When Setting Boundaries Is Not Self-Care

a girl's hands are uplifted in prayer.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”  ~ Rumi

We all build walls around our hearts.

Usually, we’re not even aware of it — we’re just trying to protect some part of our being that feels like it could use a break.

Sometimes we call this “setting boundaries.” Sometimes we even think of it as self-care (note: for a true self-care technique, see below).

But I have to side with Rumi here. While the heart does need a bandage from time to time, when that hardens into stone, we no longer have protection — we have a problem.

Often what we think is protecting us is, in reality, just blocking something beautiful. (click to share)

Just let that sink in.

Take a deep breath and think about a “protective” wall you maintain. Is it doing its job? If not, could you save some of your precious energy reserves by bringing it down?

Yeah, me too.


If you’re interested, here is a technique to try when you feel your heart start hardening:

  • Breathe.
  • Once you feel yourself you’re stacking up stones around your heart, practice mindful awareness and visualize. See their weight, their gray surface, their edges.
  • Stop, and be still with them. Resist the temptation to protect, to judge.
  • Keep breathing.
  • Slowly see each stone turning to sand, collecting softly at your feet, as you stand (or sit) with a tall spine, relaxed shoulders and a gentle, strong, steady heartbeat.
  • Let yourself rest in the safety of the new space you’ve created inside your body.
  • Yep, breathe.

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