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  • Writer's pictureKathie Scalf

Healthy Boundaries for the Self and Beyond

Love can be such a complicated matter.  Much like adding ingredients to bake a perfect souffle, there is a very fine line between too much and not enough, and swaying too far in either direction can be detrimental.  As it turns out, the key to both self-love success and external relationships is the same factor:  setting firm boundaries.  

We’ve never lived in a more body positive culture, and while that’s a seemingly good idea in theory, one look around the US reflects that we are in fact loving ourselves to death.  According to a recent study from Harvard University, “roughly 2 out of 3 US adults are overweight or obese (69%) with 1 out of 3 considered obese (36%).”  In a disturbingly similar trend, the same report states “the country has some of the highest childhood obesity rates in the world:  1 out of 6 children is obese and 1 out of 3 is overweight.”  It’s no surprise that the leading cause of death in the US is heart disease, which is directly correlated to unhealthy lifestyles.  

Obesity is a completely self-imposed disease and one that is easily reversed through simple lifestyle change. Why then are we being encouraged to “accept ourselves at any size,” knowing that its killing us and our children?  Why does someone who acknowledges unhealthy bodies get labeled a “fat shamer” by the media?  If obesity truly is a disease, why don’t we treat it as such and actually encourage TREATING it, instead of just accepting it as fate?  

While I by no means advocate hating yourself for being in an unhealthy position, I think its necessary to be realistic about your situation and hold yourself accountable.  There is no circumstance that is permanent, and you have the power to change anything at any time, for the better or the worse.  Waking up every day and making healthy diet and exercise choices is true self-care, not ordering a pizza and zoning out to 12 hours  of Netflix like the media would lead you to believe, but it’s completely up to you to decide how you want to spend another day.  

I think we should treat the relationship with ourselves the same way we (hopefully) treat our relationships with others; by setting firm boundaries built out of love and encouragement for the higher good. If you genuinely love someone, you want to see them healthy and happy; and if a loved one has a disease, you encourage them to treat it, not accept it as a death sentence.  If your partner or child was an addict, you certainly couldn’t imagine give them positive affirmations regarding their abuse, or enable them by purchasing the thing that is killing them.  However, some people sadly have fallen into this cycle of “loving them to death,” and will be manipulated into assisting their self-destruction out of fear.  

Boundaries are a wonderful thing; they protect us from harm.  Drawing a firm, uncrossable line in the sand for both yourself and others creates accountability and structure.  If you have no boundaries you have no control, either over yourself or others’ treatment toward you.  Creating standards for our lives is the greatest gift of self-preservation and is so necessary, most important of which is learning the power of NO. Saying no when someone asks you to over-extend yourself for their benefit, saying no to participating in harmful behaviors, saying no to unhealthy cravings; every time you say no you’re actually giving yourself a yes.  

Conversely, you do have to allow grace and patience.  No matter your current life situation, you didn’t get there overnight and the process of reversing those behaviors isn’t going to be immediate.  Don’t overlook or undervalue your personal wins, especially the small ones; those are the ones that add up and amount to everything.  Every time you choose water over soda, get active instead of staying on the couch, or skip dessert, congratulate yourself.  More importantly, know that no one is perfect and mistakes will be made; success comes from picking yourself back up quickly when you falter.  Give grace to others, knowing they too will make mistakes.  As long as their intentions are pure, they deserve just as many second chances as you give yourself.  

I’m a person who tends to swing in the adverse direction on this matter; my self-talk and acceptance of where I am in the present moment has historically always been negative.  My struggle with perfectionism is admittedly my biggest flaw when it comes to myself and my relationships with others.  It’s something I’m continuing to work on, and I feel as though it’s getting better.  Holding myself accountable to lifestyle choices I’m proud of is helping my self-perception and trying to accept others where they’re at - knowing we’re all fluid and meeting at different points on this journey – is increasing my tolerance for perceived ‘weakness’ in others.  It’s a struggle, but daily I remind myself that I’m receiving back what I’m putting out, so positivity is always the better option.  


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