Friday Feature: How to Set Boundaries and Overcome Abuse with Grace Farinacci

Friday Feature: How to Set Boundaries and Overcome Abuse with Grace Farinacci

This week we're proud to share sisterhood member Grace Farinacci, a survivor sharing her healing journey after abuse. Grace is known on Instagram as @gracefulmindset and in this interview she shares her advice on self love, boundaries, and overcoming abuse.

Tell us about your work/project? 

On my Instagram account gracefulmindset I create all my own content about my healing journey to help others who are going through their own journey. I do this work to help other abuse survivors feel validated and less alone. I also have done a workshop on boundaries in February of this year and I look forward to creating more workshops and courses on other important healing topics! Lastly, I expanded gracefulmindset to a podcast on Apple podcast and Spotify where I create episodes on lessons I've learned along the way. I like to make sure I only make an episode on something that I feel is important and that I truly understand now. 


What inspired you to do the work you’re doing? 

What inspired me was my own struggle with self-love, boundaries, and realizing that I needed some help dealing with the abuse I was going through. In October of 2019, I left my abusive relationship for good after my first session of therapy. In therapy, I had realized so much. I realized that a lot of what I endured in the relationship mirrored similar aspects of my childhood. From there, a family member encouraged me to start voicing my justice and my truth, thus came the birth of my Instagram account gracefulmindset. I was so excited to have my own space to just write and create. To just let out everything that I had held in me for so long. 

My parents split up when I was only 4 years old. I lived with my mom and siblings for a little while after that happened. We lived extremely poor and my mom was emotionally abusive. At 4 years old, I already felt so alone and unloved. That was the root of all my wounds. After my one sister (from my mom’s previous marriage) ran away, my dad got full custody of my full brother and me. Things got worse with my mom after that. She was very absent and missed most of my life. I grew up feeling like I did something wrong for my mom to not even want me in her life or why she was so okay with having one without me. It has been 6 years since I have seen or spoken to my mom. After a few years of just the 3 of us, my dad got a girlfriend. She too was emotionally abusive but also verbally abusive. It was extremely painful for me growing up because all I had was my dad and now I never wanted to even be home. I felt completely unworthy. The environment was extremely toxic. When I was 17 and had just graduated from high school, I got into an abusive relationship with someone who was 6 years older than me. We would date off and on with him continuing to manipulate me, gaslight me, cheat on me, and abuse me in more ways than one. After the relationship, I was a shell of a person whose mind, body, and soul felt completely damaged. It is safe to say that my whole life was a constant whirl of chaos where I never knew how to stand up for myself and never knew how much strength I really had. So these three people are really the reason why I do this healing and self-love work. Through the pain and abuse, I became the best version of myself. I am not giving them credit as I was the one who rose back up from the ashes of the girl they tried to ruin, it was me who learned to turn all that pain into my purpose today. My purpose is to share my story and truth to help inspire others to do the same and so that no one, especially that 4 year girl I used to be, never feels alone. 


What does it look like to set boundaries and how can it help us? 

Setting boundaries looks like protecting our emotional, physical, mental, or spiritual health. However that may look to you, it is helpful for us to make sure we are taking care of ourselves in all kinds of relationships. When we set healthy boundaries, it looks like being calm and firm about something that we need in order to protect ourselves. It looks like working through the guilt and fear of their reactions and remembering that we are not responsible for how they react to them. Setting boundaries leads to more self love, peace, deep healing, self respect, and safe relationships. Please remember that it is not wrong or selfish for choosing yourself, what’s wrong is them not allowing you to. You are absolutely worthy of setting appropriate, healthy boundaries!


Why is it important to learn healthy boundaries? 

It is important to learn about healthy boundaries because like me, you probably never really learned what they are! I am 22 years old and most people tell me that “I am lucky to have learned about this stuff so young”. I agree, I am lucky to have learned from the pain, and learning about healthy boundaries was a very pivotal moment for my journey. When I learned that it was okay to tell people how I wanted to be treated and learned that I wasn’t a bad person for doing so, my life changed for the better. I realized that the projections of those 3 people who told me that I was a bad person for standing up for myself, were in fact the bad ones. I was brave for finally saying enough is enough. It is important to learn about healthy boundaries because no one should ever take away our right to feel comfortable or safe. 


What advice do you have for someone who struggles with setting boundaries? 

The best advice I could give for someone who struggles with boundaries is to work through the fear. The fear of conflict when setting boundaries is huge if you were denied any form of boundary as a child by a parent. The fear of conflict when setting boundaries is also huge if you were in an abusive relationship where boundaries again were denied.

Boundary setting can be extremely hard if your earliest years were met with punishment, gaslighting, or any form of physical, emotional, or psychological abuse. When I used to set boundaries with my mom, I would be hung up on and ignored for months. If I did anything she didn’t like, I was told she couldn’t see me anymore. If I tried to set boundaries with my abusive stepmom I was called inappropriate names. I would spend the following days walking on eggshells avoiding her in any way in a small house where that wouldn’t be possible. I knew a fight would be coming. I knew I “made a mistake” for saying something. These traits of people-pleasing and avoiding boundaries then followed me into a relationship, friendships, and other forms of relationships where I could NOT stand up for myself. I was always apologizing for the things that they did.⠀
Now, I stand up for myself regardless of the fear inside of me that I shouldn’t. I worked on saying no. I worked on removing the people around me that would not accept my life or boundaries. I removed the people that abused me. I set the tone for the rest of my life. Respect or nothing. I will always stand up for that little girl that was told she had to put up with it. That was also told, “if you really loved me, it wouldn’t be a problem”. She deserves a lot better. The growth from this past year put a huge impact on my relationships. Yes, I lost a lot of people, but I gained a lot of amazing people who taught me that love is not conditional. Setting boundaries gets easier, I promise. If you have to write it down, then do it! If you have to practice before, do it! If you make a mistake too, don’t worry! You’re rewiring your brain that has been trained a different way for so long. Don’t be hard on yourself. It takes time!


Can you give an example of a time you set a boundary — and what the outcome was? 

A time I set a boundary that really paid off was a boundary I set with my dad. I moved out when I was 20 years old to escape the abuse from my stepmom. When I moved out I told my dad that if he was still to be with her, I wanted absolutely no contact with her. This of course put my dad in an uncomfortable position and as hard as it was for me as well, I still have stuck to my boundary to this day. I only see my dad when she is not there and if I accidentally see her, I keep it very brief to just a simple hello. I no longer wanted her in my life and that was the first time I stuck to a very difficult boundary. 


You have shared a poem from Self Love Poetry for Thinkers & Feelers on your Instagram (thank you). How did you discover the book and how has it played a role in your self love journey? 

You’re so welcome, it is my favourite! I discovered it in a session I had for a sexual assault survivor group I was apart of last year. Joining that group helped me in so many ways and many of the members loved to share books that have helped them! One of the members read a poem from the book and very soon after I purchased the book myself and fell in love. It has helped me with my self love journey because Melody has a true gift. Her words soak into my being and truly make me feel validated and heard. After fully reading the book, very often I still pick it up and open to a random page. I let the poem guide me throughout the day. It is safe to say it has and will be my go-to self love book for a while. 


Can you give us a story that exemplifies why you get fulfillment out of the work you do? 

I have made so many wonderful people and friends through gracefulmindset, but there is one woman who really helped me see that the work I am doing was helpful. This woman really helped me to feel worthy and thus made me find fulfillment in what I do! For her privacy, I will not mention her name but she is a very talented porcelain artist. She told me that my work has helped her so much and if it wasn’t for my one workshop she took, she would have stopped creating porcelain. She is one of the sweetest souls and ever since then, I find fulfillment in all my content because that could be the one post that secretly helps someone with their pain and self love struggle. 


Is there a roadblock you had to overcome to get where you are today? How did you do it? 

A roadblock that I had to overcome was being able to be seen and vulnerable. It was hard for me when I made gracefulmindset because I was scared of what others would think about me talking about healing and trauma. I worked through the discomfort, practiced radical acceptance, and I am so grateful now that I did not let that stop me. 


When was the last time you had to be super brave? 

The last time I had to be brave was in therapy actually. I use EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and it's a therapy where you can reprocess traumatic events properly with your therapist where you recall the memory while using eye movements. I recently worked through a very traumatic moment for me and I was so proud of myself for getting through that one. Sometimes the thing we deserve (in this case inner peace) is on the other side of our biggest fear. I really learned that lesson while being brave!


What does choosing yourself mean to you? 

To me, choosing yourself means that you are willing to do what is necessary for you. The fear of judgment, abandonment, and being a bad person doesn’t stop you. It means doing what you know will help you be a better person at the end of the day. One of the hardest things we can do in this world is choosing ourselves, but it is so damn worth it. It does not mean that we think less of others at all, it just means that I know I am important and worthy of what I need as well.


How do you practice self love and care on a daily/weekly basis? 

For daily self love, I have a little routine. I go for a walk every day, sometimes even two because I know spending time in nature is a big value of mine. I also make sure I go to bed at a decent time because I know that waking up early is important for me. In addition to that, I use the app Insight Timer and listen to a meditation or do a self improvement class a day. This helps me feel grounded and so good after. For weekly self love, I like to go for drives and also take myself out on a date. By dating myself, I have learned so much about loving myself and what I need. I learned how to also be okay alone from doing these acts. Of course, the typical physical self love like pampering is wonderful, but taking care of our emotional and mental self is so important too! It’s really about doing what you know you value and need and finding ways to do that. 


When you were a child, what made you the happiest?

As a child, I always found so much joy from being outside. Nature is my happy place for sure. My father always took us on the best hikes, had the best garden, and always kept us busy outdoors. On Sundays, my father and I will still go to his garden and spend time there now. This helps me feel close to my inner child and is something I am very grateful for! Inner child healing is a wonderful form of self love as well. 


What is your advice to your 10, 18, and 25-year-old self? 

10 year old self: You are so absolutely loved and I am sorry you don’t feel that right now. I promise that you have done nothing wrong for them to treat you this way. I see how hard you work in school. I see how much you just want to be seen and heard. My love, you will grow up to do those amazing things you dream of now. You will help people and you will be valued. Keep shining your beautiful light and please never let them take that away from you. Ps. I am so proud of you little one.

18 year old self: I appreciate what you had to do in order to take the pain away. I am sorry for the sleepless nights. I am sorry for every single thing that has hurt you while living with your stepmom. You deserved so much better. I promise you will move out in a couple of years and things will change. Last year was the last year that you saw mom. You didn’t think her disappearance this time would be permanent. This is something you would never have thought would happen. It’s for the best. I am so proud of you for realizing this. She will try to contact you this year (acting like nothing has happened) like before, and this time you’ll be strong enough to make the hard decision to move forward. You’ll later learn that there’s a word for that (boundaries 😉). Some days are hard, but you realize that having the expectations of parents is what causes the pain. You’ll be grateful for her giving you your existence and the few good memories and you’ll be okay. I am sure you are feeling it right now, but you are dating a person who mirrors all the painful moments you have gone through. Childhood conditioning is hard when it comes to picking romantic partners until you heal. You will be manipulated. You will get very hurt. This will last years. You won’t listen to your friends or your family. You can forgive yourself for not understanding because these situations are so complex. You’re still working on fully understanding it. Let the pain teach you. When you get older, it will make much more sense. You’ll become a better person to others. The scary things you’re still scared of will be okay. We will have new struggles. But don’t worry, we always get through it.

25 year old self: I have yet to meet you, only 2.5 more years until I do. Gosh that is weird to think about. I hope you are unapologetically you. I hope you are happy. You deserve it all, my love.

What do you love most about yourself? 

My strength to always keep going while being completely vulnerable and open to help others at the same time. 


What is your message for our community? 

My message for your community is to work through fear. Work through the discomfort. Healing is hard. Loving yourself after being hurt is even harder. However, I know you can make it through, I know you are capable of it. You are already loved, it is inside of you! 


Anything you have going on right now that you want to promote or share? 

My podcast is the same name @gracefulmindset, new episodes come out after a new lesson is learned so stay tuned for those!

Connect with Grace on Instagram @gracefulmindset or access her podcast here.

Photo credits: @kahryssa