“Givers need to set limits because takers rarely do.”
I say this in all of my workshops on Ayurveda: I wish I had more kapha energy. It’s probably the same way that curly haired people wish they had straight hair, or tall people wish they were shorter. We always fantasize about the beauty of being different than they are. But truly, as a Vata-Pitta, I do love my kaphas.
I don’t think I’m alone in this wish either. Kaphas are so much fun! Kapha energy is playful, uncomplicated, and open. Kaphas are loyal, funny, and thoughtful.
Of course, we all have our work we need to do. And when I was thinking about the “work” that kaphas need to do to navigate the world with ease and joy and strength, the concept of boundaries quickly came to mind.
In my work with clients, unclear or changing boundaries is one of the most common communication issues I see. Boundaries are the words, actions, and signs that tell people how to interact with us in the world. Our boundaries are different for different people – a hug from your husband is different than a hug from your boss, and these boundaries can also dictate how vulnerable you are/how much you share with others (Brene Brown’s concept of “marble jar friends” is a great primer into this concept of vulnerability).
While boundaries can change from person to person, they have to be relatively fixed for each person, and most definitely clear in your own mind. As an example, say that your boss is constantly keeping you late in a meeting on Tuesday nights, even though you’ve told him multiple times you need to leave at a certain time to volunteer. A clear boundary is needed: each time he goes past your allotted time, you tell him that you have to leave for your volunteer work, rather than just hoping it ends soon or even missing your volunteer work.
Setting that boundary takes energy, assertiveness, and may create some low-grade conflict, and guess what kaphas don’t feel great about?…. using energy and assertiveness to create low-grade conflict.
What Kaphas need to work on setting boundaries
Kapha energy is a mixture of water and earth. It’s solid and stable, which is why kaphas are such loyal people. Kaphas are great at staying the course: they get a routine or habit and then just keep going going going with it, they don’t often turn off the path they’re on.
In the work meeting situation, stopping your employer to end the meeting is changing course. It’s using energy to move and impact the situation. Further, this change might cause interpersonal conflict, which is NOT something kaphas love to do.
Kaphas are people people. They love interaction and are so thoughtful, they often end up doing things for other people naturally. The shadow side of this is that they can spend so much time doing things for others that they don’t take the proper time to take care of themselves.
So what do kaphas need to work on? Setting their boundaries. Being willing to have a little friction so that they can protect their own needs. Putting themselves first (sometimes :D).
How to get better at setting boundaries
- If you have a hard time saying “no” to people when they ask you to do something, change your default answer. When someone asks you to do something, say “let me check my calendar and get back to you.” Then, you can step away from the situation, consult your calendar (and your desire to do the thing the person is asking), and reply with a little distance.
- Get clear on your values and priorities. Often we don’t have boundaries because we don’t know what it is that we really want. Look at your calendar and categorize where you’re spending your time. List the things you do in the order of time that you spend doing them. Does that list feel good to you? Is there something that feels out of order? Make a conscious effort to shift your time allocation to reflect what it is you really want. That way, if someone is asking you to do something that brings you more off balance, you have a more compelling reason to say no.
- Assess how you feel after doing something. Sometimes we give to others and we walk away feeling great. Other times we walk away from the situations and feel taken advantage of. Do an inventory of the people in your life and see how you feel after spending time with them or helping them. If you feel icky, ask what you’d have to change about the situation and boundary to start feeling great when you walk away from your interactions with them.
A big important note: this is a broad generalization. Many vatas and pittas have to work on their boundaries, and many kaphas have great boundaries! It’s simply been my experience that more kaphas have issues with setting and keeping those strong boundaries.
If you’re wondering how to navigate boundary building at home or at work (or if you want to learn more about your Ayurvedic dosha), sign up for a consultation with me. We’ll dive into your unique constitution and how to set up daily routines to support you mentally and physically. Check it out here!
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful day,
Samantha Attard, PhD, is the founder of Happy Healthy Human. Sam is a performance coach and yoga instructor who helps people eat, move, and live with intention. Learn more here.