Boundaries

books, stuff

Last week I listened to The Joy of Being Selfish by Michelle Elman and honestly, it rocked my world. I have always been a textbook people pleaser and would always put other’s needs before my own. I have been called a door mat, someone with no backbone and a push over. I took pride in being the person that others always go to in their hour of need and the more I gave out, the better of a person I felt. Until I didn’t.

I have always let people have a lot of access to me. From my fleeting years of (low-level) Instagram fame where I shared the most intimate details of my experiences with mental health and an eating disorder, to never turning my phone off and always allowing people to get in touch with me whenever they wanted and I would always reply, straight away. From listening to Elman’s book, I realise now that I was showing myself a complete lack of self respect and the only way for me to really practise self love and put energy back into myself is through boundaries. This felt like a scary concept but boundaries will strengthen the relationships that matter because the more respect I show myself and the more respect I demand, the more I will be given.

I initially started the book because I was struggling with someone I know. Conversations we had would replay in my mind when I tried to go to bed and would ruin my weekends because I’d be worrying about seeing them again the following week. They spoke to me rudely, sent me relentless Whatsapps and always called me at bad times. Sure, their conduct was inappropriate but I was allowing them to continue this behaviour by always responding, further confirming that any threats I made such as ‘please stop sending me Whatsapps’ had no roots. The more access I allowed them, the more ‘taken advantage’ of I felt and something needed to shift. This book gave me the tools to have a conversation with them where I laid out my boundaries and then I stuck to them.

Setting boundaries works, you can take ownership of your time and take no bullshit. Another thing that has helped navigating tricky relationships is that I don’t get to control how people react to me – my only power is how I choose to respond. Their response to my words/actions is not my responsibility and thinking about it on a Saturday night when I’m trying to watch Ant and Dec’s Saturday night takeaway, isn’t going to achieve anything positive or change what they are thinking. I do however, have the power to choose how I respond to myself and treating myself with kindness and allowing myself the time to switch off fully is something productive that I can do.

Boundaries with acquaintances is one thing but I also needed to instate boundaries with my friends and family. I have decided that I will do this by:

– Not being accessible to everyone all the time by turning off my phone and not responding to messages right away. Responding to messages quickly means that I rarely process what I am saying and also means I regularly agree to things that I don’t want to do. Responding to messages when with others is also just plain rude (unless it’s an emergency obvs). I also will respect other’s boundaries by not expecting people to reply to me immediately.

– Saying no if I don’t want to do something and not give a reason why. I used to really struggle with saying no to plans but I realise now that a gap in my diary doesn’t mean I always need to say yes. In the past, if I turned down a social invite I would worry that I would have upset someone or that they would be angry at me for not attending. Now, I realise that if I don’t want to do something then I am not going to have fun doing that thing and other’s aren’t going to have fun doing it me. I have the power to choose how I want to spend my time and this means that when I do spend time with others it’s because I really want to. I also will respect other’s boundaries by accepting if they say no to me.

– Being clear when I do not have the capacity to take on someone else’s emotional load. I want to be honest and upfront with friends who need support as to if I am able to give them my time. If I’m not, it is much better for everyone if they reach out to someone else and if I am able to give them my time then it means I am present in that and able to support them fully. I also will respect other’s boundaries by asking before I want to dump my emotions on them.

I’ve realised that I do not need to be liked because I get to define if I am a good person. It is a sure thing that setting boundaries is going to rattle some people because suddenly, they don’t have the unrelenting access to me that they previously had. I have decided that a negative response to my boundary setting will show that they were previously taking advantage of my lack of boundaries and not because I have done anything wrong. Something that really impressed me about Elman’s book is the practical examples of where you need boundaries and how you can set them, as well as how to respond to those who do not respect them. Finishing ‘The Joy of Being Selfish’ left me feeling empowered to take back control of my life. There is so much more I could tell you about boundaries but ultimately they are an extremely personal choice. I would highly recommend reading the book and thinking about where you can set them in your own life because you deserve to reclaim your time, energy and self-belief.


How to fail

stuff

I recently started listening to Elizabeth Day’s podcast where she invites celebs to share 3 of their failures. It’s really great. If like me, you’ve been living under a rock, here it is and you only have 79 episodes to get through. God speed. Inspired by my new listening & my pal Imi’s post I thought I would share 3 of my own failures. Recognising where you’ve failed gives you the chance to celebrate where you have succeeded and more importantly recognise that failing is ok, that it is all part of being a wonderfully flawed human.

Doing a forward roll

I cannot do a forward roll. I never have and I never will. For the first 16 years of my life this was extremely stressful. Through the primary school ages, I dreaded the lessons when those squishy blue mats would be brought out ready for tumbling. Need someone to demonstrate a perfect teddy bear roll? Sign me up. Need someone to demonstrate a perfect forward roll? I suddenly really need the toilet. I remember once at a church BBQ I got all of the adults to take in turns to coach me how to do a forward roll. I wanted to be able to go into school next week and not feel sick with nerves that I’d be asked to do one and maybe I just needed the right teacher. It felt like everyone in the whole world to could do a forward roll except me and when I still couldn’t do one after 3 hours of coaching and a regular intake of hot dogs I thought my life was officially over. I despairingly asked my sister’s friend what I should do about the dreaded p.e. class coming up next week because I had checked the weather and it was going to rain which meant we’d definitely be on those pissing blue mats. He wisely suggested I forget my p.e. kit. So I did. Crisis averted. For now.

Through the secondary school years, the stakes felt even higher but luckily my forgery skills had come on since the age of 6 and I could get myself excused from any lessons that included the word gymnastics. Weirdly 10 minutes into the lesson I would suddenly realise I had a letter saying I couldn’t participate due to cramps (sorry Mum!). It goes to show that no male p.e. teacher had a good grasp of menstrual cycles because my periods lasted for weeks on end and none of them pulled me in for a chat, concerned about the sheer amount of blood I must be losing.

Luckily, since secondary school I have never been asked to do a forward roll and I have since met other people who can’t do one either (solidarity, my friends). This failure embodies my complete fear of letting other people down but in hindsight I don’t think anyone was particularly bothered by my lack of gym mat skills.. except me.

Driving

I am 29 years old and I cannot drive. I would much rather walk, run, cycle, get the bus, crawl or skip thank you very much. The thought of driving makes me feel sick and I don’t know if I’ll ever get to the place where I actually want to learn to drive. I fleetingly did driving lessons shortly after my 17th Birthday and I think I got to the bit when you start doing manoeuvres and then my driving instructor quit and I convinced myself it was because I had let him down in some way. After that I did a few lessons with a new instructor who was so passive aggressive she made me cry and I vowed I would never try again. I hate being bad at stuff and I thought I must be the worst person who has ever tried to learn to drive. In reality, I had hardly had any lessons and it takes time to be able to safely drive a hunk of mental around the mean streets of the very small town I grew up in which in hindsight would be a much easier place to learn in than the big bad city of Bristol. Sigh.

I still feel frozen with fear at the thought of getting back in the drivers seat. I don’t think it’s too much of a big deal that I can’t drive until I want to do a big food shop or not get on a Megabus which always smells of feet.

Boundaries

Boundaries is such a buzz word at the moment and I use it a lot but I absolutely suck at actually implementing them. The queen of multi-tasking, answering emails at midnight and putting away laundry whilst also on loud speaker chatting to someone I definitely didn’t need to be chatting to. The nature of my anxiety means that I love having a packed diary because the more I do the less I need to think. My favourite days at work are the ones that whizz by because I just have so much to do and it’s only recently that I’ve realised how unhealthy that is. For years I allowed my time to be sucked up by everything and anyone and never carve out time for me just to be. I think I’m getting better at this but I can easily find myself slipping back into it because old habits die hard. I said to my therapist once that I was exhausted because so many people needed stuff from me, I was trying to keep so many spinning plates spinning and it just wasn’t fair. Rather than sympathising with me she told me that maybe I find my worth in needing to be needed and she’d absolutely hit the nail on the head. I am regularly serving from an empty cup & I.am.thirsty.