Create healthy boundaries with a middle finger mindset

This post is about why you need to pop that middle finger up – metaphorically, of course.

“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.”

-Brené Brown

Brené Brown doesn’t talk about middle finger mindset, but I do. 😊 I am not trying to tell you to be offensive to others.  This is what it means to me:

What is the middle finger mindset?

Middle Finger Mindset is about embracing what matters while telling everything that doesn’t to screw off.  It’s not about being right or being mean. It’s like being an innocent baby who takes care of their needs and expresses them from a place of self-love and authenticity.

You must have a middle finger mindset for healthy boundaries to work in the world today.

Conditioning from society makes us sway and allows others to crawl over your metaphorical fence (your boundary) all the time! Setting your boundary doesn’t have to be mean – but it must be strong, and it must be about what is right for you. You can’t think your way into boundaries. The best way to do this is to learn how you feel when your limit has been reached.

What is happening? Why do we let people cross our metaphorical fences over and over again?

Conditioning is the problem. The world is full of ‘shoulds’. We have them in our own belief systems and everyone else also has them in theirs. Everyone has their own comfort levels and we believe that everyone should live by what ours say – but that just can’t ever work.

Most of us don’t want to disappoint others. So, we disappoint ourselves instead.

Here’s an example of a preference, and our conditioned minds say everyone should be the way we are— a “because it works for us, it should work for them” mentality:

Your business partner/boss/friend is a night owl. They wake up late and they believe that because they have energy in the evening and at night, you will. But, say you are an early bird and you love waking up early – your energy is amazing in the morning.  So, you are pretty much zapped by the evening and you don’t mind going to bed early if you are going to be refreshed in the morning.  This happened to me in a side business. I am a morning person.  I was told to be successful I needed to do my activities in the evenings.  I didn’t want to disappoint anyone, so I tried it, even though it didn’t feel right for me. I put so much effort in, but I ended up not sleeping well because I kind of forced adrenaline to be “on” in the evenings. I ended up so burned out and so tired.  This could happen outside of work with family functions, with friends or many other things. This is just an example, so no need to get stuck on the specifics.  You might be the opposite of me, and if I asked you to go for a morning walk or a coffee work meeting, you may prefer not to join.  It doesn’t mean you have to quit the business or quit a friendship – but you need to find a place that works for both of you. For business, I would rather do what aligns for me and attract the people that think it’s great and easy to do things at the times of day that I have energy to share them with.  It may be a different crowd or in a different way, but I am okay with that. 

You may also feel the need to make others happy, especially if you are an empath. So, you do things you don’t want to do and go places you don’t want to go. You say to yourself, “I only have to wear this mask and pretend for a little while. I don’t want to let anyone down.” Afterwards, you feel exhausted and emotionally drained. You may even feel resentful of yourself and the other people. But you dare not admit it, because it might look like you are unappreciative or unwilling to compromise.

“To disappoint others for the sake of authenticity is not selfish. It’s an act of self-love.” 

– Carla Calloway

So, what’s the problem here? The problem is that you don’t want to let anyone down. So, you continue to wear a mask. You continue to people-please because you don’t want anyone to be disappointed in you. As a result, you find yourself stuck in an exhausting cycle of physical, mental, and emotional burnout.

Why do boundaries matter? Why do we care?

When you don’t have a healthy boundary, you will give away your energy. You may eventually wilt yourself because you have given so much to others. You give your emotions, your time, your energy, your things, and more.

  • Do you feel emotionally drained after some interactions?
  • Do you feel like you wasted precious time?
  • Do you give away money or things to loved ones?

You may also just be so overwhelmed and out of touch with what you really want, that you just say yes to everything. Or, maybe you feel like you need to help others before you help yourself. Unhealthy boundaries or no boundaries can make you feel like you are wilting. Like you don’t have the energy to do the things you really want to be doing.

People will try to cross your boundary line at all costs if it benefits them. They often don’t even know they are – because of their own issues and conditioning. But, it’s not ok for you.  You need to stand in your worth and say – I am important too, what’s best for me is important and “middle finger!” if you can’t respect what I am telling you is best for me.

How do I even know if a boundary has been crossed?

First, I want to talk about how boundaries feel…because the feeling is where the answer is found.

What does it feel like to have no boundaries? You may feel:

  • Unsettled
  • Chaotic
  • Resentful
  • Guilty
  • Regretful

Here’s what it can look like in real life to have no boundaries. You may:

  • Be overwhelmed, tired or burned out from doing things for others that you don’t even want to do
  • Say ‘yes’ to things that drain you
  • Have no time for things you love
  • Be in the wrong places with the wrong people
  • Feel yucky or unsettled or have feelings of anger, frustration, resentment, and you don’t even know why

Okay, you might be thinking, give me some hope. 😊 What does it feel like to have healthy boundaries?

I think of it like the feeling you get when you are supported and safe in a Mom’s (or caretaker’s) arms.  You are protected and the intention of the embrace is that of your best interests and well-being. You feel comfortable and safe.

A healthy boundary means creating this feeling or sentiment for yourself. Healthy boundaries feel good.

A healthy boundary feels like safety, comfort, and security.

Here’s what it can look like to have healthy boundaries. You will:

  1. Say ‘yes’ to things you love
  2. Say ‘no’ to things that drain you
  3. Can feel when something’s “off”
  4. Feel safe, secure and comfortable

What does it mean for your life to have clear and healthy boundaries?

You will (or at least can):

  1. Feel better
  2. Make decisions easier
  3. Have more energy and emotional balance
  4. Be liberated from guilt and find freedom in it
  5. Have more time and energy for the things you love
  6. Feel harmony instead of discord

So, now we can get to how you can tell if someone has crossed a boundary?

What if I didn’t even know a boundary was there? I always learned that you must set your boundary first and then stick to it. To me, that seems like you are in your head or mind figuring this out. I do better when I take an embodied approach. What I mean is that I figure out what my boundaries are from listening to my body.

That means— your body will give you a signal. The signal will be an emotion, or a feeling.

For me, it’s something that happens one at a time. I don’t realize a boundary has been breached until I feel a specific emotion. For me it’s anger and it means someone has devalued my time, not listened to the boundary I did put up, or stolen my energy. You may have a different emotion that is a signal for you. 

Here’s an example: I had plans for a phone call with a friend at a certain time on a certain day.  My schedule is very busy during the week, but I really wanted to catch up with the friend and she told me that is the only time that worked for her in the next two weeks. It took a few days to find a slot that worked and about ten text messages. So, I moved meetings and moved my lunch break so I could make this phone call work.  Ten minutes before the call, my friend says, “Sorry, I can’t make the call, I got behind this morning because I got sucked into social media, I have to get some stuff done, can we reschedule?”  I was so annoyed. In my mind I am like “NO WAY, that took so much to make this call work.” I was so angry, but I would say I didn’t even realize it was anger at the time.   But, of course, I was like “No problem, we can do that.”  Then, I was angry at myself. I wanted to tell her how I felt like she didn’t respect my time, or the effort it took to make that time slot work.  But maybe she didn’t know and thought it wasn’t a big deal.  Or, maybe she did know, but she knew that I would forgive it, because I always had in the past.   

After reflecting on examples like this, I can now sense that feeling and I do better and better at being clear about what I need. I have a defined Spleen center and time is a strong theme for me. But maybe the other person has an open Spleen center and gets lost in time. I am not saying one person is right and one person is wrong – but without communicating our needs based on our values, we can make up many stories in our heads that can further lower our emotional vibrations.

I was mad about the time lost and the energy suck— the low vibration that I held onto from the situation. But I couldn’t figure that out right away. First, I took a friend sabbatical – basically I just didn’t plan anything with this friend for a few months.  This wasn’t the first time she had ditched plans last minute. I was close to closing it off.  Sometimes that can be the best thing, if it’s totally toxic, your boundary might have to completely shut off from others. But I really value this friend and I wanted to make it work.

I asked myself, what WOULD work for me?  I realized it was not planning. That was the boundary. Now, instead of planning in advance, I let her know the morning of if I have availability.  That way, I only ask if it feels good for me that day, and she can assess if she can make it work.  It flows much better.

I said something like: Q: “It seems like you don’t always know your schedule ahead of time, can we plan the day of, so we know it works for both of us?”  Her answer, “Sure, that sounds perfect, just let me know what works for you.” 

So, what do we need to do?

We just learned why we need healthy boundaries and what they are. What you need to do next is figure out what your emotional signal is.

I plan to write more on this topic and offer some training and exercises.  But you can get started now.  Start to notice your feelings. Take a pause and identify what is really bothering you and why. 

Remember, the Middle Finger Mindset is all about how you feel. It’s not about being mean to others, it’s about sticking to what’s right for you and not worrying about what others think about that.  The key to figuring it out is finding out what emotion signals your personal boundaries. The goal is to move from being in a victim mindset to becoming fully resilient and knowing clearly what’s not healthy for you.

Quick Recap:

  1. What’s happening? Conditioning from other people’s “shoulds” and our own limiting beliefs.
  2. Why do we care? It gives away our time, energy, and well-being.
  3. How do I know when one is crossed? It’s about how you feel – you will feel an emotional signal telling you something is off.
  4. What do we do next? Figure out your personal emotional signal.

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda – Didn’t!

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