Boundaries are a Girl’s Best Friend

If your energy is dragging and you need a boost, here’s my favorite trick: Set some boundaries on your time and attention.

Step away from something that doesn’t feel right for you and put your focus elsewhere.

This can be terrifying in theory, but when you actually do it? What a rush! This practice has the power to increase your energy like you wouldn’t believe.

A Facebook Boundaries Experiment

For example, recently I decided to try an experiment on Facebook, as I’d noticed my mood dropping whenever I signed in. (Since I’ve been dealing with some health issues, being mindful of my energy has become even more important lately.)

Given that I use Facebook for client-based work and also to maintain A Wish Come Clear’s page, quitting entirely wasn’t a good option. But being on social media drained me daily.

For a long time, I didn’t understand the problem. After all, I’d already unfollowed people who posted triggering content or a disproportionate number of “Which Harry Potter character are you?” quizzes.

Eventually I figured out that simply seeing status updates from hundreds of old friends and acquaintances is hard for me. It induces a kind of compassion fatigue.

When I think about how many people I’ve said hello and goodbye to over the course of thirty years, I sometimes choke on the bittersweetness of it all.

Facebook boundaries

As an introvert, signing on to Facebook felt like stepping into a crowded room filled with people who all wanted me to listen closely to what they were saying.

Me being me, I gave it my best shot … but I just do not have the capacity to tune in to hundreds of people at once.

For so long, I judged this truth of mine. Rather than listening to my inner guidance, I told myself to toughen up, because who gets so sensitive about social media?

Well, apparently I do. So I decided to stop fighting my truth and start listening to it.

I decided to stay friends with almost everybody while following almost nobody.

I chose to stay connected while limiting the amount of information coming at me.

Nowadays, my news feed consists of updates from about a dozen friends and a dozen more favorite writers. And oh, how I love the peacefulness and (relative) quiet of it all!

Now that I don’t subject myself to an emotional deluge every day, I feel empowered to connect with people in real life.

As Elizabeth Gilbert wrote in her galvanizing Facebook essay The Alpha Mare, “You can only live with an undefended heart once you know the difference between ‘This is OK for me,’ and ‘This is not OK for me’.”

I could only feel comfortably at ease on Facebook once I discerned what was and wasn’t OK for me. Not for anyone else, just for me.

The Voice of Resistance

Of course, I had plenty of internal resistance. My inner “should dictator” made comments such as: “It’s not nice to unfollow people! It’s so mean and ungenerous of you! What would people think if they found out?”

But finally I questioned that voice: “Isn’t it also unkind to overwhelm myself and deny what’s real for me? And isn’t what other people think of me none of my business anyway?”

That inner dialogue reminded me of one of my favorite lines in the Bible, in Matthew chapter 20. You probably haven’t seen it cross-stitched on any samplers or printed on an inspirational poster, but it’s pretty amazing.

Jesus is telling a parable: A landowner hires a bunch of guys to work in his vineyard starting at various times throughout the day, then he goes and pays every worker the same amount regardless of how many hours they worked.

Predictably, the people who have been working all day are pissed off because others have worked less and received the same amount.

(Oh, that indignant feeling that arises when other people get what we perceive to be a better deal!)

The Right to Do What I Want

The landowner replies to the complaints by saying, “‘I am not being unfair to you, friend. Didn’t you agree to work for [a set amount]? Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you.'”

And then he speaks the line that gives me chills: “’Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money?’”

Of course the landowner has the right to do what he wants with his own money. It belongs to him.

And of course I have the right to do what I want with the “coin” of my own time and attention on Facebook. It belongs to me.

So often we forget about boundaries; we get into other people’s business and to let other people get into our business.

We forget to ask ourselves the simple, powerful question: Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my time and my treasures?

Fortunately, the answer is always and ever yes.

Don't I Have The Right To Do What I Want, boundaries

***

What boundaries will you set this week? Join the conversation in the comments!

***

Dear friends, I’ve missed you! Though I needed to step away from blogging for a time, I’m so happy to be back now.

I also wanted to give you a quick update on Project TFT (the goal of reaching 3,000 total blog subscribers by June 2016). About 1,040 people were subscribed at this time last year, and we welcomed about 707 for a current total of 1,747.

That’s tremendous! I trust that we’ll welcome more people when the time is right, but for now I’m just grateful to be here, writing to you today. Thank you for showing up!

***

Liked this post? Receive your free Perfectionist Recovery Toolkit, featuring Getting Real & Letting Go: A Collection of Quotes for Recovering Perfectionists, the 5 Day Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Real Email Challenge, & more!

You’ll also get posts via email & Your Weekend Wish, a fun weekly missive for subscribers only.

Enter Your Email

Solemn No Spam Vow: I promise never to share your email with anyone else.

10 thoughts on “Boundaries are a Girl’s Best Friend

  1. Renee says:

    Let’s hear it for boundaries! Loved this post, Caroline. I am much the same way as you with regards to social media. My friends list is actually quite small, because I could never keep up with a larger list, and the people I’m closest to, I actually SPEAK TO, IN PERSON or BY PHONE, so I don’t feel the need to spend hours and hours on FB or other social media to see what is going on in their lives.

    Like you, I quit following or being online friends with those whose posts drag my energy down. I also delete emails from people who send negative humor-type emails to me because that saps my energy and I certainly don’t want to forward things like that to others.

    Now sometimes friends are having a tough time, and on those occasions I am there for them to the best of my ability, but I cannot handle a constant barrage of negative things coming at me, such as is the norm on social media.

    It makes me tired, angry and resentful, because I feel like the unspoken expectation is there to fix everything I possibly can, but there is no way I can get sick, poor, depressed or angry enough to cure all of the world’s ills. There is no way one human being can care about ALL of it and still be a fully functioning, healthy, and happy individual.

    The Fearful Adventurer has a humorous post about the time suck that is the internet that you may enjoy: http://www.fearfuladventurer.com/archives/10401

    It illustrates beautifully how certain things can eat up your time and energy while you’re online.

    It has taken me a lot of years to finally start setting boundaries, but I am so glad that I did. Now I can relate to people on a more even keel than before, and I am better able to help others and myself with those boundaries in place.

    • Renee, I’m so glad to hear that the post spoke to you! It’s always a joy to read your words here. And what a great example of how you’ve put this principle in action within your own life and experience.

      I particularly appreciate how you highlighted the humbling nature of setting boundaries. Like you, I came to realize that there was no way I could care about ALL of it and still function. Setting boundaries helped me to come face-to-face with my own limits, which is paradoxically freeing.

      PS – The comic fits perfectly with this post too – thank you for sharing!

  2. Elizabeth says:

    So glad you are back. We missed you! 🙂 I know I can definitely relate to this post. I’ve been on a Facebook hiatus and while it definitely poses some difficulties, I find myself much happier overall. I’ll have to try to strike the right balance for myself when I do decide to take the Facebook plunge again 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • Thank you so much, Elizabeth – it’s good to be back! And congrats on your Facebook sabbatical; it can be so helpful to take a reset like that so that you can let go of old habits and return with fresh perspective.

      Your comment reminded me of how recently my phone’s screen started malfunctioning, and since I sent it off for repair I spent a few days sans mobile. It was a little inconvenient at times, but also very freeing, because it helped me to stop my habit of checking it constantly. Now that the phone is back, I’m using it more mindfully – it’s the servant and no longer the master, you know?

      Thank you again for sharing!

  3. This is fantastic. You have totally nailed this post for so many people who want to be on social media for their business, but who get overwhelmed by the noise and negative energy that abounds on these sites. Setting boundaries for yourself is SO important. I’m sharing this with my peeps! Thanks again!

  4. Wonderful post, Caroline! I have, bit by bit, done a very similar thing with Facebook — I honestly don’t think I’m wired to absorb so much information/emotion/stuff from hundreds of people every day. I feel much happier, more generous, and more effective there and everywhere when I know my limits. 🙂 Thanks for setting this example — it’s so important!

    • Jill, you are so welcome – thank YOU for being here and for writing as you do. I always love the posts in which you give readers a “behind the scenes” look at your life and practices, so when I hesitated about publishing this one – thinking, “Will it really help people if I share my experience with social media?” – I remembered your work and pressed publish. 🙂

  5. Katie says:

    Wonderful…your words always come to me at the exact time I need to hear them. Thank you! Just wanted to know your making a difference in people’s lives. I’m very happy to see you back writing!

    • Katie, thank you so much – I really appreciate that encouragement! It helps me to keep going. Am always moved and humbled by how we can share words at the right time for one another. 🙂

Comments are closed.