A Week of Reflections, Part 2: No! Is a Complete Sentence. The Importance of Boundaries.

Hello lovely humans,

How are we today?

It’s snowing this morning! Heavily. What a gorgeous thing. I woke up today, had a cold shower (much needed) lit a fire, did a magical 6am pranayama class with Carolyn Cowan and then looked out of the window to see the world had turned white. So magical. I intend to go and play as soon as I possibly can.

Before I get to my reflections for today’s post a quick reminder that I have a free class on Wednesday. 30th December at 2pm. I will be sending out the link to everyone who is signed up to my email newsletter, so if you get my weekly emails already you do not need to do anything. If you do not yet receive my emails you can sign up here. I would love to see you there.

Boundaries are an enormous topic, and one that I am pretty new to getting deeper into. But working on boundaries, and the awareness and transformation that is bringing to my life, is most certainly one of the biggest lessons of 2020 for me, and so I thought, today, I would write a little bit of an introduction to the concept of how we can work on improving our boundaries – particularly if you are someone who struggles to say no. 

When I started my teacher training I believed it would be pretty easy to have good boundaries.  I thought it would be a case of drawing up a little list of rules that would pretty much begin and end with one basic thing: don’t fuck the people you teach. Easy. 

I still think that’s an important boundary. By the way. In case you had any ideas 😅😂 But it is certainly not, even in the realms of teaching yoga, the beginning nor the end. 

It took me until some time after my teacher training was finished, where I had nodded and smiled through all of the boundary chat, mentally giving myself a pat on the back for ‘getting it’ – ‘yep, no way will I sleep with a student. Well done me!’ As i sifted through all that had unfolded and been stirred up for me over the months of my training, I began to realise that my boundaries were, in fact, pretty crap. Across the board in my life. Indeed, not just pretty crap. Atrocious. Almost non existent when you consider I was yet to have the experience of having to even go near the no sex thing. 

What’s more, my super-shit boundaries were universally causing harm to someone important – me. Of course, anything that causes harm to me also causes harm to those who rely on me too. But it should not take that other-orientated view of the situation to give me a wake up call. 

When I started to examine my day to day behaviour I realised that much of my fear – an aspect of the root causes of the boundary issues –  came to being afraid of people getting cross with me. A fear or provoking anger. As I wrote yesterday, I have been working on letting go of a lot of appeasing behaviours and this ties back to that. I realised that as I moved through each day, if someone asked me for something I had two responses, both reflective of being in a child state / the stress system: 

  1. Say yes. Immediately. Without question. 

And, if for any reason saying yes immediately was impossible in the moment I had one other option: 

  1. Hide. Perhaps not always literally. But hide I did. 

That was it. All I had. My boundaries ladies, gentlemen and excellent humans who transcend gender. *takes a bow*. 

Apply this to being a yoga teacher. If someone were to come to me at the end of class and ask if I could spare an hour or two to help them with something well beyond the remit of our relationship, something that I did not feel comfortable taking on, if my only options are to immediately say yes or to hide I am going to be pretty screwed pretty fast. Because whilst agreeing to do something for someone once may be fine. If that happened in six classes a week. With one person a class. Then two. Then more. I’m going to quickly foster a pretty shoddy sense of self, likely a heap of resentment and also, as someone already incredibly time-poor, I would also burn-out within no time at all. Similarly, if I were to run away and hide… one person seeing that and judging me as odd as I curl up in to a ball under my meditation blanket and apply my invisibility spell may be passed off as a peculiar incident. But if I run away again and again… it would not be long until everyone that came to me began to run in the opposite direction too. 

When someone asks you to do something a lot of things can happen at once, you can feel flattered, you can feel pressure to please. To be perfect. To be good. You can genuinely really like or even love the person asking and want to help them, but know, for some practical reason or intuitively that what they are asking is not appropriate.

It can be an awful lot to process in the moment. Especially whilst being watched by expectant eyes, full of projection.

In this situation, apart from the practise saying no – the tone used when doing so, being aware of your face etc., which is actually fun. And a LOT more difficult than I had ever considered, the best advice I have been given is to reflect on the speed at which I agree to things. And to insert a pause.

The length of the pause can be directly proportionate to the size of the ask… my experience thus far is that it becomes quite a natural practise quite quickly. Because the pause gives the space to adult. To not react but to consider and to reflect before responding. This simple idea, alone, is changing how I move through my life in big ways. 

As I say, this is an enormous topic, and one that I am committed to exploring more as I work on my own boundaries in coming months and years. But this practise of inserting a pause, by saying ‘thank you for asking me, I’m so flattered you thought of me… let me think about that and get back to you.’ Or ‘perhaps you could send me an email with all of the information I need and I will get back to you about it when I can’. Lots of kind and open-hearted ways you can respond to an ask. But always in the knowledge that the option is always there to say ‘No!’ And that No! Is a complete sentence.

Other things that I have learned around this topic, and that sound so simple but have not, in practise, always been so easy to adapt to, but truly help with this are simple phrases I keep in mind:

  • I have the right not to care.
  • I have the right to have boundaries.
  • I do not need everyone to like me.

These phrases sound almost like little affirmations don’t they? Which is handy because that is what I will be coming to tomorrow. Affirmation. My practise of the moment, and something I am passionate about sharing. So do pop back tomorrow to have a read of that and leave a comment or send me an email with your thoughts on what I have shared today.

Sending love lovely human

Here’s to a well boundaried 2021 full of love

Sara-Jayne xxx

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