I am going to have to start this post with a story about poison ivy.
We had some coming up in the back of our property… about 6 ft away from where I wanted to position the kids play equipment.
We are also the kinds of people who really don’t want to have to use roundup or any kind of poison in our yard if we can help it and so the problem, plus our convictions about how we wanted to deal with it lead me down an online rabbit hole searching for non-toxic ways to deal with poison ivy.
My search led me to a permaculture website (a really, really cool approach to gardening, farming and landscaping - you should check it out).
And the writer explained that before you can eradicate anything (even poison ivy) it is helpful to understand what its ecological niche is. In other words… What role is the poison ivy playing in the ecosystem?
We live in a wooded area and before there was a neighborhood, there was a forest. Poison Ivy’s unique role in a forest is to protect it. It will only pop up where the ecosystem is vulnerable to invasion and in my case, I had poison ivy growing at the edge of my backyard ecosystem where it was vulnerable.
I don’t have to leave it there, I also don’t have to poison it (and everything or everyone around it) - I just needed to find a way to protect my ecosystem in a different way, so that the poison ivy would no longer be necessary. Once I provided my eco-system with a safer alternative, the poison ivy would cease to grow. Needless to say - next spring, instead of poison ivy, the vulnerabilities in my ecosystem will be protected by sunflowers. No round-up necessary.
You might be wondering what poison ivy and sunflowers have to do with bitterness.
Well, much like poison ivy - difficult or even potentially destructive emotions like resentment and bitterness only ever grow because of vulnerabilities or a need that is arising in your emotional ecosystem.
Resentment and bitterness grow when our boundaries with others are weak or non-existent. It crops up to signal that something or some part of our lives needs protection, but it is also potentially harmful for others when we leave it there too for long and can cause serious damage if we or others get tangled in it once it matures.
We often try to deal with resentment or bitterness the way we try to deal with poison ivy - pull it out, we bring out the round-up or we just let it grow - we uproot ourselves from relationships, we poison our relationships, or we just ignore it and it keeps on growing until thats all there is.
A healthier alternative would be to ask yourself - what is this resentment or bitterness trying to protect? What vulnerability in my relationship or in my self-care is it trying to draw my attention to?
My poison ivy was an invitation to strengthen and protect my eco-system. It was also an opportunity to grow sunflowers.
Your bitterness and resentment is an invitation to care for and love yourself and others safely.
It is an opportunity to deepen mutual trust and respect in your relationships, to truly be loved for who you are and, it is an invitation to take back the power over your life that you have relinquished or are giving to others.
It’s time to plant sunflowers.
It’s time to practice self-care.
It’s time to establish or repair boundaries.
If you are a woman battling bitterness and burnout - or if you’d like to avoid it altogether - I would like to invite you to my free facebook community for women who are doing just that - we would love to have you join us!
So you’re starting to feel that resentment and bitterness (or maybe even some burnout?) starts to bubble up in one of your relationships or at work…
That is almost always an invitation to explore what boundaries are missing and need to be erected.
So how do you do that? Where do you start?
Well, contrary to what you may think: you DON’T start with the other person or people in question.
It’s tempting isn’t it? To look at the other person in the relationship and shovel all the responsibility for our feelings of frustrating and discomfort onto them… but don’t ever go there. It will never truly resolve the true root of those feelings.
Boundaries are erected to protect YOU, what YOU love, what YOU value, YOUR priorities and YOUR life. When embarking on the boundary building process, the only sustainable place to start is with YOU.
Boundaries ALWAYS start in self-awareness.
Knowing yourself, what you value, what your priorities are, how you want to live your life, how you want to conduct yourself at work, or make a living, raise your children and what kind of relationships you want to have. Becoming aware of all of these components of who you are is the very first step in sustainable and healthy boundaries.
It sounds simple, but most people have no idea who they are or what they want. Most of the values and priorities we pursue have been instilled in us in childhood and belong to our parents, or as we get older our peers and our culture. Any boundary - no matter how successfully you seem to erect it - will continue to yield resentment, bitterness and burnout if they aren’t protecting a true and authentic version of YOU.
Imagine going through all the effort of creating and building boundaries around values, priorities and goals of someone else? No thanks.
Self-Acceptance is the foundation of good, strong & boundaries.
Once you do the work of uncovering who you are and what you want, your next step is to accept all of who you are, what you value, and the life you want - without apology, and without judgement.
This is an incredibly difficult task, but reinforcing boundaries is going to be incredibly difficult if you are questioning the validity and value of your own needs and desires.
We all need to learn and practice the self-care discipline of self-acceptance, and not to judge ourselves according to the standards of our culture, compare ourselves to our peers or measure ourselves by the standards of our parents or other significant people in our lives.
Boundaries are strengthened in love.
The energy or courage you need to sustainably erect and maintain healthy boundaries will not come from your anger or your fear - but from your love.
Once you are able to see yourself for who you are and who you want to become, once you are able to accept yourself, you will need to learn how to love yourself unconditionally.
Just like a mother cannot help but protect her children out of a fierce and unconditional love - once you learn to love yourself compassionately, you will develop the courage required to protect and defend yourself and the life you have been called to live in the same way.
Anger and resentment can be difficult emotions to manage, especially when they arise because we are being violated in our relationships, but they are also beautiful invitations to reclaim the authorship and power you may be handing over to others.
Boundaries are one of the ways in which we teach others to know, honor, accept and love us as we are: We cannot be good teachers until we learn to do the work ourselves.
If you would like to learn more about how to get to know, accept, and unconditionally love yourself - and if you would like some help staying out of bitterness and burnout, why don’t you head on over to our free facebook community: