GUEST POST BY ELIZABETH OF HOPE AND WHOLENESS BLOG
My mom calls me the vault.
It's quite a fitting name actually. I have this gift of trustworthiness that makes people feel safe enough to draw near and confide. I get the privilege of hearing deep confessions, crazy dreams, and the depth of hearts. It’s a beautiful gift, but like all good things, this gift can be misused.
I also have a high performance capacity and say yes to most things—too many things. I fill up my vault with yeses. I’m addicted to pleasing people. I hold onto others’ expectations until they crush me. I let competition determine what success looks like instead of defining my success by doing more of what makes me come alive. I feel obligated to keep pleasing and keep saying yes until my vault can hold no more. And when the vault reaches full-capacity, it shuts down.
Sadly, this seems to echo throughout many successful women’s lives, not just mine. We are expected to be limitless, to have a high ceiling, to constantly compete and out-perform the other creatives in our field. It doesn’t help that our creative work calls for stout confidence and hours of long, hard work. We are gifted with the strength of an iron vault but forget to tend and care for ourselves.
Our vaults quickly fill to the brim relationally, creatively, and mentally, and before long our limits are screaming back at us.
Vaults, by nature, have a limited capacity, but by the time I learned this, it was too late. I became a miserably unhealthy version of myself. I buried myself beneath the weight of trying to be everything instead of finding freedom in the space to be myself.
So how do we prevent our vision and passion from sucking us dry? How do we invest in healthy relationships without burning out on loving people?
Those are tough questions, and I can't say I have all the answers. But I have learned a thing or two about the freedom of boundaries and the self-discipline it takes to make them.
1. Create deposits and prepare for withdrawals
Know what deposits energy into your life and what withdraws it. For me, recharging looks like a long walk outside or a cup of coffee with a friend. On the other hand, scheduling four meetings in a row will suck me dry and make me the worst version of myself. Make sure you're getting more deposits than withdrawals so that when it’s time for you to generate output you have something worthwhile to give. Embracing your humanity takes hard work and humility, but operating within your limits is where you will thrive and produce the most.
2. Take care of yourself so that you can take care of others
Taking care of yourself is not selfish—it’s preparation to be the healthiest version of yourself. It's foolish to think that we can lead or serve others without first taking care of ourselves. Disregarding our own physical and emotional needs actually harms our communities. They need our wholeness, not our haggard pieces of over-commitment and exhaustion. In order to serve other people well, we must also be attentive to our own physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental needs.
3. Go big to small
In other words, “put the big rocks in first.” This doesn’t just apply to our work-self, this is our whole being. Our top priorities should be eating well, sleeping enough, getting exercise, and connecting with others. It sounds simple but so many women, myself included, are quick to neglect their biggest rocks and fill up space with pebbles or sand. Once our top priorities are in place, we will work and create and connect from a place of health and wholeness.
4. Communicate and take ownership
Boundaries step on other people’s toes. It’s an uncomfortable truth. Your co- worker may not appreciate it when your decision is a “no.” Your friend may not like you skipping the park playdate because you (and your kids) need a restful afternoon at home. We will have to say no to some things, and that’s good. I’ve found that when we kindly but firmly communicate our boundaries with others, they eventually envy the freedom we’re giving ourselves.
5. The myth of obligation
When I feel needed, I still feel a strong obligation to give people my immediate “yes." In reality, most people’s needs can be met without me. When connection and intimacy become an obligation instead of a joy, something is off. Only I have the power to bind and release myself to obligations. Unless it’s moral or legal, I am the only one with the power to choose what stays and what goes.
6. You don't need an excuse.
You can say no in a gentle way and leave it at that. You are not obligated to give an excuse unless you are choosing to bind that obligation onto yourself. Instead of feeling guilty about a no, rejoice in the sincerity and joy of your yes.
7. Know who you are and who you are not.
In order to have accurate expectations of ourselves, we need to know the reality of who are and who we aren’t. As a humans, we will fail at tasks and people and leadership at some point. So instead of despairing when we fail, let’s gently remind ourselves of who we are: flawed humans with a passion and purpose specific to us. When we know who we are, we can choose environments and set expectations where we will thrive, and give ourselves grace when we fail.
Drawing boundaries and protecting our vaults can be uncomfortable, but they ultimately bring us the freedom and space to enjoy who we are!
Elizabeth is a writer and creator of the Hope and Wholeness Blog. She’s a Louisiana girl but currently resides in the great state of Texas. Elizabeth is a seeker of Truth, a lover of freedom, and someone who brings joy and coffee into peoples’ lives. Join the Hope and Wholeness community at hopeandwholenessblog.com.