Let’s talk boundaries for a minute. I have traditionally been really bad at them. I have read all the books to learn how to say no to the wrong things so I can say yes to the right things. I’ve listened to all the advice about how to clean clutter in your life. I’ve bought all the self-help courses and downloads to help get me more organized and gain freedom. I’ve paid for the counseling. No matter how much effort I invested to create healthy space, I’ve learned that there’s really one secret to all of this. It took me nearly 37 years to figure out. This goes out to anyone out there struggling with boundaries – it’s time to say it out loud.
This isn’t a magic blog post to tell you what you need to do to sleep better at night. It isn’t a toolkit to give you all the answers. But it is going to reveal a big secret that you may not already know. Or, you might know it and be in denial. Here it goes. You already have everything you need right now to simplify your life. And it doesn’t start with a free download, a book, a new planner or a course. It starts with you.
I used to HATE saying no. Despised it. It wouldn’t matter the reason or occasion, I was a YES woman. The word no meant weakness to me at the time. Especially if it meant by saying yes, I could prove to someone that I was a get-it-done kind of gal. When my small group read the book Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist a little over a year ago, a shift started in me. This shift is still changing my life one day at a time. I want to document it now, so I can look back and see how much I grow in the coming months. Plus, writing it for the world to see means I’m getting instant accountability, right?
In her book, Shauna dedicates an entire chapter for people who don’t like to disappoint people. 100% G-U-I-L-T-Y over here. And, to rub salt in the wound…she even throws out that often people particularly struggle with disappointing people in authority. I mean, call a girl out, Shauna. At the time I read her book, I said yes to everyone (a gift inherited from my mother). And I would never consider a no if the person asking was an authority figure or someone I deemed as “important.” I would say yes regardless of what sacrifices it might require in my own life. Productivity and people pleasing had become an idol for me. The person suffering was me, and I knew it had to change.
Through Shauna’s book, some great counsel and prayer, I learned something about myself. I had to draw a line in the sand. As Shauna says, I had to own my life and say, “This is who I am, this is who I’m not, this is what I want, this is what I’m leaving behind.” It meant making a decision to go part time in my full-time job – no matter how scary it was - so I could make more room for my family and the place we were called years prior. It meant starting to serve businesses in my community that has proven to be one of my life’s biggest and most unexpected blessings. It meant saying no to big opportunities in an effort to take responsibility for myself rather than blaming my stress on others. And, most importantly, it meant defining what I actually want instead of living for what others want from me. It meant finding a true healthy balance in my life that gives me space to breathe.
On January 1 of this year, I designated my word of the year to be boundaries. At the time, it was my least favorite word. Daily, I chipped away one thing at a time and started removing myself from regular obligations and turning down opportunities to make more money or establish a great professional relationship – saying yes only to the right ones. Surprisingly, with each no, I felt a little more free.
Here’s what I learned by saying no in 2019. God provides. I’m still alive, and no one pushed back. Not one single person. I’ve somehow managed to surround myself with amazing people who love me, want what’s best for me and understand that I can’t do it all. Who would have thought? And I love what Shauna says in her book about the reality of saying no.
They were maybe someone else’s great things, and I was both taking up the space that was meant for them and not standing in my own space, like wearing someone else’s shoes and leaving them barefoot.
Don’t get me wrong. I have by no means 100% conquered the no, but I am making shifts to open myself up to the 100% right opportunities for a yes. And as a Christian and a mom, I’m learning that finding the right things to say yes to, paired with the focus and decision to be present in each moment, makes me a better human, a better follower of Christ and a better lover of people. Another excerpt from Present Over Perfect addresses this very thing.
Many Christians, women especially, were raised to be obedient and easy, to swallow feelings, to choke down tears. This has not served us well. This has made it far too easy to injure our bodies and souls in the name of good causes – there are enough good causes to go around. Christians ought to be decidedly anti-frantic, relentlessly present to each moment, profoundly grounded and grateful.
So, I’m changing some things up a bit in my world. Keeping that word of the year – boundaries – in check. Using it to carve out space and make more room in my business and in my life. I’m choosing to be a little more bold in order to build the life of my dreams. Because why not, right?
What This Means in Real Life
I’ve been hustling pretty hard since I went part time. And I realized that the hustle made me no less frantic than before, which is what I’m determined to change. I went part time in my job to make more room in my life, not less. So, rather than taking every “extra” opportunity – including websites, branding and social media, I’m honing in on one thing and setting myself up to do one thing really well. I thought, prayed and asked many for help deciding on the one thing I feel like I’m best at. It’s an area I think I can really help people, while doing it at a time that works for my life and my family. And it’s this - I will be helping businesses find their voice on social media.
After doing social media for a variety of different businesses, I’ve learned that the closer you are to the business, the more authentic your social media story is. And, while I’ve been able to capture the “voice” of many brands by doing their social media on their behalf, I’ve learned there is a major deficit internally within corporate marketing organizations or in small business when it comes to creating content that tells a story – and ultimately – that sells.
Starting in June, I have transitioned to doing a variety of social media boot camps, workshops and trainings that can be found on my website here. I’m helping people find their message and giving best practices, tips and regular opportunities for me to peek over the shoulder of business owners and marketers with ways to improve social media content. I’m calling it Small Town, Big Marketing because whether you live in a in small town or not, we all need a big voice in this world. So, if you’re searching for yours to grow your business and need a little help, I’d love to chat.