One of the greatest things I learned from being witchy is to own my power.
I don’t give it away to someone else to wield over me as I make excuses for their bad behavior, inconsiderateness or abuse. Rather, I hold MYSELF accountable for protecting the child-within and creating a safe environment for her.
This is not the same thing as railing against someone else, which is futilely spent energy that could have been redirected into a more productive and beneficial path. It is simply understanding what is good and healthy–what is acceptable and even desired in my life and my world–and turning that awareness and energy both inward and outward as I care for myself, my loved ones and my environment.
If you are trying to live a spiritual life in a good way, it is very easy to think that means being passive and permissive of others, even when they are behaving in ways that are detrimental to your well-being. Some of us have been taught that turning the other cheek is taking the high road; and that never being angry about someone’s actions or holding them accountable is a higher, nobler way of living.
Allowing others to abuse you, your family or your space does not make you a spiritual guru. It makes you a doormat.
So how do you create your best life? Is it possible to both “take the high road” and hold others accountable for their actions in a way that is just and healthy? The short answer is, “Yes!”
Firm, Fair and Wise is not ‘being a bitch’
Let’s start with the myth that women who are empowered are bitches. Hopefully, at least at a conscious, intellectual level, you know that is not necessarily true. But even then, it can be hard to let that knowing flow deeply into your whole self and to feel its truth. After all, many of us have been taught our whole lives that we need to play by the rules dealt us, even those that are unfair, misogynist, prejudice, etc.
I personally believe that women especially often get dealt an uneven hand in this game.
If you were fortunate enough to grow up in a family with a wise matriarch, you hopefully had a role model to teach you how to be strong, firm, clear and kind in the world in a woman’s body. You were lucky to be able to experience the inspiration and guidance needed to help you develop into a confident woman who knows her true power, source, value and values.
But if you grew up like so many of us, in a male-dominant home that did not respectfully treat women as valuable equals, or you grew up in a home with dominant, domineering or abusive family members, you might have a harder time understanding what healthy boundaries even look like, let alone how to set them.
So, let’s start to unravel that false belief that we are being “awful” when we say “no” or set clear boundaries. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite! When you practice healthy boundaries and creating balance in your life, you gain the skills, experience and space to be firm, fair and in integrity. Without that space, you are more likely to be retaliatory, angry, reactive and resentful; while creating a safe circle around yourself allows you to be more balanced and better equipped to deal with life’s challenges and difficult situations.
So how do you know if you are making a healthy decision or having an unhealthy reaction?
An easy way to determine whether you are on track or not is to ask, “Am I taking care of myself in a way that is respectful of myself, nurtures me, and draws clear lines to protect me from unhealthy behavior?”
Then check in with yourself emotionally and make sure there is no part of you that is intent on punishing the other person, getting even, or intending harm to them directly or indirectly.
When we operate from these values in a firm and fair way, our actions are never against someone else, rather they are for us in a good way.
So how do you judge what is toxic behavior and what is not?
Does something make you feel supported or undermined? Empowered or fearful? Confident or wilting?
Of course, you have to look at your own emotional complexes and baggage that could be influencing your feelings inappropriately, but a simple model for assessment is to look at the people and actions that trigger you and determine if there is a common denominator.
What is it about that person or experience that triggers these bad feelings in you?
Sometimes, identifying these truths can be rigorous work. It’s not for the faint of heart. You must be truly committed to getting a handle on your life and correcting these imbalances so that you can create more peace, more empowerment and ultimately more joy and connectedness. But once you understand what it is about the situation that offends you, then you have a chance to unravel it and determine whether the other person’s behavior is a detriment to your well-being.
Ask yourself, “If I saw this happen to someone else, how would I feel? What would I do? What would I think the person in my place should do (if they could)?”
If you would judge the situation as toxic for someone else, that helps you to evaluate the situation outside of your own reactiveness and prejudices so that you can gain a more objective perspective. This unattached assessment brings a level of clarity that can instill confidence in your reasoning.
Another way to assess what is healthy and what is not is to remove the current situation from your assessment and instead look back at your history with this person or situation.
- Is this a moment or a trend?
- What other examples of this bad behavior have you witnesses over time? Are they all similar?
- If you didn’t know the person, but you knew of all their historical “bad” actions and behavior, would you let this person into your inner circle, or would you prefer to steer clear?
When you can use a simple review process of historical facts, it takes a little bit of the sting out of the current situation and helps you to make a clear decision based not on the current event alone, but on whether this person is toxic in general as a hallmark of their personality.
Having this clearer picture over time can be very empowering. Facts don’t lie, only people do.
Now you decide: who are you going to allow in your circle?
In paganism, the circle is sacred and protected. Wiccans cast circles for performing ritual to define a boarder that both keeps out unwanted energies and makes space to work or to commune with energies deemed appropriate or beneficial.
Our sphere of influence works much the same in normal everyday physical reality.
We all have a sphere of influence that can be imagined as literally a circle around us that extends beyond our physical bodies and into our world. People and things that are in your sphere of influence affect you, your well-being and your life. As they move further and further out of your sphere of influence, they have less and less effect on your life. If they have no effect on your life, they are not in your sphere of influence.
If you are the sum of the 5 people you spend most of your time with, then you best make sure these people emulate the traits and characteristics that you value most, because they will influence you–energetically, if nothing else.
If you allow toxic people in your inner circle, you are likely to be more toxic yourself, one way or another, whether that is acting out or internalizing the drama and becoming toxic inside. Neither is healthy.
As with spellcasting or ritual circles, or even intimate circles of trusted friends, hold this sphere of influence in your life as sacred. Would you bring something toxic into a sacred circle?
With this question in mind, use your assessment from above to determine who and what should be allowed in your sacred circle and start making adjustments to improve your life and your well-being. In other words, stack the deck in your favor–more benevolent and healthy influences in your circle, less toxic and harmful influences in your circle.
This single change alone can have a significant positive impact on your life from creating more peace and ease at home or work, to helping you feel more confident, to even increasing your productivity as your mind and body clear from the stress and fog of toxicity.
Again, nothing is instant. There will be an adjustment period to go through in learning this new way of being, but it will be worth it. And your firm, fair and balanced approach will help you to remain strong and empowered during these changes.
So you may be thinking, “Well, this all sounds good, but it’s one thing to recognize toxicity and know I would be better off without it in my everyday life, and quite another to muster the courage and determination to step away.”
Believe me, I totally understand! When I needed to get divorced, I knew for years before I found the strength and courage to act. Another time, I knew I needed to ask for a raise, but I was afraid that if the company refused me, I would have to accept poor treatment (inappropriate compensation) or I would have to leave to honor myself. So, I delayed that conversation for some time until I realized that I didn’t need to let their decision put me in harm’s way. If they refused a reasonable increase, I could then start preparing to leave on my own terms without tipping my hand. Who cares if they think they’ve “won”? I was in control and my approach was going to clearly show how much they valued me (or not). But that’s another story.
My point? Every day is another opportunity to make a new decision. No matter how long it takes, it’s ok. It’s your timeline. You are in total control of what you do when it comes to boundary setting. You decide when, where and how; and what to do next if your boundaries are not accepted.
Luckily, most things don’t require immediate and timely action or response in these scenarios. When you’ve finally had enough, you will make a change. It’s that simple.
Practice Makes Perfect
“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
There is no line truer than that when it comes to changing your behavior and your life. If you have not practiced standing up for yourself and what’s right for you in a healthy way, it’s not going to be easy at first. Saying “no” and setting healthy boundaries can be downright hard if you have no experience at it. But the good news is… it’s gets easier with time. And the more you draw healthy boundaries and stick to them, the more you build evidence that you can do it!
You also will eventually start to see the positive rewards of doing so.
At first, the repercussions of your actions may look contrary to improvement because people who have treated you badly in the past will most likely be quite inflamed when you try to honor yourself. They much prefer being in control. But eventually, as you remove their control over you, you will emerge victorious over your space and your life. It may not look the way you would like–things are not always tied up with neat ribbons and bows, but when the toxic people and environments go way, you start to feel better and you suddenly have the space and capacity to be more and more objective as time goes on.
You will also get faster at identifying unhealthy situations and steering clear.
In the beginning, you might not even realize that a situation was inappropriate until days or weeks later. But with awareness and practice, you will begin to identify toxicity faster and faster until you feel empowered, alive and confident in your own skin.
But once you start being able to figure out what is truly toxic and harmful to you, how do you get the nerve to step away?
Get your witch on!
Part of getting your witch on is to be connected with the earth and earth energies, to be wholly grounded in the physical while also connected to the spirit realm, and to embrace your whole self: dark and light, warrior and healer, protector and innocent.
In Wicca and other Goddess-based practices, Roman and Greek mythology, Hinduism even, archetypal energies are core to accessing spiritual energies, strength and wisdom. Sometimes, we must draw on those energies to create a whole, healthy, nurturing and empowered feeling within ourselves where we are complete. From this “place” we can bring that wholeness into our relationships and everyday life out in the world.
To achieve this, it’s important to be both grounded and also open at the same time–open-hearted, open to ideas and possibilities, open to self-correction and open to drawing boundaries when appropriate, while also being grounded in reality, able and willing to assess and take action, and feeling strong in our bodies and our minds (or at least brave enough to walk through the fear).
When we can be both open and grounded simultaneously, we can assess our world and our interactions without drawing false or biased assumptions or conclusions to our detriment. We can assess the current moment in a healthy way that can lead us to an empowered decision or action.
The following exercises can help you balance your energy between spirit and earth so that you are fully aware, tapped in and fully grounded.
Energetic – Grounding
SITTING: Meditate with your palms facing down toward the earth. Be aware of your breath flowing down into your abdomen. Keep your “self” in your body. Focus on the earth pulling you down to her, the pull of your shoulders as they drop down and relax, your back straight, chin level. You are stronger than you know in a right and balanced way.
STANDING: Stand with your feet spread comfortably, shoulders neither forward nor back, chin level. Feel regal–arms down with your hands in front of your abdomen, palms up, level with the floor as if you have a gift you are presenting to someone important. Be comfortable and relaxed and yet, gently firm in your stance. Feel the weight of your shoulders pulling you down to the ground. Feel the weight of your body on your feet, holding you on the earth. Your center of balance is below your solar plexus. The energy of the Goddess is with you. The warrior protects you. You are peaceful, firm and balanced. You are connected to the Deep. Allow it to embolden you in a good way and guide you on your path.
Mental/Emotional – Toxicity Assessment
Note: I highly recommend keeping a special notebook for your personal work. It will provide a safe place for your self-exploration and development. It will also teach your body and psyche that when you pick up that notebook, you are stepping into a safe place and a time of introspection, divination or other form of psycho-spiritual work. Like having an alter or other consistent and protected space for meditation helps you to build your energy and connection for working magick in that place, having this notebook will also have similar beneficial responses in your body-mind-spirit.
If you need help assessing a situation or person that tends to set you off and make you feel or react badly, use the questions below to explore what might be driving those feelings.
As your answers unfold on the page, *do not judge what you are writing*. Just like when doing a Wisdom Dialog, simply allow the writing to flow without editing or critiquing along the way.
Let go of all opinions and judgements around whatever comes through as your pen crosses the page and just write. Allow and be open to truths that might want to surface now that you are ready to look at them.
PART 1 – Answer the following questions in relation to the person or situation that triggered you:
- When I am around this person (or in this situation), I feel…
- Are there other situations in which I have those same feelings?
- Is there a pattern or common denominator in those situations?
- What fear or insecurity do these situations or people trigger in me?
- What is the boundary they are overstepping that makes me so bothered, angry or hurt?
- Is it their actions? Or my response that causes me the most upset?
- What could I have done differently in this situation?
- What could I have done differently in the other similar situations?
- Would any of those alternatives have made me feel better?
- Would any of those alternatives have made me feel worse?
- Do I have any regrets about my participation in this situation/relationship? What are they?
- Do I have any regrets about my participation in in the other similar situations/relationships? What are they?
Sometimes, just answering these questions will make you feel better the instant that you realize what it is that was bothering you. Nothing needs to be resolved. You just needed self-awareness. You are done!
But if the situation remains bothersome to you, continue to Part 2.
PART 2 – Go back and review your answers to Part 1. Ask yourself the questions below in relation to your written responses. This will help you determine whether you would benefit by removing the person or situation from your sphere of influence.
- Are your answers true, honest and accurate?
- Did you omit anything in any of your responses?
- For what reason did you choose not to include that in your answer?
- Do you see any patterns in your responses?
- Considering your responses, on a scale of 1-5 how toxic is this person or situation in your life?
- Is it worth keeping this influence in your sphere?
- What are the costs?
- What are the benefits? (Negative side-gains can be added here if there is something a little twisted going on, like “I get more attention from others if they know I am constantly being victimized by this person” or “this situation gives me an excuse for why I have not been able to get a job yet.”
- What might happen if you try to remove this influence from my sphere?
- If you don’t remove this influence, is it possible that the above answer might happen anyway? e.g., I told a friend that if I tried to leave my husband, he was going to be a total ass and I really didn’t want to deal with it. She replied, “He’s going to be an ass anyway eventually. The question isn’t if… it’s when. You might as well get it over with.” Touché!
- If a friend was explaining their situation to you and disclosed the things you wrote above in your answers to the questions in Part 1, what advice would you give them?
- If you are clear that the person/situation you are assessing is truly toxic, what are the obstacles to removing them from your sacred circle?
- Is there a way to overcome these obstacles?
- Is there anyone or anything (organization, etc.) that can help you handle them?
- On a scale of 1-5, how ready are you to deal with this situation?
- What can you do to get “more ready” to deal with the situation?
- Will you ever be ready to deal with the situation?
- If not, is it worth acting now anyway?
- If you choose to do nothing, can you accept your part in remaining where you are in your life as a decision that is yours to make?
We always have choices. Sometimes, those choices suck! But we do have a choice. The question is… What decision will you regret; and what decision will set your soul free?
Perhaps you are ready and willing to remove a person or situation from your sacred circle. Perhaps not. After all, you have the right to say “no”. And that’s OK.
What is your most empowered answer? Only you know.
Ground. Meditate. Ask for guidance and know that opportunities and answers will come. Watch for your animal totems and synchronicities. And be patient. You will know when you must act.
Until then, it’s just another day, whatever that looks like for you.