After a couple of years of consciously feeling and testing out my needs, I’ve come up with a self-care contract. I’m posting it here in case it’s of interest to any empath who needs a frame of reference and as support to you on your self-care journey. (New to boundaries? These articles – Setting Boundaries as An Empath & There is Freedom in Boundaries are essential reading.)
What’s a self-care contract? It’s an agreement with yourself to respect, honor and protect your self-care needs.
Many of these may come as a no-brainer to any non-empath reading it. It may even seem obvious to an empath. Because, intellectually, they all make so much sense – like, of course!
But as a naturally open empath, our boundaries are so porous, many of these boundaries require conscious programming and training to become ingrained in our psyches. Even when we are intellectually aware that we are entitled to our boundaries, enforcing them and most importantly, feeling like we have the right to enforce them is a whole other matter altogether.
I still remember my surprise and that absolute moment of epiphany when my therapist said, ‘You know – you DON’T have to respond. You have a choice NOT to respond.’ I was like, whaa-? No way.
Because I feel everything so acutely, it had never occurred to me at that point (2 years ago) that most forms of input don’t even directly involve ME per se – because everything seemed like a direct hit on my senses! It sounds so self-involved, and in a way, it could be judged as so. But remember, absolutely everything feels personal to an empath. It’s the way our brains are programmed. But the truth is, maybe 0.01% of any interaction or event really has anything to do with us. Perhaps our actions or words, but very rarely us – our essential, core selves. Once I knew, understood and observed this to be true for myself, things became so much easier.
Above all, remember: No one is in control of how you feel. YOU are. Others merely provide the trigger. YOU have the power to flip the script, to tap into your strongest self at any time.
My Self-Care Contract
- My self-care needs involve: alone time, time in nature, the choice to not respond immediately, time to think over a decision, the right to say ‘no’ without explanation, to change my mind, to rest, to grow.
- It is not selfish for me to put my own self-care needs first.
- I protect, respect and honor my needs, even if I seem to need ‘more’ than others to be my optimal self.
- It is not acceptable for anyone to try to make me feel negative about it.
- I do not have to be perfect – to start anything, to do anything, to give and receive love.
- I am allowed to make mistakes.
Communication & Relationships
- I have the right to establish safe, loving and respectful relationships with anyone I choose.
- It is okay for intimate loved ones to tell me how they feel about my boundaries, especially if it happens to overlap or push against theirs. We can have an open discussion about it to hear out each others’ view points with no pressure or expectation to change.
- Guilt-tripping, passive aggressive behavior are not acceptable forms of communication from my part or others’.
- I will not allow anyone to talk to me rudely or disrespectfully. Examples include dismissing, minimizing, mocking. If they do, I will call them out on it appropriately and respectfully. If they choose to continue with disrespectful behavior, I can choose to take any action that I deem appropriate, which I will inform them of e.g. minimize contact or sever communication.
- It is not acceptable for anyone to use anything shared in confidence against me in future or as emotional blackmail, collateral. Or as gossip fodder. This constitutes as a breach of trust and invasion of boundaries, and action will be taken (as in #4).
- I allow myself the time and space to safely feel and express all my emotions. All emotions are acceptable, there are no ‘wrong’ or ‘bad’ ones. No emotion will be rejected.
- It is not acceptable to vent these emotions out on anyone without their explicit agreement to be the listener or acknowledgement that it’s ‘venting time’.
Exchange – Energetic or Otherwise
- When I give advice (or anything, really) to intimate loved ones, I give freely, not as a form of control and manipulation, without expectation of change or receiving anything in return.
- Likewise, when I receive anything from intimate others, there is no expectation of ‘payback’ or score keeping.
- If any uncomfortable feelings arise in the act of exchange, like resentment or disappointment, I will allow space and inquiry into these emotions. They could be alerting me to any unconscious desires on my part, for example, to seek validation/love/approval from the other in the act of exchange. In such a case, refer to #1 under ‘Processing Emotions’.
Boundaries with my own Ego
- I will not tolerate any self-abasement. I will not talk to myself with contempt, self-pity, or allow myself to believe any negative, unsubstantiated thought about myself.
- I will seek improvement based on uncovering and getting closer to my perfect, true nature – my Higher Self – and not because I believe I am fundamentally flawed or wrong in some way.
These sound no-nonsense, assertive and not sugar-coated – because they are, and have to be! It takes practice and constant reinforcement to get to a space where you embody them so fully, it emanates from you and your aura. At that point, you may find that people who are not respectful of your boundaries will drop out of your life of their own accord.
Energetic boundaries allow you to feel safe and loved in this world. Above all, you of all people deserve to feel safe in your own skin. I’ll say it again: You deserve to feel safe in your own skin.
I’ll be adding on to this list and updating it regularly as more come to mind! What are your non-negotiables? I’d love to hear.