today my guest is Doctor Nicole LePera also known as the holistic psychologist. She’s the founder of the mindful healing center in Philadelphia and her work addresses the connection between the mind and body incorporating nutrition, lifestyle and psychological wellness practices. She’s also one of my favorite Instagram accounts to follow and today we are talking all things boundaries. Boundaries are such a hot topic right now. I feel like we all have a sense of what they are. They are something that keeps us safe. They’re part of our self care and they keep our relationships healthy. We know we need them, but why are they so hard to set and even harder to hold? Today, Nicole and I explore the different kinds of boundaries, some cues that will help you know when it’s time for you to set one in a relationship, what an effective boundary sounds like…MU: 02:22
Using really simple cues and examples, and we share stories from our own lives that illustrate why we struggle with setting boundaries as adults and how to know if you’re setting a healthy boundary or just running away. This was such a rich conversation. First of all, I love it when psychologists and psychiatrists step up to the plate with their own history and struggles with some of these issues. It makes it so relatable and cool. Sharing so freely about her childhood and the relationship boundaries that she’s had to navigate as an adult made me feel far more open and comfortable to explore the same in my own and share some of the same issues I’m currently having. In general. I don’t feel like I struggle with boundaries as much as the average person. I’ve always found it pretty easy to set them and hold them in most cases.MU: 03:15
Maybe in part because I’m a Gretchen Rubin upholder. Um, and taking care of myself and paying myself first is such an important part of me maintaining the work that I do with whole 30 and around here. And yet when Nicole and I were talking, I still found myself thinking of situations in my own life right now where I have relationships that I’m kind of avoiding because I know I need to set a more clear boundary around a specific issue and I just don’t want to cause it’s really uncomfortable except the problem is that now I’m like not engaging in this relationship as much as I want to because there’s this like discomfort. If I just spoke up and set the boundary and made it really clear, we would then all be able to move on in a much healthier way. And yet today’s podcast made me realize that I’ve been avoiding that in my own life. It is uncomfortable to have these kinds of conversations, but I hope after our discussion today, you’ll feel better prepared to take charge of your self care, set boundaries where needed and watch your relationships flourish. I’m about to do the same thing in my own life. So we’re in this together. Let’s get right to the conversation with Dr. Nicole LePera. So Nicole,MU/NL: 04:32
thank you so much for joining me today. I’ve been so excited about this conversation. Welcome to Do the Thing. (NL) Awesome. Melissa, thank you so much for having me. I am truly, truly honored and cannot wait to connect with your audience. (MU) I’ve so many questions for you. But the first question I always ask every guest when they come to this show is what’s your thing? (NL) Absolutely. So my thing is teaching people how to heal themselves. (MU) Oh, I love that. That’s so simple and concise. So simple and concise. I love it. Okay, so the premise of this discussion, when I asked my community what were some things you wanted us to discuss, the topic that kept coming up over and over again, our boundaries, and I feel like boundaries are really having a moment right now. Like everyone’s aware that they exist and people kind of have this assumption that they need them and that they’re healthy for them and their part of self care.

MU/NL: 05:21
But let’s go all the way back to the beginning. How would you define boundaries? (NL) Yeah, absolutely. I think the simplest, most understandable definition of what a boundary is, it’s a limit essentially of what’s okay and what’s not okay. Oftentimes we think of boundaries in the context of relationships. So a limit about what’s okay or not okay in the context of relationships I think is a really understandable a definition. (MU) And boundaries are highly personal, right? And they’re personal to ourselves and where we are in that moment, they’re personal to each relationships. So you might have different with different people or in different situations,. (NL)100% I actually love that you pointed that out because I don’t think as as often there is not a universal formula, a kind of a one size fits all model. Um, and I think that’s what’s often challenging honestly when we think about boundaries, um, because I think it is up to us to find the definition, the space and sometimes to speak to your point.

MU/NL: 06:20
It does vary in terms of where we are in life. It could shift and change over the course of our lives. And it can also shift and change, you know, in different relationship context as well. For sure. Yeah. (MU) So why do we need to set boundaries? Like why are boundaries so important for our self care and our safety and our growth? (NL) For many reasons, I think that we’re able to, you know, function most authentically when we have limits. Um, I think we’re able to appreciate and have the longest standing and most more, most sustainable version of a relationship, um, when we have limits in place. Um, and I think that, you know, like I said, I think that a lot of us are used to relationships that started usually in our very, very early years, which have been models for relationships that we then carry as we age into our other different types of partnerships that we have.

MU/NL: 07:13
And what typically happens is we find ourselves functioning in those, in those same older ways and maybe not having boundaries that, like I said, can free us up to be more authentically us and to honestly have more satisfying and fulfilling relationships overall. (MU) So you’re talking about looking at like what our parents did, you know, the way my mom responded to conflict or didn’t respond to conflict or the way we saw other people treating them and them not holding their own boundaries. And because of that, um, we didn’t know how to do that as kids. And so we still don’t as adults? (|NL) Absolutely. I mean one of them we get messages in terms of relationships in different ways. So sometimes we hear direct messages about this is what you do or don’t do in relationships. I’m really simplifying the language here. Sometimes. I mean we have relationships then like I offer that are modeled to us.

MU/NL: 08:05
So we see the adults around us relating. So to speak to your point, we do see how mom and dad handle conflict or how they navigate boundaries or don’t navigate boundaries in their own life. Um, and then we also get to experience ourselves in relationship with our caregivers and our siblings. Um, so in all of these ways we definitely get impressions about and messages about relationships. And I find, so there are boundaries around like you’re saying, conflict and how that’s managed. There’s boundaries around physical space and that’s not just, you know, kind of touch boundaries. You know, what is okay, when is it okay to touch me? Or what is my personal space boundary? Sometimes physical boundaries mean how much time and space am I spending with the person? How frequently are we co-sharing space? That’s a type of boundary. I think one of the most complicated boundaries, and I’ve lived this experience myself in my family with a great difficulty navigating it.

MU/NL: 09:00
Our emotional boundaries are where is the limit between my responsibility for the feelings you’re having about something I’m doing or saying? Um, when do I find that it’s my responsibility and when do I find that it’s not my responsibility to care? Take you in a more emotional way. And I speak from my own personal experience. Where my family had was, was what we call a mesh. So there was very little boundaries and I grew and then saw in my relationships a pattern of feeling responsible for everyone’s emotions around me. And I think that’s a more complicated version, but that in my opinion still falls under the umbrella of boundaries. (MU) Yeah, it absolutely does. Um, and you know, we’re, we’re talking about this idea of like not being modeled behavior and so not really knowing how to do it ourselves, but another really important piece of setting boundaries is knowing yourself and, and what serving you in that moment before you can effectively set a boundary.

MU/NL: 09:58
(NL) 100% Melissa. And I actually think that’s the first step. I think that connecting with with the self is a part of the healing journey that I, I’ve worked with myself, I’m reconnecting with myself and I work with clients, um, to do that. So I think we have to show up and be aware of how these different relationships make us feel when we’re engaging in them. Um, and that’s how we can get some clarity in terms of what we might need to, to shift or change. But it does, it originates first and foremost with us knowing our ourself and the role that we’re playing in each of our relationships that we find ourselves in. (MU) When I think about setting boundaries in my own life, either the boundaries I’ve set or the ones I know I need to set, I just get this like generally kind of icky feeling in my belly.

MU/NL: 10:42
When I think about like engaging with this person or talking about this subject, I get this like I just don’t want to do it or this. I’m just feeling really uncomfortable. Like that’s my first clue that there is something about this relationship that is taking more than it’s giving and that I need to discover like what that looks like and how I can set a boundary there. What are some other clues in our life that we may need to look at and set boundaries? (NL) I think that’s a, that’s a really great starpoint is how does this relationship, when I’m thinking about it, when I’m engaging it, when I leave, it makes me feel um, energy. I’m a big proponent of tuning into, you know, do I feel drained when I think about this person when I leave this person, right? Or do I feel either baseline or even energized?

MU/NL: 11:29
I mean, truth be told we can actually leave interactions, interpersonal reactions and feeling good and positive. And I say that jokingly, but you know, again, I think that was something that I was not fully aware of that relationships can really kind of feed us in a positive way because most of the relationships I found myself in mainly predominantly from my family felt very energetically draining. So I think another thing is if you find, you know, consistently not wanting or canceling plans, you know, look at your behavior or if you feel yourself always, you know, not wanting to go, things like that. So I think our behavior can speak for itself and it doesn’t necessarily mean that these relationships have to end. Um, we might need to just change the rules or the limits or the ways that we’re showing up in them. (MU) That can be so hard though.

MU/NL: 12:18
I think about like, I’m not a people pleaser. It’s not very hard for me to like hold my boundaries and once I’ve realized them or to say no, but there are some situations, particularly I think around the people who are closest to me, particularly around my parents where I like, I know there’s something additional that either needs to be said or done or some sort of like boundary that needs to be held, but I just, I don’t want to do it. It’s almost easier to like, feel achy and absorb that than it is to have this difficult discussion. And I can’t be the only one who feels like that. (NL) Oh my gosh, I actually call it the feel bads. Um, and I come by those quite naturally. Uh, I struggled a lot, so I, I really simplify it. So the, the three main steps of boundary setting or you know, getting clear on what we need to change, communicating that change is directly and you know, objectively as possible and obviously the consequences as well.

MU/NL: 13:12
And then the third step is navigating the feel bads that can, you know, often times, especially those of us that are like myself and that feel intrinsically responsible for everyone else’s emotions, they’re going to come and they’re going to be really, really powerful. And the, the, the pep talk I guess that I always give to people is sometimes walking through the discomfort of setting a boundary now allows the relationship to evolve in something that’s more sustainable in the future. Because what starts to happen if we keep showing up into a relationship that’s either depleting us or not feeling energetically equal or just not feeling as satisfying as it can be before I know it, and this is natural before I know it, over time I start to get upset at the person on the other end of the relationship, you know, and, and get resentment and resentment can 100% kill a relationship and not make it sustainable over time.

MU/NL: 14:07
And the reality of it is one says we really need to look at ourselves because it’s not that person’s fault that we kept overstepping our own boundaries. It’s really ours. And it was our responsibility to do the hard thing and maintain the boundary. And I’m not trying to invalidate, I mean it was incredibly difficult to do these, these boundary settings and keeping the boundaries up and midst all of the feel bad. But like I said, I truly believe that on the other side of that is a much more sustainable relationship for both parties. (MU) Oh my gosh, I can relate to that so much that like that feeling of, of being resentful except it’s kind of not their fault because I haven’t communicated what I needed. I haven’t even given them the opportunity to give me what I need in this. And what ends up happening with me is that I just pull away entirely.

MU/NL: 14:55
I’m like, this doesn’t feel good and yet I either don’t know what I need in this situation or I’m having a hard time communicating so I just disappear and then I have no relationship with this person. And like that’s not what I want either. So I’m kind of shooting myself in the foot. (NL) Yeah, I want 100% I could not agree more in part of the reality too, which I think also complicates it, especially when we’re talking about family, which are for most of us, the longest relationships that we’ve ever had as we’ve walked this planet. But I say that because the longer the relationship has been in place in your life, the more, in some sense there’s been expectations that have been maintained over that amount of time. Right? So when now you’re in year, whatever it is of this relationship, and now you are deciding to show up differently in one really simple sense, you’re violating now the expectation of the other person.

MU/NL: 15:44
They’re not used to you showing up or not showing up in these ways. Right. So they’re a little bit confused. Um, yeah. So I do think that there’s that interim step of coming to the table, labeling what’s no longer working, right? Giving an indication of what will shift or change if the thing doesn’t resolve itself or if the person doesn’t get on board, whatever it is that you need to happen. And then, like I said, an adherence to that boundary. But I think without that second step, you’re really limiting the possibility that you could have someone on the other side of this conversation that either has no idea that this has been an issue. Um, or if they do they have some awareness of how and how it can change to make the relationship better for both of you. Not to say that everyone’s going to be a receptive listener because I think that’s also another challenging part of this is when the person on the other side isn’t having it.

MU/NL: 16:36
Um, but that doesn’t speak to every, every case. I do think that there are people that can hear these harder conversations and a relationship that can shift quite quicker in a sense when you have both parties now working toward that same goal. (MU) Yeah, and I would rather give the people in my life the benefit of the doubt that like they love me and they want to have a really good, healthy relationship that like serves both of us. And if I present them with an opportunity to do that, that even if it’s tough to accept in the beginning or they’re a little bit confused by it or a little bit resistant to it, but eventually we’ll be able to find a way to work it out in a way that’s satisfying for both of us. There are definitely situations in which I recognize I need to set a boundary because I have some of those signals, but I don’t really know what I need to do.

MU/NL: 17:20
Is there something you can say to help us figure out how we know what kind of boundary we need to set? (NL) Yeah, I mean I think that speaks to the point that you and I made earlier that the more we’re just able to know ourselves, which sometimes includes exploring ourselves out of that context of a relationship. So maybe looking to relationships where you feel better, you know, and sometimes that can give you some awareness of where new limits have have to be. Um, sometimes if you don’t, if you look around and, and none of your relationships, you know, really, really feel good. Um, then I think the journey is, is to find the feel good ways, um, with within ourselves. And sometimes that starts first and foremost with, okay, you know, how do I feel my best? You know, where, where’s my emotional state or my resources.

MU/NL: 18:08
Now I think the more just aware we can be of ourself, the more clarity we’re going to get. And the more to speak to a beautiful point you made earlier, the more connected we are to our intuition, which I believe, I don’t know how everyone listening believes we get to this planet, but however the heck you believe we get here, I believe it’s to come as very intuitive creatures. I think that over time we can become very disconnected to our intuitive center or intuition. So I think part of the process of finding, you know, the shift of the changes is using as you beautifully put it, those feelings, the good and the bad. And sometimes it’s really just as simple as following your guidance toward what feels good.

MU: 18:50
I just had like a major light bulb moment from the first thing you said, which is look at situations in which you feel really good and then compare them to this situation that makes you feel like kind of bad. I did that when I was going through my divorce. I had one friend that I would confide in who I always left feeling so much better, just lighter and full of like bright, shiny future. And then I had another friend who I always left feeling like really weighted down and heavy and when I compared them I realized that the second friend was constantly like complaining about my ex to me and I think she was doing it because she thought that, you know, she wanted to be on my side, but all it was doing was making me feel worse. Like I didn’t meet her to be super negative. And as soon as I set that boundary with her like, look, I really want to talk to you and confide in you, but we can no longer talk like smack about my acts, that doesn’t serve me. That relationship got so much better.

MU/NL: 19:45
(NL) Yeah, that’s, that’s a really, really great example. Similar to my experience, what I realize I would look around and I found that most of my relationships were based on a more mutual complaining venting model. And what I know of my own past and my own history, the connection there was connection. Meaning my mom was very, very emotionally distant. The only dialoguing where I felt like I could relate to my mom was based in mutual complaints or stress. So that was how I learned to connect. So part of it was me waking up to that reality that I was replicating that type of connection in all of my relationships. So to speak, to the point I felt incredibly lost when I realized, okay, well that doesn’t feel good. It feels good on some level cause it feels familiar. Um, but I don’t feel positive. I feel heavy.

MU/NL: 20:37
Um, I feel worse off because we were just complaining the whole time. So then I had to discover for myself how to function in a relationship in a way allowed me to feel light. (MU) Yes. Yes, yes. I can relate to that too. Yes. When we’re talking about this idea of, you know, thinking we need to set a boundary. One of the things that I’ve noticed is that in my past I would call it setting a boundary, but I was really just like running away or avoiding something that was hard. How do we know if we’re setting a boundary in a healthy way that serves us or if we’re really just like pushing the person away or trying to like escape. (NL) Yeah, absolutely. That’s such a great, that’s such a great distinction there. Um, so I think one clue is if you’re able to identify a pattern in just your general way, if you, if you self define as someone who runs away or avoids, um, that would, that would be something that I would be aware of.

MU/NL: 21:32
I am one of those people as well. I do not like any version of conflict cause quite honestly it makes me, here comes that word again, feel bad. Um, and I don’t like to feel bad, so I’d prefer just not to deal with the conflict. So that was so, I totally haven’t. So knowing that about myself, um, allowed me to just be alert, um, and to be a little more kind of, you know, erring on the side of really questioning when I was leaving I learned to question my escape behaviors because I knew what that was for me. Um, and then I think that middle part of it, you know, when you do get clear on what it is that you need to change, um, that is also I think a helpful part of the process. So when you do show up to that person and you are able to walk through the discomfort of having the conversation and actually bring to the table some practical suggestions once or needs about what could happen different so that you do give that relationship a living, breathing chance as opposed to just as that gut reaction is going right to that avoidance mode.

MU/NL: 22:31
I think giving that middle piece of a step in your process could, could be helpful and could prevent you from just calling it on all the relationships in your life really. Right? (MU) Yeah. I mean, that was basically how I used to operate, which was like if you broke, if you kind of like step too far, if you called me on my crap or if you, you know, kind of saw through me and like made me own up to it, I would quote set a boundary, which basically just meant I would cut you out of my life so that I didn’t have to process or deal with that. And obviously that’s not healthy and that’s not what we’re talking about. Right? (NL) Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And I’ve also learned that because I was so avoidant, um, I’ve had a really make emotional room and space for hard feelings in relationships.

MU/NL: 23:13
So that was part of my journey too, is allowing them to be a part of a relationship experience. The more difficult feelings and not taking that to mean that the relationship is problematic or is ill-fated or or whatever. (MU) This is bringing up. Like I just had this like flash where setting a boundary always has to be based on your own like work and growth and self knowledge. It can never be just about someone else’s behavior. I don’t know if that makes sense, but it’s almost like if I’m a boundary just because of, I’m not really looking internally, I’m just looking at your behavior. I don’t actually know if that boundary is serving me or not. I have to look inward first to make sure that that boundary is coming from a place of like my self care. Does that make sense? (N L) Yeah, 100% absolutely. Because I think sometimes especially, you know, in those moments of wanting to escape or avoidance, for me, my clue was really based on my own personal history.

MU/NL: 24:11
I was able to make that connection that that’s actually what I was doing and it, and it wasn’t me just leaving and ill-fated relationship. It was me trying to avoid based on that pattern that again, I know comes from my own individual journey on this planet thus far. So I do agree with you. I think we have to understand ourselves again at that really deep level to be able to differentiate, um, what’s really going on for us in relationships. Because if you follow me, something you’ll often hear me say is it’s, it’s more often not about the other person at all. Yes, they’re showing a behavior that is in a sense I’m reacting to you if you will. Um, but really I’ve run that behavior through a subconscious filter that is based more in my past and my past experience and not really often not even accurate or applicable to the current situation, but that’s where my reaction will come from if I’m not self aware enough to know that I have that particular filter, if that makes sense.

MU/NL: 25:07
(MU) Yes, it does make sense. And I hear you talk about that and I agree with that so much and I feel like that’s another, I sometimes see someone who will like weaponize a boundary. Like it’s not there saying it’s a boundary, but it really is some kind of ultimatum that they’re sort of wielding over the other person’s head. And again, that feels like an overreaction to something that just is like, you just don’t, you’re not getting in touch with your own feelings or accepting enough responsibility in this situation. I don’t know what you, how do you describe the difference between a boundary and an ultimatum? (NL) Yeah, I love that and I think that’s an important distinction to make and I think the difference is a boundary really is coming from the eye focus, the eye point of view, meaning this is my limit, this is why this old way doesn’t work for me.

MU/NL: 25:54
Maybe we can even add, and this is why it makes me feel, you know, if we want to get the feeling in there, you know, and this is what I will need to do for myself to self care as opposed to if you do this thing, I will do this thing in response to you. That could look the same. That might mean me leaving the relationship, but in an ultimatum spin of it. It’s more in a punishment kind of mentality. I’m leaving so that you suffer in the boundary version. It’s I’m leaving so that I heal. (MU) That’s exactly what I was looking for is it’s the sense I had but I didn’t know how to describe it. I love that distinction. I think it’s incredibly important.

MU/NL: 27:46
(MU) I saw an Instagram post, which is like the precursor to me reaching out for this discussion where you talked about the difference between an effective and an ineffective boundary. And you actually had examples. And I think, I think it was so eyeopening because I, I think I used some of the ineffective examples and thought that I was being perfectly clear when I certainly was not. Can you talk a little bit about the difference between a specific effective and then a kind of generalized noneffective boundary? (NL) Absolutely. I think it can be really helpful to give people some of the dialogue, the how to communicate aspect of it. So first thing to keep in mind is I’m a big proponent of objective language, so as objective as possible that I can make statements avoiding use, you know, and things like that. Y O U I don’t know if you can understand me with my accent, um, that were not me.

MU/NL: 28:38
But you, I’m so noneffective quick and easy example, right? Is, you know, maybe saying this to your family. Um, I’m not coming over because you guys are crazy. Okay. Statement being, I can’t come. I’m not coming over anymore, which is I think important. Maybe you do want to set a physical boundary or a time boundary around family, but we really go off a little bit into the more subjective end of things, right? When we see something, say something like, you guys are crazy, might be true. Maybe you do experience your family’s crazy. Okay. A better way to say something like that is right. I will not be able to spend time with you. If so, say the reason that you feel they’re crazy as the topics they talk about, right? I will not be able to spend time with you if whatever topic it is is brought up or I will not.

MU/NL: 29:20
So for me, and this is my example, my family has a big health preoccupation with my chronically ill mother. It became, as I came to realize as I allowed it into my consciousness, the only topic of conversation in my family. So one of my boundaries that I actually spoke to my sister with whom I was pretty close, I had to tell my sister, you know, I will not have a conversation about mom’s health anymore. Um, so that was just an objective and an objective statement. Objective language really does help decrease the defensiveness of the other person because as soon as we hear any version of you or what can be felt as a blame, such as you guys are crazy, um, our defenses go up and we become non receptive to the following half of the message. I think it’s helpful to state the, the issue.

MU/NL: 30:07
Um, I think so. Like I said, I the top, you know, this, this topic doesn’t work for me. So that’s like the stated issue. It’s helpful to state the consequences if this topic is the only topic that can be discussed. I, I cannot, I have to limit my conversation with you so that the person knows what to expect. A nother incredibly critical tan not to communicate this or any of these boundaries in a heightened emotional state. So not when you’re upset or you’re screaming or yelling or you’re emotionally activated because then all of those tips go right out the window. You’re not going to find the objective why in which to use. You’re going to use probably some choice words and it’s not going to be heard. Chances are the other person’s going to be feeling some app, you know, some, some energy as well.

MU/NL: 30:47
And then what you’re in is actually a conflict. Um, and not a communication at all. So that actually goes up to my number one suggestion is when these conversations are going to be had and these limits are going to be defined, making sure that not just for you, it’s, it’s okay. You know, it’s one thing that you’re in a good balanced emotional state, but the most important role that will determine whether communication is successful or unsuccessful is the role of the listener. So it’s just as important to who I have to whomever you’re going to communicate this boundary that you have a sense of where they are emotionally too. So if they come home and they’re kicking and screaming ahead a bad day at work, even if it was your plan to have the talk tonight, tomorrow might be a better, a better option. (MU) Yeah. It’s like I always say don’t talk about food over food.

MU/NL: 31:33
You don’t want to talk about setting a boundary in an emotionally charged situation. If you’re in that emotionally charged situation (NL) 100% 100% cause then like I said, you’re going to be reactive. The other person that’s going to be shut down is an important, when I’m communicating this boundary very clearly and from like an I perspective to share how the action impacts me, like is it stronger to say if you have an or having a conversation around mom’s health, then I can’t participate in that conversation or should I add the reason why I can’t participate? Like the way it negatively impacts me or the effect it has. Is that important to share or is that only kind of like weakening your boundary? (NL) No, absolutely. I think that’s completely, that seems completely important to share because otherwise I am always a fan of giving the person the information, all the facts because I’m going to tell you what’s going to happen anyway.

MU/NL: 32:22
Their mind. Cause that’s what our mind does. Our brain is a narrative maker. It’s going to make up a story. It’s going to make up while you’re doing that. So I always think it’s better to be direct and give the why give whether it’s the emotional impact or the physical impact, whatever it is that that old behavior causing in you. Um, I think it can actually open the door for possibly not immediate, but over time, empathy and understanding from that person. I’m the person possibly can come to understand why that behavior was problematic in that way for you. Even if they don’t agree. Um, I think that that could go a long way in, in kind of telling or speaking why you’re doing it. So definitely I think that connection, strength, strengthen the communication. (MU) Okay, good, good. Um, I was helping a woman establish boundaries with her sister in law around her, her kids and her parenting via DM on Instagram.

MU/NL: 33:15
She was asking me for some advice and what she kinda came back with was, okay, I know I need to set that boundary. I’m really, um, I’m working, I’m going to do it. I’m going to send her a text message. And I was like, oh, I really think you need to do this in person. How important is it to set these boundaries in face to face communication or in as direct communication as is possible given your circumstances? (NL) Yeah, absolutely. I mean I think, you know, if the, if the face to face is possible, um, obviously then you get all of the value of the nonverbals and the cues and the energy and you’re just really there and present and obviously depending on how close the relationship is to you, you know, I think that there could be value there. Um, I am always a proponent though of a boundary is hard.

MU/NL: 34:00
Um, so if, you know, there needs to be a little bit of distance as you’re practicing setting boundaries, whether that means via text or whatever it is you save, it’s write the text, throw the phone across the room and runaway. And I’m just joking. But you know, I think that a boundary is better than none. Let me put it that way. Um, but you know, obviously I know that there can be some hurt and things like that that occur if these sort of messages are delivered. Um, in text message. Uh, I will be honest, there were many times where I did deliver messages, especially to my sister in a text message because the overwhelmed based in my just codependent immeshed emotionally codependent family was, was a lot for me. So when I would try to have these communications in person, um, there was quite a reaction and it made it hard to commit, continue the communication.

MU/NL: 34:45
So I’ve definitely used the text message method, especially as I was learning, um, boundaries. Um, so like I said, I think boundaries a boundary. But of course, if you can show up and sit through the discomfort of having the conversation, um, like I said, that that could also be really incredibly valuable for both of you. (MU) I like that though. A boundary is a boundary and I definitely agree. Um, and you know, I guess the other thinking about it from another perspective, if you suspect that it’s going to be received poorly because it’s a brand new behavior for you or you’re kind of switching up the dialogue in the relationship, maybe sending a letter or a text message gives the other person a chance to process it so that they don’t react. So defend defensively or emotionally in the moment. And maybe that could facilitate better conversation.

MU/NL: 35:28
So I can kind of see that point as well. (NL) 100%, as I’m always wanting to say, time is sometimes our best friend, um, meaning with time things can settle, our emotional brain can, can turn down a notch or two, um, and then can make space for a, another reframe or another assessment or just another option of how to respond. And again, because that doesn’t mean Melissa. Now, once it’s said, then there could be a reaction. I mean that’s the thing. I mean there might be feelings that they get thrown about. Uh, when the person hears this new limit, not everyone is going to react favorably. Not everyone going to know what you’re even doing. When you try to set a boundary, a new boundary in a longstanding relationship and they might not act favorably, chances are because the person that you’re communicating with either doesn’t know what boundaries are or does not have them in their world.

MU/NL: 36:17
So when you are coming at them with the limit, they’re not used to. You’re not used to that. Aside from what I was talking about earlier, violating an expectation. This is might be a human who does not offer this to themselves, who does not give themselves boundaries in their life. So how the heck are they going to be able to understand where you’re coming from? They’re just not. And I just think that’s an important kind of knowledge to hold in those moments. Because I know how frustrating it can be when the person doesn’t get it.(MU) Yes, I definitely am going to ask a few questions about how to like handle it when someone responds to a boundary. Okay. So I’ve stated my boundary, right? I told my girlfriend, um, I really want to continue to share my, you know, my divorce situation with you, but we can’t talk poorly about my ex.

MU/NL: 37:05
It doesn’t serve me. It makes me feel really crappy. Like it’s not how I want to do it. Then I’m in conversation with her and she forgets or she brings something up. I assume the next step is just to gently remind her of the boundary. But what happens if that doesn’t work? Like how do we actually hold these? If people either forget, forget in quotey fingers or if they just won’t respect what you’re asking them to do? (NL) There are a couple options. So there’s an indirect guidance away of that topic. So if you can be savvy enough to steer conversations without having to directly say it, um, I think that’s a good initial step. Then there’s obviously the stating it as you are. Um, and then I think that there has to be, because again, that that third and final step is maintaining the boundary.

MU/NL: 37:51
And I think that there’s very much mixed messaging that we give to people if we don’t stand in the boundary that we set. So if we waiver and if we make it okay to talk about that him at this brunch but not okay at this dinner, then it’s really going to be confusing for the other person. Um, so I think that there’s incredible value, as difficult as it is in then exercising, whatever the consequence might be. So maybe it’s as minimal as I have to stop the conversation. Obviously that’s much easier. If it’s a text or a phone conversation, I can hang up. If you’re there, maybe it’s, we have to, you know, kind of just stop talking until we can find something else to talk about. I’m obviously at the extreme, maybe it’s, I have to spend less time with you if you cannot respect, um, the topics that are okay for me or that are not okay for me, but there’s interim steps.

MU/NL: 38:37
Um, but I do think that standing strong in those boundaries is an important part of it. Or like I said, you’re giving the other person it confusing and a mixed message and you’re not doing either of you with a service. (MU) Yeah. And I think holding that boundary can be the hardest part. It’s scary enough to communicate it, but then it’s like even more scary, especially if it’s with like a parental figure or you know, someone you’ve got this like really close long entwined relationship with to like change the game with this boundary and then stick to your guns. I feel like that can be really, really scary. (NL) Very, very scary. And I think part of the process then is having to navigate all of the scary, bad, terrible feelings that come up in you individually, aside from the feeling that the perceptions that the other person might offer you.

MU/NL: 39:24
Because I didn’t have to, whether some of that too. As I started to enact boundaries, I would hear words like I’m selfish and it challenged me because I don’t want to be a selfish individual. Um, so I really had to then sit within myself and remind myself and redefine what selfish is at. That wasn’t selfish when I was doing that. Self care is not selfish. Um, so part of it is, is then are our, our work emotional work even to, to navigate what comes up for from us, for, for us. Um, whatever version of feel bad or guilt aside from what the other person’s offering to us. Some of us are just gonna feel badly on our own. Um, so it’s really about standing strong in our boundary while internally it’s hard, we’re uncomfortable (MU) and it’s, it’s fantastic if someone comes back with a reaction, like you’re being selfish or you’re not being compassionate.

MU/NL: 40:14
What I try to do is I try to sit in it and see if I can find that. Like is there an aspect of it that’s true? Can I, can I do better? But if I come back with this idea of like, nope, that’s just your reaction to it, I then now have to take the next step of recognizing that like your reaction to my boundary is not my business. And like that is yours to process and handle. And I can’t pick that up too or I’m right back where I started feeling overburdened or heavy in this relationship. (NL) 100% absolutely. And, and I do, I love that you offered that. I think sometimes an objective viewpoint of ourself is actually that tough love that I was talking earlier. There is truth in it. It can be helpful to try on for size. What we hear from someone else about ourselves does not mean we have to own it.

MU/NL: 40:56
I think having that secure base where I trust myself, my not enough and I’m connected with myself and I know myself and my intuition that when I try this concept on and I say, okay, selfish does, is sit, is there, is there a way I could be behaving selfishly? And if I do come to that, no, I don’t think that’s what this is and I absolutely agree with you then it’s, it is not my responsibility. I can step out of that and I just have my own work to do, to navigate how I’m feeling. Um, but I agree with you because I think some, sometimes some moments, the things that others offer us are valuable. As hard as they might be the year there might be truth in it. So I don’t think that anything we should just throw out and say this is, you know, nonsense.

MU/NL: 41:34
Um, try it on. But Trust yourself and trust that you do know where you are in your feeling and what ultimately is best for you and how ultimately you need to see the relationship change so that you can maintain it. (MU) Yeah. Yeah. I like that. And if you do that work, if you do try it on and you ask yourself if you can find it, it only teaches you more about yourself in it. And if you come out on the other end, it will make you even more clear in your convictions about what you need in terms of this relationship and the boundaries you’ve set. So it’s kind of a way, it’s difficult, but it’s a win win. If if other people throw that at you and you’re willing to like catch it and sit with it before you, you decide you know who owns it (NL) 100% and I could not agree more (MU) and we don’t have to do that by ourselves.

MU/NL: 42:16
Right? Like we can also seek support from a trained therapist or a counselor or a support group like we maybe in this difficult situation where we know what we want and we set some boundaries but we can also feel conflicted or need support and that’s a really great opportunity for us to seek help elsewhere. (|NL) 100% I think that any support, any version of a positive boundary relationship anywhere we can feel like we have an outlet like we’re seeing like we’re heard, you know like we’re, we’re engaging in a, in a positive supportive experience I think can go a long way in helping us navigate and mitigate what for some of us is a really difficult and unchangeable situation. (NU) I feel like you are that person for me, finding your Instagram feed and diving into your resources and signing up for your newsletter and future self journaling has been really, really helpful for me.

MU/NL: 43:08
I’m actually about to start around a round of future self journaling with my boyfriend. Um, I’ve just introduced him to, I love it. I think it’s going to be a game changer. All right, so at the end of every episode I ask all of my expert guests, what’s one thing you can recommend for listeners who are ready to start setting and holding boundaries? (NL) One thing I can recommend is get to know yourself. Just spend time just discovering yourself. I think that’s the unifying tie here. Um, knowing yourself, start to learn what makes you feel good and not good and then start to pay attention to those things in your relationships and really tune into that, that intuitive center that you all have out there, I assure you. And really let that be your guide and guidance in terms of all things relationships. And I think that that will never steer you wrong.

MU/NL: 43:56
So a lot of self love, self care. And self time I think is my number one suggestion. (MU) I love that so much. Can you tell us where people can find you and maybe share a little bit about some of the exciting things you have coming up? (NL) dAbsolutely. Absolutely. A main motivator for me back when I said what I do is I teach people how to heal themselves. I believe in that at my core. I believe that with with resources and just small ones that I can put out daily, you know, just any, any sort of content that gets someone thinking about themselves and their life in a different way. Hearing that these are tools that are being utilized far and wide is beyond motivating for me. And I think it just helps people, you know, find their way in this world as well as the community that’s really kick ass that I have over there.

MU/NL: 44:39
I just, my community is so incredibly supportive. I just can’t, even though they blow my mind every day. So the holistic psychologist on Instagram, @the.Holistic.psychologist. That’s where you can find me every day. Anyone out there needs any support? Please do not hesitate to come over. Um, I have a youtube channel, also the holistic psychologist and I have a blog and a newsletter. And on the newsletter now if you sign up is my future self journal template, which has been really great and I think really helpful for, for a lot of people. Um, so that’s my main hub is the Instagram , the.holisitci.psychologist. And coming up this fall, I’m pretty excited because I’m going to be, I’m in the process of finalizing my first kind of self-directed course. It’s going to be on all things subconscious with those of you who follow me or start to follow me.

MU/NL: 45:26
Now I always talk about the subconscious part of our mind. Um, so I’m super excited to release that and I’m also going to be doing some group healing, um, experiences starting this fall as well. (MU) Thank you Nicole for uh, sharing all of your wisdom and your own personal experience and just having this conversation. I enjoyed it so much. I know people are going to find it. So helpful. (NL) Of course. Thank you so, so much for having me, Melissa. Truly, this was an honor and I really hope that your, your your community out there, you know, finds, finds value in this. So thank you so much. Oh, they’re gonna love you.

Thanks for listening!

Continue the conversation with me @melissa_hartwig on Instagram. If you have a question for Dear Melissa or a topic idea for the show, leave me a voicemail at (321) 209-1480.

Do the Thing is part of ‘The Onward Project,’ a family of podcasts brought together by Gretchen Rubin—all about how to make your life better. Check out the other Onward Project podcasts– Happier with Gretchen Rubin, Side Hustle School, and Happier in Hollywood.

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