Date #18

Healthy Boundaries


In this video I mention the date on Speaking Your Truth, which is coming tomorrow

Building healthy boundaries is a key activity in The Body Confidence Project.

What Are Boundaries and Why Are They So Important?

Boundaries are how you protect yourself and uphold your values.

For example:

You avoid walking past a building site where you might be whistled at.

You only see certain relatives at family events because they are so manipulative

You never see certain people because their manipulation is intolerable to you.

A friend sends you an inappropriate image/joke that offends you. You tell them directly “Don’t do that. It was really out of order.”

Your boss asks you to work weekends more than anyone else. You arrange to have a meeting to discuss this where you ask her outright why she is asking this of you and you believe it is unfair. Alternatively, you just say no.

Each situation above is an example of someone experiencing a boundary violation and responding to it with boundary repair.



Journal About The Following Questions:

#1 What boundaries do you need to repair?


#2 What is the easiest boundary to repair? Start with that.


#3 How can you make Cavebrain feel less isolated while you go through this uncertain time? What other tribes can you join? Meetup groups for example. What friendships can you reaffirm?


#4 Are there any hero/ines in film/literature that you can use to inspire you? I really like Katniss from The Hunger Games. Although she is a warrior princess and I am older, I can still use her example. Also: Pam Landy from The Bourne films.

This date started out in text form, because I really wanted to organise my ideas in the most coherent way, and sometimes writing is the only way to do that. Below is this writing. I took the content of the above video from these notes, but there are more ideas if you really want to explore how to build healthy boundaries.


It is quite a long read, so grab a drink - or come back to it when you have more time.



How Boundary Work Fits In With The Body Confidence Project

We have seen earlier in this month how increasing your physical fitness will calm Cavebrain down because it knows that you are getting better at dealing with any physical threats.

However, it is likely that there are many experiences in your life that Cavebrain sees as threats that are non-physical. For example:

Passive-aggressive treatment, especially from a parent figure. For example, you care for your elderly father, who repays this kindness with nothing but complaints and “I served this country for 30 years. Why haven’t I got a proper nurse?”

Being sent inappropriate images by a male friend

Working under a boss who takes out their lack of managerial skills on you. They ask you to do more than your fair share, blame you for their shortcomings etc

Working with others on the same level or below you who are unprofessional, and because they know you have high standards, actively encourage you to take up the slack or complain that they just can’t finish report X and translate your role of manager into “person who will complete what I can’t be bothered to”.

You tell your mother that a neighbour molested you as a child. She tells you not to tell your father, because of what he might do to the neighbour. In this example, your mother is asking you to both carry the shame of the assault and be responsible for someone else’s actions.

Why Does Cavebrain See These Experiences As Threats?

To answer this question fully for your own life, we would need to talk one-to-one. However, here are my general thoughts in answer to this question:

Parental figures have such a massive impact on our sense of self because as children we absorb the messages they give us without being able to filter them. If they were unable to show us unconditional positive regard (UPR), then CB did not feel secure as you grew up - your place in the tribe seemed at risk in CB’s eyes.

Part of my work coaching is often about helping clients disentangle themselves from the fallout of this lack of UPR.

Being sent inappropriate images and other sexualised behaviour from men - this is not going to set every woman’s CB alarm off. For myself, with my history of sexual assault, it really does. CB sees it as yet another reminder that you could be assaulted, because make sexual energy has been allowed to run so rampant in culture.

Work issues. You might feel that your effort is not recognised or others take advantage of you - here CB wants to contribute to the tribe called your workplace, and it wants that contribution recognised - otherwise it worries that you will get thrown out of the tribe. In addition, every tribe needs leaders - that is why we have serotonin in our brain (this is the neurochemical that triggers a feeling of safety when you get a promotion for example). If you are a natural leader, then Cavebrain DEFINITELY wants that recognised.

What experiences or relationships in your life fall under the banner of non-physical threats to Cavebrain?

Cavebrain on Red Alert

To Cavebrain that is a very dangerous situation. So it puts you in a state of fight or flight. The stress response. Being accepted is top priority, no matter how much people pleasing or intolerable behaviour you have to put up with. To Cavebrain, this is a life or death situation.

Children cannot repair any of these broken boundaries. They do not have the maturity.

In addition, if you have experienced trauma, your Cavebrain could be in a constant state of believing it is graduating to stage 3, which requires the tribe to tell you you have passed the initiation to adulthood. This will be invisible to your conscious mind.

For more on this, listen to the Me Too episode here:

Cavebrain’s Last Resort

What options are open to Cavebrain if it feels unsafe, both within its tribe and externally?

One solution Cavebrain has is  The Protective Fat Suit (PFS)

Cavebrain knows that in nature, the bigger you are, the safer you are.

It is my belief that many women (and I imagine these days men too) are unconsciously putting on a PFS as a safety measure. This is completely unconscious.

Stop reading this page now, and consider this. Go make a cup of tea, or go for a walk and ask yourself if any excess weight you are carrying is in fact a last-ditch attempt by your Cavebrain to protect itself.

Ok, so now we have defined the problems that non-physical threats can create for CB and consequently you, let’s look at what to do about it.

Enter Boundary Repair To Save The Day!

I bet you have spent hours complaining about experiences like the above, and wishing more than anything that person X would just change. A wish fuelled by anger and a feeling of injustice.

I have been there - big time.

This almost pathological need for the other person/people to change is I think a symptom of the helpless state that many people's Cavebrains live in. It is under constant low level stress, it does not feel accepted by the tribe and for many of you reading this, it feels constantly unsafe due to the prevalance of male sexual energy. The tribe itself represents threat.

The great news is that your CB does not need the world and everyone in it to rearrange themselves so it feels safe. Remember, CB operates not like a security nut; it is a bouncer. It is created to deal with threats.

Your work is to learn how to navigate this world, preventing threats where possible and responding quickly to them otherwise.

You do this by strengthening or creating what have been until this point non-existent boundaries.


Graduating Beyond Cavebrain

Cavebrain is your red alert centre for social acceptance. But is is woefully inadequate for actually dealing with this situation in the 21st century.

Your passive aggressive mother, your overbearing boss, your so-called friend who steals from you, they are absolutely not the tribe Cavebrain thinks they are.

We have multiple small tribes in today’s world.

You do not have to stick around with the people who raised you, who you happen to share an office or friendship history with.

There are different ways that you can exit this horrible state of people pleasing, feeling guilty all the time and using food as a playground for expressing your inappropriate shame.

But I have found that the most effective and quickest route is by boundary repair.

This means that you start enforcing the boundaries that are important to you (such as the ones given at the start of this article).

This means ignoring Cavebrain’s panic (“What the hell are you doing? We're heading for expulsion from the tribe for sure!”)

This means: feel the fear and do it anyway.

This means proving to Cavebrain that this boundary is not a threat to you.

This means having well-meaning friends (who themselves are terrified of conflict) wring their hands and say things like: “Look, can’t you just resolve things? Your mum won’t be around forever you know. Isn’t it better to just get on? Life’s too short.”

This sometimes means being more aware of how angry you are, which might feel a bit like opening an emotional jack in the box.

This means tapping into your inner warrior/warrior queen/warrior princess, even if you have never met her.

Here is my favourite ever warrior princess, Katniss from The Hunger Games:

Life With Boundaries Repaired

The good news about boundary repair is that it allows your anger to do its job and then leave your system.

It ultimately de-stresses you

It is massively empowering

It means that you don't have to use anger to rebuild boundaries.

It makes you feel safe, which means that you might be able to get on with that difficult parent in some capacity, for example you feel able to attend family celebrations with them present.

It makes you an awesome role model for young people and children.


Here is a recap of the journalling questions for today:

#1 What boundaries do you need to repair?


#2 What is the easiest boundary to repair? Start with that.


#3 How can you make Cavebrain feel less isolated while you go through this uncertain time? What other tribes can you join? Meetup groups for example. What friendships can you reaffirm?


#4 Are there any hero/ines in film/literature that you can use to inspire you? I really like Katniss from The Hunger Games. Although she is a warrior princess and I am older, I can still use her example. Also: Pam Landy from The Bourne films.


That was quite a lot of hard work, wasn't it? I think you deserve a bit of R & R now. Shower gel rage, anyone?!?

Today's Comedy Video...