As empaths, we often forget that boundaries are our birthright. The concept of empath boundaries might even sound restrictive and limiting to some. Yet the paradox is that boundaries actually mean freedom. To draw that line means freedom to fully feel the innate beauty of our innermost selves – the freedom to be who we truly are.
Whilst it’s not always possible to determine the circumstances outside of us, we most definitely have a choice about what happens inside of us. This article briefly explores what boundaries are before sharing seven in-depth and helpful exercises designed to help you master your boundaries in everyday life.
What are boundaries?
Personal boundaries are about self-respect. It’s where you draw the line. A boundary establishes what is ‘you’ and what is ‘another’. Boundaries are simply deciding what is OK for you and what is not. Boundaries are about owning your inner space and knowing that you have a choice in what you give yourself to. With boundaries it becomes clear what you have responsibility for; what you are in control of (that which is within you) and what you are not in control of (that which is outside of you). You get to be in charge of your own feelings, your own attitude and your own energy.
Boundaries are about making a conscious choice not to take on someone else’s stuff. It’s not even that we won’t feel another person’s stuff. An empath’s boundary is about not letting that stuff stick inside of us and not letting it consume us.
Boundaries are not about blocking energies out completely. The flow of life force or chi depends on a free flow of energy through our field. Boundaries are about owning our personal space so that our field is not overridden. The good news is that asserting boundaries is not a complicated thing to do; but rather as empaths, we often don’t even consider that we have a choice in the matter. We do! It’s a case of applying energy to it on a regular basis, until it becomes second nature to us, to own our space.
What does the concept of ‘boundary’ mean to you?
What a boundary is not?
Empaths are expanded and interconnected with all life, so it might seem a little counter-intuitive to set boundaries. We can look at another person and empathise from a place of true empathy and STILL have boundaries. It can, therefore, be helpful to know what boundaries are not…
- Boundaries are not separation.
- A boundary is not a wall.
- Boundaries are not isolated bubbles.
- A boundary is not a lack of compassion.
- Boundaries are not a lack of caring.
- A boundary is not a lack of empathy.
- Boundaries are not about blocking all energies out.
Boundaries are good for everyone
As empaths, we feel. We are going to keep feeling too because it’s our nature. Once we begin to incorporate boundaries into our lives it frees up our energy so not only are we more available for ourselves, but we can be much more available for others. We can tap into the boundless well of compassion and love that is ever-present in the universe.
7 Exercises For Creating Empath Boundaries
These exercises are designed to be done over a period of days or weeks. Each exercise is designed to be contemplated and worked with practically in your everyday life. You will also be invited to use visualisation to help recreate scenarios in your life to work on energetically. Integrating boundaries into your way of being takes practice and commitment. The more consideration you give to each step, the more you will get out of it.
Enjoy your exploration of boundaries!
1. Become aware of how you are currently being
The first step toward lasting change is to notice and observe your boundaries (or lack of) in everyday situations. Awareness of how you are being is crucial. When we become more conscious of where we are losing ourselves and where we lack boundaries, we can then see what is working for us in life and what isn’t. Self-awareness will show you when the boundaries in your everyday encounters change and you’ll soon be able to catch the moment where you start abandoning them. You will also learn to notice what is challenging and stressful for you and where you need to make the necessary changes. We will be bringing subconscious inner behaviour patterns to the forefront of our attention.
For this exercise, make sure you are free from distractions…
Visualise a situation in your life where you know you have boundary issues. For many of us, that is probably most situations. Choose a situation where you might take on someone else’s stuff or would normally feel depleted or drained. It may also be a situation where you feel as if you are giving your power away to someone else, or a situation where you get swept along with another person’s energy. It could be someone you know or simply a type of character who keeps showing up in your life at work or in public. So, close your eyes and visualise this situation where you have a boundary issue. Relax, let go and take a moment to feel into it. Explore the following questions without judgement.
- As you visualise the situation, what do you observe about yourself?
- How do you feel?
- What are you finding challenging or stressful?
- What is going on for you?
Notice if the energy of the situation changes.
Write down your observations.
Keep watching the situation. Next, notice how you perceive the other person is being. How would you describe their energy? Write down your observations.
Try this visualisation several times over a period of days or a week. As you become more aware, write down what else you notice, things that perhaps you didn’t quite see before. Once you have made general observations about what you are feeling, get a sense of the exact moment that you lose your boundary. Keep writing and exploring as you delve deeper into this exercise.
As well as using visualisation (which is easier for some than others). You can also carry out this exercise during any real-life encounters throughout the week. It would be helpful to use a mixture of real encounters and visualisation of situations. The more you do this, the easier it will become to observe yourself.
You will know this step is complete for you when you have a clearer picture of how you have been operating in everyday situations. At this stage, we are not trying to change anything, but simply watching and noticing. Observation along with the awareness it brings is a powerful precursor to lasting change.
2. Boundaries for empaths are your birthright & owing your body
Everyone is entitled to boundaries. It’s your birthright. It’s your body; your energy field and you are meant to be completely in charge of it. Your boundaries are your own responsibility. If you are not implementing them, then no one else is going to do it for you and you will frequently feel depleted.
It might seem a little bizarre at first to think that we aren’t fully owning our bodies. It’s something we easily take for granted. What exactly do I mean by that? As empaths, we commonly allow energies from outside of us into our own energy field. Our bodies are often hijacked by the energy and emotions of other people. These energies often take over and own us, making it very difficult to be ourselves. One of the reasons we are emotionally hijacked/swamped is because we have not owned our body – we have not asserted our boundaries. The first thing is to recognise that you do have a choice. You DO have a choice. In order to take sovereignty of your own body, you have to want to make that choice.
Let’s get started…
Close your eyes and take a moment to contemplate that your boundaries are completely your responsibility and no one else’s.
Feel your body and acknowledge that it is YOUR body and your responsibility.
You may not yet have taken control or even considered that it was an option for you (it is common for empaths to feel that way). Contemplate that you have been given complete charge of what is right for you and what is not. Feel the energy of that.
As you acknowledge that this is your right, feel any power you’ve given away in the past, through lack of boundaries, coming back to you.
Feel that energy filling your heart or your body. If it helps, you might like to visualise it returning as light.
Know that boundaries are your birthright and that you are in charge of them. Know that your body is yours and you have been assigned complete charge over it.
3. Empath Boundaries: Deciding what is acceptable for you and what is not
As you feel a deeper sense of your own personal boundaries, begin to recognise what is acceptable for you and what is not. Get a sense of what feels comfortable and safe. This will vary from person to person and will be unique for all of us. You may feel more comfortable with certain people, especially those who naturally respect your energy. You may feel that you need more assertive boundaries with other characters, especially those with stronger energies that tend to fill the space and override your own truth and feelings with theirs.
Whether you feel moved to engage with another person (or not) is entirely up to you. The important thing is that you decide what is acceptable for you and what is not.
Find a quiet space and take a moment to close your eyes.
- Contemplate what is acceptable to you and what is not.
- What feels right for you?
- What energy doesn’t feel right for you?
Make notes about what you feel, to help bring it deeper into your awareness. For some of us, we might just feel energy, without words. If that is the case, just feel the energy and allow an inner acknowledgement of what is OK for you. The process of acknowledging to yourself what is acceptable will help to strengthen your boundaries in everyday situations.
Once you’ve contemplated this through meditation, then make a conscious effort to notice in any following encounters with people, how you respond when something is not acceptable for you.
- What comes up for you?
- How does it make you feel?
- What do you do in these situations?
4. Learning when to say no or to speak up
Empaths do like to feel that everyone is happy, but people pleasing is draining! It may feel uncomfortable to say no, for fear of letting other people down. Sensitive people most certainly do not like to rock the boat or cause a fuss. We also frequently struggle with feeling negative reactions or discomfort from others, after saying no. If we’ve rocked the boat, as empaths, we feel waves of disharmony crashing down on us. However, by constantly holding back we also keep ourselves imprisoned in the cycle of always putting our own needs last. The only way out is through!
Not rocking the boat becomes a burden with a heavy price to pay for our personal freedom.
Saying no is learning to respect ourselves, which in turn means that we can connect with people from a place of greater love and presence. Saying no is about learning to navigate life on our terms. This freedom of choice has the welcomed effect of giving our relationships a deeper quality which allows us to be freer within ourselves to truly give from the heart. The law of attraction means that we will attract people who embrace us for who we are, as others who don’t resonate fall away. We’ll form new authentic friendships based on mutual respect – and let’s face it, I know we all yearn for that.
Don’t be afraid to let other people know that you need space. Likewise, if someone crosses a line with you, then let them know. If something is clearly not right for you, then say so. You don’t necessarily have to be sharp with others. Here are some tactful, non-threatening examples of expressing truth…
- ‘I hear you, but don’t resonate with your approach on this’
- ‘I’m respecting that is your truth, but mine is different’
- ‘I am feeling a little over-powered by the way you are saying that’
- ‘I’d like this to work, but what you are saying just doesn’t resonate with me’
- ‘I’d love this to flow between us, but we have to find agreement on the common ground first’
It can help to be non-threatening in your choice of words (especially when dealing with people with stronger characters) as I am sure you are already aware. It’s about finding a balance when stating your perspective, by being open-hearted, yet not shrinking back in the fire.
At times it might even be more appropriate to come out with ‘back off!’ or ‘excuse me, you are totally disrespecting me’ or ‘you are totally out of order’ or ‘I do not appreciate the way you are talking to me’. These are just suggestions. If you find a way of communicating that works for you, then use it. Everyone is unique. Every situation is also different. I find that I need to communicate much more tactfully with some people, whereas others really appreciate my directness. This is best learned ‘on the job’ by trial and error with direct experience and for most of us, a little bit of courage.
Whether you are being tactful or direct, be sure to check in with your heart first and communicate from a place of self-respect and authenticity. It is our self-respect that gives us strength in this type of situation. Consciously coming from the heart also means that whatever the outcome, or however the other person is in return, we at least know that we’ve come from a place of love.
Close your eyes and contemplate a situation where you are being overpowered. Or where you feel you need to summon the courage to say ‘no’. How do you feel to phrase it? What might you say to express the truth of how you feel? Write down a few ideas of ways of expressing yourself that come naturally to you.
I know communicating with people in this way is often a lot easier said than done. It takes practice, although it gets much easier with time. It’s about self-respect. It’s about giving other people the opportunity to know the ‘real’ you.
Note: if someone is really power hungry, bear in mind they won’t like it if you step into your power, because they rely on power from other people (especially empaths) to ‘feed’ their hungry ego. Once you begin to change, this sort of person will either change to meet you or they will naturally fall away.
If speaking up is something you need to work on, then simply bring it into your awareness as a possibility. After that, keep your heart open and allow it to guide you.
Exercise: Contemplate a situation where you feel you need to say no (or to let someone know they are crossing the line with you). Know that you are being held in a safe space, with the support of Mother Earth, Angels or your Spirit Guides (whatever resonates with you). Feel the energy of the situation and then feel the appropriate response arising from you.
It may not always be easy to say no in everyday situations. Saying no takes practice (and often courage). It will help to visualise situations, whilst feeling safe and protected first. If you have an encounter where you wanted to say no, but didn’t, then, later on, close your eyes and go through the situation again in meditation. Feel the scenario again, except this time, say what you feel moved to say. Notice how your energy changes. Allow your power to return to you. Doing this will then allow your resolve to strengthen. It will prepare you, so when you are ready, you will find yourself more able to say no or express your truth in more challenging situations.
5. Empath Boundaries: Learn to trust yourself
Oh how easily doubt can creep in! Empaths have a tendency to hold the space for all people and opinions; therefore often the one with the loudest mouth or the most dominant opinion rules the show. This frequently leaves the empath to question, doubt and talk themselves out of their own intuitive and authentic feelings.
However, the wonderful this is, empaths are highly perceptive and intuitive beings and even though they are often the quieter ones, they are most often the ones who are right (yet paradoxically the first ones to assume that they may be wrong). Quite ironic.
It can be healthy to receive reflections, inspiration and advice from others. If you find yourself constantly doubting your opinions and feelings or frequently needing validation from other people, then it’s time to redress that balance.
Remember, nobody knows what is right for you better than you do yourself! Your opinions are real; they are valid; they are invaluable. Don’t let anyone else make your decisions for you or talk you out of your authentic feelings. There is a difference between people who offer a friendly supportive reflection (which can be very empowering) and people who leave you doubting yourself (which can be very dis-empowering). Take back your power and learn to trust yourself.
Take a moment to close your eyes…
- Relax and let go into your breath.
- With the out breath exhale and release doubt and lack of self trust.
- For a few breaths, continue to exhale out feelings of doubt. If you struggle to feel the feelings, then simply repeat the words out loud and push the words out with your hands.
- Push this doubting energy out with your breath (and hands) and continue as long as feels right for you.
- Once feel clearer, begin to feel the fullness of yourself.
- Feel your intuitive gifts.
- What does that feel like?
- Feel yourself filling with self trust and self belief in these gifts. If it helps, say the words ‘I trust myself’, ‘I trust my intuition’, ‘my feelings are valuable’.
- Take as long as you need to keep feeling your positive energy expand and fill you.
- You might not always have the answers, but this will help you see more clearly and learn to trust your intuition. It will also help you to discern what is actually right for you (and others).
Whenever you find yourself in a situation where you start doubting yourself, take a moment and use the short meditation that we’ve just done in step 5. Breathe out doubt and inhale self-trust.
6. Putting our own oxygen mask on first – the importance of loving yourself
Putting ourselves first is a bit of a foreign concept for most of us empaths. It’s not about being selfish or uncaring. It’s about putting your own oxygen mask on first – because when you do that, you are able to breathe fully, and then you are in a much better place to help others. Next, from a place of balance, you can make a conscious choice about the best action to take.
Take time every day – and I mean EVERY day, to do something to love yourself. It can be something small or something huge (or a mixture of both).
It might be just fleeting moments for example…
- a momentary pause to stop and close your eyes
- a conscious breath of air
- allowing the song of a bird to nourish the soul
- appreciating the silence in the stillness of night
- feeling the sun kiss our cheeks
- feeling the gentle breeze run through our hair
- stroking a cat or dog
- smiling to ourselves in the mirror
- noticing how beautiful the trees look outside
- stopping to smell some beautiful flowers
These momentary pauses all nurture the soul and should be a part of our day.
There are lots of ways to take care of ourselves that require a little extra time…
- a little (or long) walk outside
- a warm bath with essential oils
- having a massage
- spending time with good friends
- creating food from the heart
- sitting doing nothing for a while
- listening to inspiring music
We all know what nurtures us. And when we nurture ourselves, the ripples really do pulsate outwards.
So it’s about loving and respecting YOURSELF. Find a way to remind yourself of this daily. I have a carved wooden picture on my wall by my kitchen door. The words on it say ‘take time to smell the roses’. Find something that works for you and put it into action so that you don’t forget this very important practice. Leave your self reminders.
Begin first by making a list of things you might do to love yourself. Make a list of quick, instant things that you can do anytime (like smelling the roses or feeling the wind through your hair). Make another list of things where you have to put a little more time aside (like painting, walking in nature, yoga).
7. Putting empath boundaries into practice
Your mission is to bring all of these different steps together. The idea is that by making observations about ourselves, by noticing and contemplating how we are in the world, by writing down how that is and how we feel we naturally begin to heal. Our personal boundaries start forming all by themselves.
Take note of what is most challenging for you. Make a special commitment to working on that. Return to your notes, read over these 7 boundary exercises whenever necessary, to remind yourself of what you need to work on. You will find that repeating exercises can take things to a whole new level.
Find something to remind you daily about your boundaries. It could be something stuck on your fridge, a magnet, a photograph on your dressing table, a picture, a bracelet or keyring. You could perhaps stick post-it notes in different places to remind yourself. Use anything to remind you of your personal commitment to self-respect and boundaries.
I trust that you’ve found something in this article to reflect back something helpful for your journey. My purpose is to shine back to you what you already know. Please know that I am certainly not perfect in my own journey. Like all of us I’ve come to my realisations through the ongoing challenges that help me return to my whole, complete beingness. Please take what you resonate with and allow it to inspire you back to wholeness. Thank you for tuning in and reading – please feel free to pass on to anyone who might resonate.
More articles for empaths and sensitive people…
A helpful Meditation for empaths…