Where Self-Compassion and Boundaries Intersect

Self-compassion and boundary-setting are two things that I find myself very energized to work with in the therapy space. When I heard Brené Brown speaking about the intersection between these two topics (on a recent episode of Armchair Expert) I knew I wanted to elaborate further.

What Do Compassionate People Have In Common? 

Let’s first briefly summarize Brown’s findings in her research on what compassionate people have in common that allows them to be so kind. Her initial hypothesis was that the most compassionate people must fall back on spirituality. What she discovered was that spirituality was not the deciding factor, but boundaries were. She goes on to explain how difficult it is to hold space for someone else or show up compassionately when they are disrespecting your boundaries. The people in her research who rated the highest in compassion were also the people who maintained their boundaries.

Keeping Healthy Boundaries 

Hearing her take on how these topics connect with each other lit my brain up on the car ride home from work. Keeping healthy boundaries in place allows a person to access loving-kindness, curiosity, and compassion for others. I speak with so many clients about how boundaries can feel selfish, or how they struggle with intense guilt after stating a boundary. As it turns out, healthy boundaries are the tool that’s needed to be there for other people.

Compassion without boundaries can very easily transition into people-pleasing behaviors, being a doormat, and eventually lead to compassion-fatigue or burnout. Your body will take what it needs eventually. Meaning- if you are unable to prioritize yourself and set boundaries around your time, you will be physically and mentally unable to access compassion. Burnout means you are in a deficit; you are tired, irritable, and exhausted.

Compassion + boundaries = long-term sustainability

We must rest and we must engage in our passions. We must rejuvenate our joy in order to continue to serve, be self-less, and be productive members of society. Everything has an ebb and flow in nature. There are times where you can extend yourself to others and hold space for them with an openly compassionate heart and times when you cannot. In those times where you cannot, you must remember to give yourself some compassion too. It is not selfish, it is life-giving. I have said this before, and I will say it again: boundaries are not walls to keep people out, but a gateway to show them where to meet you.


About Jasmine Payne: 

Jasmine is a Resident in Counseling and provides services at the Fredericksburg location. She is a two-time graduate of Longwood University, receiving her B.S. in Psychology along with an M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling.

Throughout her graduate studies, Jasmine worked with teens and adults who belonged to various minority and multicultural populations. She also has familiarity with a wide spectrum of mental health concerns including anxiety/depression, grief, moodiness, self-improvement, motivation, relationship issues, and many more. To learn more about Jasmine, visit HERE

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