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Understanding Your Internal Boundaries

Updated: May 20, 2022

A lot of times when we talk about boundaries, we're only talking about them because something has "gone wrong." We're familiar with the idea of setting boundaries with other people, and we do it all the time. If someone says, "Can I come over at 6AM?" You might say, "No, that doesn't work for me. How about 10AM?" You're setting simple guidelines to help people understand how to approach you and work with you. I call those External boundaries.

External boundaries help people have:

* Clear understandings

* Clear agreements

* Healthy permission to engage

We also have Internal boundaries. Internal boundaries are the rules and guidelines we set with ourselves on the inside. Ideally, these boundaries are based on what we value and what we believe. The more important those values are to us, the more we will keep our internal boundaries.


For example, if you value self care and rest, and you've decided that sleeping in on Sundays is a part of what nourishes that value, then you won't schedule things for Sunday mornings. This influences the external boundary you set with others. It's the reason behind why you say no to a 6AM meeting, but might be fine with an afternoon meeting.

However, you might also value family, and if that value is stronger, you might displace your agreement to sleep in on Sundays if a family member asks for that time. The family value wins out, and the boundary becomes flexible.

For that same Sunday morning, you might say "No" to hiking with a friend, because of the sleeping-in agreement based on your self-care value, but say "Yes" to breakfast with your brother who's flying into town. You might feel great about that, as long as the family value really is the higher value. Otherwise you might tell your brother you'll meet him later in the day.

When we adhere to our internal boundaries, they give us a sense of confidence, order, and safety in our lives.

The woman who decides she will only have intimate relations with her partner after they have spent at least 3 months of dating together, is setting an internal boundary that has nothing to do with the partner in question, and more to do with what she values in order to feel centered in life. Her boundaries may shift if other values come into play. This is a natural part of flow between values, internal, and external boundaries.


When you set and keep internal boundaries as a result of your core values and desires, you will always be safely held in your life. If you set internal boundaries based on egoic beliefs, or on socialized behaviors, they will crumble when your true desires come into the picture. It's good to spend time with yourself, journalling and reflecting on what you truly want, regardless of social acceptance, regardless of what your upbringing taught you, regardless of what parents told you about what you could or could not have. Write down these true desires.


Trouble arises when one of our internal boundaries gets tangled up in beliefs from old childhood trauma, wounds, or from social expectation. For example, you value getting a raise at work, but you value self care even more. Maybe you have a wound from childhood that has led to the unconscious limiting belief that "You need to get all of the raises and achievements offered, or you're a loser."

Then your boss calls and asks you to take on a new project that will require you to work every morning 7 days a week, with no vacation time. Your high inner value around self care may make this an immediate "No," but if you perceive that your answer is going to cripple your chances of a raise at work, then because of those old wounds and limiting beliefs, you may feel afraid to stand by your internal boundary.

Let's add in that your boss has already told other employees that you will "probably" be doing the work. Now holding your boundary feels important to you, but from the outside you may feel social pressure or shame for saying no, in addition to your old narrative about being "a loser." You might decide to go against your internal boundary.


When we cross or break our internal boundaries, it often doesn't feel good. Social pressure, guilt, and shame can come up. As a light worker, it's powerful to reflect on how it feels when your internal boundaries are crossed. Recognizing this, you can more quickly heal and deal with your circumstances.

Shame and guilt love to hide in the dark. We don't often recognize those feelings quickly unless we've been trained to look for them in a situation. When shame or guilt come up, let them pass through you, and recognize that they aren't a real experience in your life. Shame is a projection of energy that comes from either the real or perceived judgement of others. You ultimately don't want to be ruled by judgement or guilt from social pressure, and shame.

Furthermore, when you go against your internal boundaries, you're actually violating the core sense of peace and safety that you've created as an adult human in life. Honoring internal boundaries helps you to feel strong, because it protects your core creative power. Dishonoring internal boundaries can feel internally like self-betrayal, or even like self-abandonment. When we talk about feeling weak or spineless, these are common words to describe moments when our limiting beliefs or wound-based desires have won out over our higher vision and deeper values; in short, we have crossed our inner boundaries.


Our internal boundaries are lines we choose not to cross, on the inside. We decide things that are important to us, based on who we are, what we've been through, and what we want. When we cross those internal boundaries, we're the ones making that decision, but it if we feel shame about holding our boundaries, we may project that shame outward and get angry at others. We may blame others.

This happens a lot in relationships: Jane decides she's not going to clean up her children's rooms anymore because she values the idea of them learning to clean up for themselves. However, she believes that their messes make her a bad mother, so she decides to clean for them. Then she feels bad about crossing her parental boundary, so she yells at her children. She blames them for the fact that she had to clean their rooms. That was not actually the fault of the children. As a parent and woman setting her boundaries, she could have held firm and cleared her belief that a dirty room makes her a bad mother, then found other solutions.

Guilt over crossing internal boundaries is often a secret trigger behind blame and anger. Whether that blame and anger comes out onto another person or comes out on yourself, it's a sign that quiet time is needed. You've got to look at your emotional stream and understand where your guilt or anger are actually coming from.


When we transfer blame, we're doing a disservice. We actually let go of any responsibility we have in our decision making process, because we're blaming our decision making on an external force. We are boldly lying about reality to ourselves, and we abdicate our power.

When we transfer blame to others, we also shut the door on deeper emotional truth. We block out the deeper emotional dialogue within about where all of this is going to end up. When we start closing emotional doors like this, we are numbing parts of our body and energy field.

It's okay for for our internal boundaries to shift, but if we do on occasion cross them, then we need to sit quietly with our feelings and admit how, we feel. As we get clear on those true feelings, the shame, guilt, or anger can then be released.


DAILEY LITTLE is a healing practitioner, transformational life coach, ordained Priestess, and teacher who founded Healing Heart Reiki to help others navigate life with joy. She teaches classes in healing and mindset from a magical peaceful corner of the world in Northern California. For more info see:

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