Limits and Love
A while back, I wrote a post about mindful time limits. I focused on the idea of increasing productivity with mindfulness while using a simple tool to keep you on track (you can read the full post here, if you like).
Today, for Self-Love Saturday, I want to talk about another kind of limit—a loving one, and the mental tools we can use to help us with those. This post is inspired by a great read over Beth Allison’s blog, FitAmbitiousBlonde, about remembering to rest.
I love that Allison brings up the importance of rest for our fitness routines, as I struggle with knowing when enough is enough and when to take a break as well. I use exercise to regulate my mood and get boosts of endorphins, to clear my head. Exercise generally makes me feel calmer, healthier, and happier.
Lately, however, I haven’t been setting loving limits for myself with exercise, hence this post!
For any kind of self-love practice, defining our limits is crucial to taking care of ourselves, whether with exercise, eating, working, and even recreational activities like surfing! Loving limits is about setting boundaries for our bodies and spirits with the intention of wellness rather than punishment.
What They Aren’t
Loving limits are NOT,
“I am not allowed to eat that (insert food) because I will (insert believed result of eating food)”
Loving limits are NOT,
“I have to (insert activity) or else I am (insert negative quality e.g. lazy, selfish, weak)”
These are not loving limits. These are rules and restrictions we place on ourselves with the intention of inducing shame or guilt if we don’t follow them. And, sometimes those restrictions, rules, and measures of our accomplishment are unattainable—we are bound to fail, and get caught in the negative spiral of self-guilt and self-blame.
Imagine a world where you didn’t impose rules on yourself, but loving limits instead.
What They Are
Loving limits ARE,
“I want to go to the gym today, because it will help my body feel stronger”
Loving limits ARE,
“I’m not going to eat (insert food) because it won’t feel good in my body”
And you know what? I am struggling with loving limits myself right now.
I’m feeling more and more pressure on myself lately, to eat in an exacting way, to surf for more hours than my body wants, and to exercise more than my body cares to.
A couple mornings ago I woke up, deciding that today was cardio day. I had to run a certain distance. I had to!
If I didn’t, I was a failure, I wasn’t pushing myself hard enough—all those negative thoughts were nestling themselves in my head, sitting on my shoulders as I began my run.
And, no matter how hard I yelled at myself, I couldn’t do it. My body didn’t want it, my mind didn’t want it. Something about the morning was not adding up, and I couldn’t seem to move one foot in front of the other. I was so angry with myself for not being able to continue that I started to cry. I was so frustrated that I couldn’t do what I believed I should (there’s that word again!).
In reality, there were plenty of reasons why I couldn’t do what I thought I should do. I had been going to the gym quite often that week, surfing, writing, and dealing with some other life stressors. There was no reason for me to have to go except for the rules I had placed on myself.
If this… then…
Unlike expectations, which are ideas we have about how we should be or what skill level we are supposed to attain, as I also catch myself creating, rules are even more steadfast. They are concrete “if this, then that” restrictions.
Like expectations, though, they can completely throw you off when you don’t reach them. They are self-imposed laws which seem like orders given by some superior authority in our own heads.
They are vicious, absolute, and often disconnected to our internal compasses, which are the true knowledge sources we can tap into for guidance and self-awareness.
Setting loving limits is about self-care and self-love. Loving limits are flexible, gentle, and connected to our inner wisdom. They are choices, rather than obligations.
Honestly, setting loving limits for myself is still challenging. When my stress levels increase, my loving limits become rules. I cope with external stress by trying to control my body and environment. When I feel I can’t control something, I turn to controlling my body. When faced with obstacles that seem effortful, the alternative—controlling myself—seems much easier, but it’s not very helpful.
Control in Loving Limits
The reality is that loving limits put me in control more than rules and self-punishments do. Loving limits put me in control of my wellbeing, my health, and my body, in ways that are achievable, rather than impossible.
So, how do we set loving limits, rather than rigid rules?
It’s been so difficult, lately, to remember that the control is in giving myself the freedom to listen to my inner guide, rather than imposing restrictive rules on myself, but I’m going to keep coming back to loving limits, and practicing, because that’s what cultivating self-love and self-compassion is all about!
(Hint, hint, here are the tools!)
We say no. We say no to the rules, and yes to guidelines. We say no to extremes, and yes to balance. We practice giving ourselves permission to be tired, hungry, frustrated, or stressed. We ask ourselves what we want, not what we should or shouldn’t do or have. We trust our instincts, rather than our
I’ve still got a lot of practicing to do, how about you?