Tag Archive: boundary development



Sometimes we live a life where we feel like we have two selves, or a split self. The good ‘me’ we present to the world, and the ‘bad’ me, that we hide from others. It’s a lot more common than you think. Living a life that is ‘ideal’, setting the standard of perfection so far above anything humanly achievable, while denying the ‘real’ self that fails sometimes. I know many people who cannot accept or conceive of failure in others around them or accept failure in themselves. Where does this originate from?

If this is your first time tuning into my blogs, I am currently in the middle of a series on boundary development that I blog about every Friday, and encourage you to check out the past 3 blog entries I posted on previous Fridays. This week I am writing on what real love is about. That real love involves knowing that you are loved for both your “good” parts, and perceived or real “bad” parts of yourself.

Often times though, we learn that we are loved or accepted by what we do, or how well we perform at certain tasks, rather than being celebrated even when we fail. The expectation to get the best grades, or perform the best in your dance class or on your hockey team, meeting disapproval if you don’t get it quite right. Or being compared to others in your family by how well you perform vs someone else, making it into a competition to ‘get love’. This often is where the performance trap begins.

We all can imagine what the perfect “me” should look like. But who defines that? Who are you performing for? Now some of you may say, “I’m only performing for myself”, but where did the idea of performing at all originate? I challenge you to take a look at the root in yourself where you began trying to achieve a high standard for yourself that you can never meet, and the being harsh with yourself when you don’t meet your ideal expectation. Or maybe you can’t stand when others fail and set unreasonably high demands on others to perform to your ideal standard.

The reality is, we all have a “real self”. The self that we are when no one is looking. The self that we truly are, warts and failures and all. The real self is not who we wish to be, but us, just as we are.

When we begin separating the real from the ideal, it is often because we have believed a message that only the good parts of us are lovable and accepted, while the ‘bad parts’ or perceived bad parts are unacceptable. What happens to all that underachieving, bad habit, negative stuff that is unacceptable? It goes into hiding. If unattended for too long, psychologists label it a ‘split self’, where you only present on the exterior what is pleasing and acceptable and considered ‘good’ by those with whom we are in relationship because we grew up believing the struggles and failures and imperfections we had were unloveable. So we begin to build an outer world and a secret dark inner world that we are afraid to reveal to anyone, as we are sure to meet with rejection of the self as a whole – the real person, who is imperfect, yet loveable no matter what. But if the messages you received were that you are not lovable, you begin to believe it and begin to be your own worst judge.

What we all need is to know we are loved just as we are, the good and the bad, and that love is not lost or taken away if we neglect to perform a certain way.

When we fail to accept good and bad in ourselves, or in others, these are the symptoms that result:

1. Striving for perfectionism
2. Idealism – denying that bad exists
3. Inability to tolerate badness in ourselves or others
4. Inability to tolerate weakness in ourselves or others
5. Inability to tolerate negative feelings which then go into hiding, which have all sorts of negative side effects as a result as well.
6. Depression or moodiness
7. Self-image issues
8. Anxiety and panic
9.Eating and substance problems
10. Narcissism
11. Guilt
12. Sexual addiction
13. Broken relationships
14. Excessive rage
15. A perception that you are “all bad”
16 The “all good me” approach of being defensive about taking responsibility for any fault.

These issues can lead to all sorts of distorted thinking, such as believing you are not worth being loved, or that your badness is worse than someone else’s, or that you should be better than you are, all the while competing with a completely opposite belief that you are ‘ideal’. You may also believe your badness is unforgiveable.

How do you get past this? With great difficulty. Anyone who relates to this will easily tell you that once you believe that your unlovely parts are unloveable, it is a tremendous risk to bring those unacceptable parts of yourself -the parts you and others have judged- into relationship.

But it is the only way to heal the gap between the real and the ideal. A good test to tell if you struggle with this at all, is to try writing a list. Define, by using words to describe the external you, who you are to others. Then make a list of the ‘internal you’. The parts younkeep to yourself. Are they telling the tale of two completely different people? Or are they pretty much the same? If there is a huge difference between what you present on the outside and what is going on inside, you may be dealing with a split self. I am not saying that a split self means you have a personality disorder or anything, I am merely suggesting you may have not felt loved for who you are, the good the bad, the ugly. You may have been taught conditional love: that only parts of you are acceptable.

Real intimacy can only exist when the ‘whole’ self is loved, just as you are.

Quick tips to overcome the performance/people pleasing trap: confess who you really are with safe and trustworthy people in your life. Keep following, in a few weeks I’ll blog on the subject of how to determine who the ‘safe’ people are. So to recap: confess the ‘real you – the inside you – with someone. Forgive those who taught you parts of you were unloveable. And forgive yourself for being too hard on yourself and for your mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s part of being human. It’s ok.

Next, integrate your negative emotions and attributes with the ‘good’ parts of you so that you can begin the journey towards becoming a complete person. Allow yourself to feel sadness and anger and fear. The very things you tried to bury because they were perceived or treated as bad. Or were merely discouraged. Stop medicating to avoid pain, whether it be drugs, alcohol or sexual addiction, whatever it is you go to to avoid your pain, is only making matters worse and increasing self hatred. Get help if you are using coping mechanisms to avoid negative emotions.

Begin to challenge your thinking distortions. Instead of assuming on what people are thinking or what you think they want you to be, ask questions. If you are performing in an attempt to please or in order to earn love you don’t believe you are worth receiving, ask. Ask someone the very thing you are afraid of. Ie “I think you are bored listening to me talk. Is that true?” instead of assuming that’s the case and responding as if it were fact, just ask. It may surprise you when they respond, “not at all! I love it when you share your feelings with me! If my expression shows otherwise, it’s because I’ve had this nasty headache all day!”. And then try to believe they are telling you the truth, so that you are not self-sabotaging the ability to receive love from others.

I would also advise that you begin to process and value your negative feelings instead of chucking them into the abyss of your soul, where they only lurk and wreak havoc on the inside, destroying self esteem and encouraging self hatred instead.

Those are a few tools to get you started. My final piece of advice: be authentic. Be your real self. It’s much more wanted than you believe it to be. You cannot achieve true intimacy or really know if you are loved for who you are, unless you take risks and give someone a shot at loving you. You just might be surprised, and find the love and acceptance you crave, rather than the rejection you expect. I know it’s risky. I know it’s hard. But it is achievable!

If you’d like to look at a great resource, check out my one-on-one Personal Development Program which will help you overcome depression, unhealthy thought patterns and so much more!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach

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If you haven’t been following my Friday blogs, you may want to circle back and read “Grace & Truth -building blocks“, posted on February 3rd, as well as My blog posted on February 10th, entitled “Learning to attach and bond“, as they are the two preceding blogs to the series I am currently writing about on the subject of boundary development – the necessary steps to developing a ‘self’, a personality, with a healthy knowledge of how to interact with others, while keeping your own boundaries and self intact.

What are boundaries? Well, let’s begin with the characteristics of a complete person first, to give you a sense of what boundary development helps to accomplish. If all goes according to plan, a ‘complete’ person should exhibit the following characteristics:

1. The ability to connect emotionally.
2. To be vulnerable and express emotions.
3. Have an appropriate sense of power.
4. The ability to say no to something unwanted.
5. Have initiative and drive
6. Have at least a minimal amount of organization.
7. Be real, but not perfect.
8. Accept imperfections in yourself and others, and have grace and forgiveness.
9. The ability to grieve
10. Learn and grow
11. The ability to take risks.
12. Grasp and use one’s talents.
13. Be responsible and follow through.
14. Be free and not controlled by external or internal factors.
15. Be sexual.
16. Be spiritual.
17. Have a moral sense.
18. Have an intellectual life.

Wow, that’s quite a list! If you have trouble in any one of those areas, you most certainly could use a more thorough understanding on the subject of boundaries.

If I were to simplify boundaries, I would suggest that boundaries are that which we are responsible for, as well as a knowledge of what we are not responsible for, or what we cannot control.

I’m sure you are all aware somewhat of the term, ‘the terrible two’s, the stage in a child’s growth and development when the only word your child seems to know how to use is the word, “NO!”
Although not a ‘piece of cake’ navigating this stage of development for any parent, it is actually a very necessary part of the child’s development. This is the stage where he learns “Mommy and me are not the same, as opposed to the previous stage of development, where he learns to attach and bond, believing “mommy and me are the same”. Both elements are vital to a child’s development, and the need for attachment and bonding must precede the stage of developing his own personality apart from his parents. This stage of developing a self, own’s own separate identity continues on through life. But there can be very many messages that interrupt this growth process, making transitions into adulthood quite difficult. I will not spend much time on this in this blog, but to give a couple quick examples of such interruptions, a couple things come to mind. If one is taught that their accomplishments are what makes their parent proud, one might learn that performance causes feelings of being loved. Or perhaps if a child’s assertions to separate from mommy are met with a lot of resistance, the child will develop believing that she cannot have a ‘self’ and must ‘merge’ with those she is in relationship with, allowing that process of development to remain stunted. I do not have time to mention such things as manipulation and abuse in this blog, but will circle back to some of these concepts at another time.

For now, let us simply look at the responsibilities for our own soul that we are to learn, and develop in order to grow into a ‘complete’ person. Let me just mention that this is ALL we have responsibility for. We cannot control what another person does or how they will respond to us. We only have control and responsibility for our own selves.

What are we responsible for?
1. Our physical appearance, and physical boundaries.
2. Our attitudes
3. Our feelings
4. Our behavior
5. Our thoughts
6. Our abilities & talents
7. Our desires
8. Our choices
9. Our limits
10. Our values
11. Our negative assertions
12. Love

“A mature and complete adult not only takes responsibility for himself, but also requires the same from the people he loves. To be codependent and not require responsibility from others is to not be responsible for oneself.” – Melody Beattie, author of “The New Codependency“.

These are some pretty tall orders when it comes to personal responsibility.
A great exercise to try if you wrestle with your identity or are not quite sure who you are and who you are not is the following:

Exercise: Imagine a circle and everything in it is you. Think about what fills up your circle. What do you care about? What do you hate? What do you love? Who are you? What is attractive to you? What do you value? What do you believe? What repels you? What do you think about? Feel about? What are you really like?

There is a great deal more to be said about boundary development. This is merely a small introduction to get you thinking.

I will leave you today with common symptoms that occur in us when we fail to develop and set boundaries.

1. Depression
2. Panic
3. Resentment
4. Passive-aggressive behavior
5. Codependency
6. Identity confusion
7. Difficulty being alone
8. Masochism
9. Victim mentality
10. Blaming
11. Over responsibility and guilt
12. Under responsibility
13. Feelings of obligation
14. Feelings of being let down.
15. Isolation
16. Extreme dependency
17. Disorganization & lack of direction.
18. Substance abuse, addiction, and/or eating disorders
19. Procrastination
20. Impulsivity
21. Generalized anxiety
22. Obsessive compulsive disorder

Now, while many of these symptoms can have multiple origins, or be as the result of a difficult temporary situational trauma, if you find you identify with many of these symptoms, you may have some unfinished business in the boundary development process.

I also realize I have not mentioned anything about what to do with the boundary crossers in your life, nor touched on the subject of abuse, or further explained what codependency and some of thes other terms mean. That is because they all require in and of themselves a blog or several, to unpack further.

If you would like more information on Boundaries, check out the Boundary Development Program available on my website.  Hope to see you there!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.   

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach

Learning to Attach and Bond


By the time a child is 3 years old they have taken in astronomical amounts of information -we are created with so many genetic possibilities. So much of which depends on what we recieve from our parenting, the quality of relationship, to see which elements get developed, and which remain underdeveloped. The reality is that that none of us walk away from being parented completely unscathed! No one is perfect, and our parents are not fully responsible for what we missed out on in our childhood. This is due in part to the law of responsibility. We are responsible to finish growing in whatever areas we missed out on the first time around which is great news to parents who often beat themselves up over areas where they recognize that they were imperfect in their parenting.
But what is this astronomical amount of information that a child must take in and receive and begin to appropriate in life?
Children are always learning, and observing, and mirroring what information they see and take in. Kids need to attach and to bond, to learn to separate from mommy and determine who he/she is apart from mom. In the first year of life, they need to learn basic trust, developing a self soothing ability to have a relationship with his/her caretaker in their absence and develop emotional object constancy. Early on in child development, infants do not have enough love or structure within themselves, and require a great deal of nurture. Kids also need to learn to know what their desires are and their limits and to know that these will be respected. They are to learn how to own and take responsibiltiy for their own behavior, feelings, attitudes and abilities. They need to know they are loved no matter what. They need to eventually grow up and leave and become mature adults. But before they finish growing up and developing, they also need to process the imperfect parenting they receive. They may need to learn how to respond to physical or emotional neglect, abuse, deprivation, role reversals, physical abandonment, boundary violations, sexual violations, etc, etc.
That is an incredible amount of information for someone so young to have to learn all at once, which is why we often come away from our childhood feeling like there were pieces missing, unprepared for adulthood or recognizing that perhaps we are incomplete in our development.
My intention is to unpack this a little bit and help fill in the gaps a bit.

Today we will touch on the need to attach and bond. Before we can even begin to understand and appropriate healthy boundaries in our life, we must first be able to bond and attach and connect to someone who is safe and loving and can fill that lack of love that we first come into the world with. Before you can separate and become a complete person, you first need to be a part of something before you can individuate.

Many people struggle with the ability to receive love, due in large part to a lack of attachment or bondedness. Or, you learn enmeshment rather than intimacy, therefore lacking a clear knowledge of what the difference is. Enmeshment happens when your ability to separate and individuate is disrespected. I will touch on that more next week. I am merely trying to show that there are injuries that develop in us that we carry into adulthood as a result of a lack of bondedness, or unhealthy ways in which we bonded, such as sexual abuse as another example.

So what is bondedness? Simply, the ability to emotionally attach to another person on a deep level. The ability to share your deepest thoughts, ideas, dreams, fears, etc with another person and know you are loved and to feel safe. Emotional object constancy is developed over time as you continue to take in enough love, to know that even when the person giving love is not in the same room as you, you are still loved. Now, you may think this is silly that this emotional object constancy can still affect us years later if not enough love was taken in during our formative years, but it is true. Years later, if that part of development is incomplete, a person may feel a deep sense of isolation and aloneness and be unable to cope with such feelings, and needs to find varying ways to cope with a deep sense of emptiness and aloneness that does not go away. This learning to bond idea is really a BIG deal. It is the first step of growth and development, and the most important.

Some symptoms of a failure to bond include: depression, feelings of badness, guilt, sadness, panic, feelings of meaninglessness, emptiness, feelings of unreality, fantasy, addiction, rage, panic, distorted thinking, fear of intimacy, excessive caretaking, etc.

Unfortunately in one blog I don’t have time to get into more detail about how all these things work, but I can say that if you identify with any of this at all, I can leave you with a few simple tools about how to begin the process of bonding. Perhaps at a later time, I will come back to this subject more in depth and give more helpful tools for growth.

But for now I will leave you with this:

Here are a few tools to help you on your way to develp the skills to bond and complete the mothering process in healthy relationships in your current life:

Step 1. Realize the need for it. Often people live without even having an awareness that they need to connect on a deep level because they have lived so long without it that they have developed skills to adapt to the emptiness. Some people don’t even ‘feel’ the emptiness, because it is buried so deeply inside.

Step 2. Make steps to reach out to others. If you see someone who seems like a caring, nurturing individual, make an attempt to develop a friendship with that person to allow yourself the opportunity to learn to receive warmth, empathy and love.

Step 3. Be Vulnerable. This is big. This is hard…. and often feels extremely threatening when you are very disconnected. The fear of a loss of love is so great it prevents you from reaching out and allowing someone “in” to the deeper parts of yourself. Try not to let this fear rule. It will cripple your ability to attach and bond.

Step 4. Challenge your distorted thinking patterns…. such as the fear I just mentioned, or making assumptions about what other people are thinking, and how confident you are that they WILL reject you if you let them in. These distorted thinking patterns could also be about yourself, and how you have erected a wall of protection by saying hateful things about yourself so often until you believe them, and believe that everyone else thinks the same thing about you. Try not to interpret what you think others are thinking of you. When in doubt, ask, instead of assuming.

Step 5. Take risks.

Step 6. Allow yourself to experience dependent feelings.

Step 7. Recognize your defenses.

Step 8. Say yes to allowing yourself to receive love. Allow yourself to be compassionate to yourself instead of critical and give yourself permission to receive.

It may feel right now, like that is too much of a risk for some of you. I tell you from experience, it is not always smooth sailing, and you may get burned here and there, but when you do finally experience what it is like to really receive love, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

My challenge to you today is this: Love, like you’ve never been hurt. Keep reading, because I will blog in a few weeks on how to identify the safe people to be able to attempt this growth challenge with. Stay tuned!!

If you would like more information on Boundaries, check out the Boundary Development Program available on my website.  Hope to see you there!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website www.freedomlifelove.com and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.   

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach

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