Boundaries and how to set them

 

Love yourself enough to set boundaries. Your time and energy are precious. You get to choose how you use it. You teach people how to treat you by deciding what you will and won’t accept. – Anna Taylor

 

There’s something which I find happens quite often to me. I’m happily living and loving life when a person asks a favour, wants me to be responsible for something, go some place, do some thing, delegate a task they don’t want to do to me. This is life, right? We should expect this is going to happen. It’s how we interact. The issue comes only when it’s something I DON’T want to do. Maybe i’m super busy, maybe I just don’t want to, maybe I feel uncomfortable doing the thing. And that’s cool. It’s easy to say no… Except for when I can’t bring myself to say no and I say yes and it’s overwhelming and it’s stressful and it’s making me miserable and it’s just not loving to me. Ever been there? Wishing you’d just had the guts to say no. I used to feel this way all the time and still do when someone sneaks past my boundaries without me noticing and pounces on me like a thief in the night.

About a year ago I had to come to terms with the fact that I quite literally had zero boundaries when it came to people asking me to do stuff for them. I was the girl working late past her shift to help out, the one taking on things that I had absolutely nothing to do with and which I knew nothing about, the one letting others take and take until I had nothing left to give. Unhealthy. I see it now and don’t we all realise when we look back in hindsight how wrong certain situations were?! A point arrived in the last year or two where I took a long hard look at everything in my life and it was then that I had to admit, I’d let a lot of people in that weren’t the best for me. I’d allowed them to take advantage and I swear most of them didn’t realise they were doing it, just thought I was being kind, but as the saying goes… ” Give an inch; take a mile.”

 

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. – Maya Angelou

 

The process of re-evaluating people in my life and beginning to set boundaries taught me some harsh lessons, in particular to quit listening to who people say they are and to only pay attention to how they act. If you did this alone I’m pretty sure your friends list would shrink, but the quality of friends would rise. Learning that you get to choose who is in your life and who is not, is powerful.

Your Inner Compass

Put simply, your boundaries are made up of what you say yes or no to, what you are ok with and not ok with. The most essential tool for navigating your boundaries in all circumstances is your yes/no compass, what I’ve imaginatively named (ha!) your Inner Compass.

Imagine an ordinary compass, but instead of the usual North, East, South, West the needle swings between only two points: Yes and No. Broken down into its truest form, your Inner Compass is your gut instinct. It provides you with the simplest form of guidance you can get. No whys or hows or whens. Just a pure yay or nay. It has one single purpose: to take care of you. Listening to your gut is easier said than done. I know I had trouble discerning what my gut was telling me until I began to visualise this Inner Compass; it really helped. I no longer felt the need to explain why it was a no; it was just a no. No is a complete sentence.

When you start playing with your boundaries and begin to come into alignment with your Inner Compass, others often find it difficult to handle. People just don’t like being told no. Boundary setting unleashes emotions in others, usually anger or disappointment, but their reaction isn’t yours to own and it’s important to understand that how they react is not a reflection on you.

Setting Boundaries

Setting boundaries is something that happens over time. You’ll bump into situations throughout life where you’ll need to draw a line in the sand over how you expect to be treated. Here’s how I like to go about it:

  • Ask yourself how you feel. Get present. Like REALLY present when someone asks you a question. It can be tough to do in the moment so when the pressure’s on, it’s ok to leave the situation. Say, “Let me think it over and I’ll get back to you”, take some time to think about it.
  • Have previously thought about what you will and won’t do. Focus on this. What’s not acceptable to you? How do you want to be treated? What makes you feel good?
  • Get in tune with your Inner Compass / gut instinct. The more you use it the easier it gets.
  • Understand that setting boundaries doesn’t mean you don’t like the other person. It means you like yourself!
  • Be ok with saying no. Saying no is hard. You might be worried about letting others down or that they won’t like you anymore, but it doesn’t have to be done in a horrible way. Believe it or not you can say no and still be a nice person…
  • Make yourself a priority. I’ve come to learn that boundary setting is one of the highest forms of self-care. Put you first. Choose what serves you. Make a choice about what you will spend your precious time and energy taking part in.

Shame and how to deal with it

 

Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. – Brené Brown

 

The S-word has been consistently on my mind lately, not because I’ve been researching it for a blog post, but because it’s in my life nearly every day and I’m not the only one. Shame is universal and every one of us experiences it (you know, unless you’re a sociopath…) Each of us has a story of some kind from any area of our lives. For me it’s imagining others must be looking down at me for having debt, that people think I’m a failure for never really taking a hold of my career and doing something “important” with my life. Those are my stories, the ones that keep returning. For you it could be a life trauma or something that didn’t quite work out at work or perhaps you had the courage to be vulnerable with someone and they shot you down.

What keeps these stories coming back? Shame spirals (as I like to call them) feed off our fear and lead us to believe that our truth will make others think less of us or won’t like us any more. Shame will crop up around pretty much anything it can, good or bad.

Your life is shit? Shame.

Your life is fantastic? Shame.

You can feel shame around losing your job or for making more money than the rest of your family. It’s nondiscriminatory! How very modern of it…

In reading Brené Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, I learned that shame and guilt are often confused. Shame is different to feeling guilty about something; shame, in essence, is the feeling that you are fundamentally bad as a person because of the thing and the more we stay silent about it the more it grows and the more destructive it can be. Talking about it helps, but as I found over the last year or two, it’s important to share your shame story with people who have proved to you that they can stand with you in your shame with zero judgment. You’ll know immediately if you picked the wrong person. Either you’ll feel relief or you’ll feel that creeping sense of shame. Choosing the right people to share with is a learning curve and often a steep one.

So, when you’re deep in a shame spiral and ideally prepare before you fall into one, here’s how you can help contain it:

  1. Identify your shame and acknowledge it for what it is.
  2. Know who you can reach out to.
  3. Share your story with them.

The act of sharing your story with the right person can stop a spiral in its tracks and gives you an opportunity to really dig into what’s going on with someone who’ll take you as you are, imperfections and all.

Playlist: Banks

Banks-Goddess

I first came across the music of Banks only few months ago as I trawled Spotify for inspiration, something new to listen to and connect with.

Releasing her first song on Soundcloud back in 2013, Banks exposed herself to creative feedback for the first time and subsequently opened her raw and personal songwriting to a growing fan base. Allowing personal creativity to travel freely into the world for judgement is increasingly difficult when you’re this honest in songwriting. Her lyrics are almost a page torn from a diary and set to a back beat. Her back catalogue, although consisting of only two albums, Goddess and the more recent The Altar, is a soup to immerse yourself in: moody, contemporary and R&B tinged.

Recently, I watched an interview where she talked about the relationship between creativity and destruction, how you can’t really have one without the other and that in suffering you are preparing yourself for creation. I can’t think of a more freeing way to look at depression; the idea that there is always a light in the dark, something to reach for, to bunch up the shit you’ve been through and make something beautiful out of it.

“…depression is the stage before you give birth to something.”

Take a listen to this week’s playlist; it’s been my go to all month.

 

Photo: Courtesy of Barnaby Roper/Banks

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Places to Explore

**This post was originally written in July 2015 before I came up with THE VAN PLAN. It still stands though, I do want to travel abroad, but there’s so much to see in the UK first. Note that Cornwall made it on to this list!**

Lately, I’ve been hankering after new places and new people. Having little cash to spare right now, Pinterest has become my digital travel guide and I’m finding tons of cities and countries I’m determined I’ll spend time in the future.

1. Barcelona – One poorly planned (when I say poorly planned, I mean we spent most of it drinking…) city break away with 16 members of my family ago, I flew to Barcelona and managed to see very little of the place and have always dreamed of returning. Next time I travel there I’ll make sure I spend a decent amount of time checking out all the city has to offer.

2. Berlin – Never been, but someone recently told me how wonderful it was and ever since…OBSESSED.

3. Fuerteventura – Not on everyone’s list of must see places, but having been there once (again with my massive family) I’ve always been a little mystified by its burnt, desert-like landscape and fantastic beaches. It’s meant to be great for surf and I’ve heard if you head to the right beach at the right time of year, you can help see the hatch-ling turtles in to the ocean. I have an idea in my head that I’ll end up living there one day. We’ll see…

4. Peru – Specifically, the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. I’ve had a big interest in the Inca civilization for many years and if I don’t make it there before I peg it, I’ll be pretty disappointed.

5. Cornwall – I grew up on these coasts, but as usually happens when you live there you never appreciate it. I’ll go back one day and spend some more time traveling the coast in a camper van. Home always calls.

6. Croatia – I really can’t wait to see this beautiful country. I have to admit it was GoT that made me take notice. I’d no idea how stunning the place is. Has any of you been there? If so I’d love recommendations of the best cities and things to do so I can plan me a ace trip!

7. Venice – Who hasn’t seen Venice in movies and wanted to float down the Grand Canal on a Gondola?! I’d love to go and see the place before it sinks. Is that a typical tourist thing to say? Whoops.

8. Sicily – This island looks so idyllic and yet there sits Mt. Etna… Can I check “see a volcano” off my bucket list yet?!

9. French Polynesia – Tahiti, Bora Bora? Oh you blissful collection of islands. I could spend a lifetime chilling in the lagoons or dipping my feet over the edge of an over-water bungalow. This is where my zen meditation place is.

10. New Zealand – Somewhere else I dreamed of moving to one day. Must check it out before moving halfway across the world though. That is the sensible thing to do…

11. Caribbean – Sun. I really just want to laze about in the sun and hop from island to island.

12. Bali – I have to admit I didn’t even consider traveling here until I read Eat, Pray, Love. Everyone I know who has been there has said how wonderful it is so I should probably check it out. Just in case.

13. Netherlands – Because somewhere along the line my family are Dutch!

14. Finland – Specifically, Naantali, where sits a celebration of writer and illustrator Tove Jansson, Moomin World. Yes, I am an adult. No, I don’t care.

15. Florida – As you may tell from the above choice, I am really about 5 years old. So, for my final choice…Florida… or the Walt Disney World resort because I love Walt Disney and everything he created and I want to go there before I have children!!!

16. Cambodia – This place fascinates me. As a country it has a troubled past and today, traveling there amid rising political tensions isn’t exactly recommended. That’s not to say it would stop me going to see the ethereal temples of Angkor.

What are your dream travel locations? Or… Have you been to any of these places and have any recommendations for things to do or see?

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Traveling the UK in a Camper-Van: A Goal

soul-cartographer-blog-travel-camper-van

I have a plan…a van plan (and yes, it involves a camper-van).

I want to travel and explore the UK in a camper-van, creating a part nomadic lifestyle along the way while still having a base to come home to. Many folks go off and travel the world to find themselves but while it would be nice to do that, right now it’s not financially viable for me and I also have a particularly naughty cat to consider. For me, it’s not a necessity to travel for months on end. To begin with perhaps I’ll disappear for a weekend, maybe a week or two here and there, and when I’m ready, spend some longer periods of time traveling the coast of Cornwall.

My mission is to ultimately build a lifestyle that suits me, working for myself and being in control of my own schedule. Exploring and adventure are a key part of my happiness; I get itchy feet when I stay in one place for too long.

Soul Cartographer the van-plan-mission

This goal is a long-term one, set with the idea of making it there by reaching the following mini-goals:

  • Clear down current debt. This journey deserves a clean slate, not feeling guilty about spending money on myself when I could be paying off what I owe. This is a priority over everything.
  • Save around £5000 for a camper-van. I figure this gives me a little play with. I don’t need anything fancy, something secondhand will do.
  • Buy a camper-van. Buy it outright. No debt allowed.
  • Save for a contingency fund. I’m a firm believer in having money stashed away for emergencies, breakdowns, and mid-night snacks etc.
  • Route planning. Planning where I want to go in advance, how long for and how to make it work it around my job. This is kind of important especially in terms of safety when traveling solo.
  • Go. Do it. Don’t look back.

Let’s make this happen.

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Going Grey

going-grey-soul-cartographer-blog

I’ve always said that when my hair started to go grey I’d simply let it go and embrace it. When I found my first white (not even grey!) hair a few years ago at around 26 or 27 years old, I found it more than a bit startling. I remember staring at it in the mirror before yanking it out of my head and discarding it as if that would stop the onset of the inevitable and went on about my strangely misguided twenties. Gradually, over the next year, another appeared and then another, all around the same area of my head and in pointless effort I deliberately moved my parting to the other side so I could cover up what was going on.

And I forgot about this small but growing reminder of time until this past week. As I played with moving my parting to change-up my look, I found where my hair used to naturally fall and for a second wondered why I’d ever changed it. It looks better this way I told myself before I stopped in my tracks, staring at the spattering of white hairs all gathering in the same place. There they were and now they had brought friends as if my hairline were a rave they could secretly invite other follicles to…

It’s probably not that visible to other people. Like most of our hang ups, others tend not to even notice what we see as we scrutinize ourselves; 10 or so hairs, but it was enough for me to see a glimpse of how the next few years would turn out. My hair’s future was plainly lain before me.

I’m becoming a woman with a stripe; a badger of sorts, maybe a zebra? For about 10 minutes I glared at this aging woman in the mirror, detesting her for defying my youth. How dare she become old. She’s not done anything yet; her life can’t be over. A massive over reaction, I’m sure you’ll agree.  I cried. I’ve always admired older women with this flash of silver in their hair. It’s sleek; stylish, sophisticated and elegant. I always wanted to look like that…when I am OLDER.

But when is older? When I feel like I have life sussed out? Because I’m sure that most people, no matter their age, feel like they’ve yet to accomplish what they’ve set out to do. We’re always chasing ourselves and we won’t ever catch up no matter how hard we try.

It’s interesting to me how we let our looks and age define us. “I’m this sort of person because I’ve coloured my hair a certain way.” or “I’m old because my hair is grey.” Where did I get this perception from? I’m progressive, damn it!

My mum once told me that she’d started going grey at 19 and looking back some of my fondest memories are of us picking out hair dye together in the supermarket or with her head over the bathroom basin dying her hair and the cleaning that came after as she tried to remove her “natural” colour from the bathroom basin (and the curtains because that shiz gets everywhere!). She spent her life trying to regain her youthful looks amidst what I’m certain were body image issues that were never discussed but picked up on as us children tend to do. Determined to not follow this path I had openly stated  as a teenager that I would not dye my hair when I started to go grey. Growing old gracefully with elegance, I’d say. I just didn’t think it would come so soon.

I read  somewhere recently about women becoming ageless, deciding to let go of their numerical age to live without the constraints and expectations that come with age. A freeing concept, but could I honestly live the rest of my life without acknowledging how far I have come; I don’t know. I do know, however, that I wouldn’t be impressed having to give up the one opportunity I have in the year to have a party. I guess in the end it’s about how you view it all and how you actually live your life. I could spend the rest of my days dreading the next birthday, when the next grey hair is going to pop up, worrying about what people think of me and how I look, are my wrinkles showing, or am I too old to wear this? Now I’m 30, all this hair dying, worrying and stressing about staying young seems like an awful lot of work. That in itself is enough to make you look older!

My initial instinct was to cover up this grey/white army of hair marching its way to my shoulders. I could go red again, or blue. Or cover it with something darker. Black, like I’d covered my dyed red hair with for a friend’s wedding… or go natural… and just dye it brown. Just make it go away. Something in me felt so betrayed by my attempt to fix this.

We live in a youth obsessed world. We’d all love to look as young as we feel, but it’s not realistic to reject yourself for precisely who and what you look like, so as much as I would like to dye my hair a vibrant shade of blue to hide who I am becoming I’m not going to. This is me, cultivating a badger stripe, and I’m working on being OK with it.

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Reading: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

wild cheryl strayed

It has taken me a good few months to finish Wild and that’s not to say that it’s a bad read, because it’s far from it; it’s a fantastic book. When I started it back at the beginning of the year I knew I would struggle with it. Right from the moment I read the blurb on the back which told me that Cheryl had lost her mother to cancer very rapidly and everything had fallen apart from there, I knew. This would be tough to get through because I’m still dealing with the same issue, 10 years after my own mum died.

I celebrated making it through the first chapter, put the book down and didn’t pick it up again until a few months later. To be honest, it frightened me that what I’d find inside these 300 or so pages would tear me open again and it did. But the beauty of this book for me was that I no longer felt alone. As emotionally difficult as this was to read for me, there were many times that Cheryl was speaking my life and my feelings on to the pages.

There is a section where Cheryl feels anger towards her mum for dying and she so succinctly put into words what I have never been able to, feelings I didn’t even know I felt…

    “It was wrong. It was so relentlessly awful that my mother had been taken from me. I couldn’t even hate her properly. I didn’t get to grow up and pull away from her and bitch about her with my friends and confront her about all the things I wish she’d done differently and then get older and understand that she had done the best she could and realize that she had done pretty damn good and take her fully back into my arms again. Her death had obliterated that. It had obliterated me. It had cut me short at the very height of my youthful arrogance. It had forced me to instantly grow up and forgive her every motherly fault at the same time that it kept me forever as a child, my life both ended and begun in that premature place where we’d left off. She was my mother, but I was motherless. I was trapped by her but utterly alone. She would always be the empty bowl that no one could fill. I’d have to fill it myself again and again and again.” – Wild, Cheryl Strayed

What I love about the book is that I feel a huge connection with the story. It seems so similar to mine, you know apart from the affairs and heroin… Having hiked a little myself, I enjoyed following the author along the trail, being as relieved as she was to get to the box at the end of each few hundred miles and, having never experienced it or even knowing it is, I now crave Snapple like there’s no tomorrow! As I finished reading it was as if I’d hiked the PCT myself only I, thankfully, still have all my toenails in tact.

Read it. Please.

Have you read Wild? What are your thoughts on it?

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Reading: Kale and Coffee by Kevin Gianni

kale and coffee kevin gianni

Kicking off this reading series is a book which I wasn’t searching for. It suddenly popped up as a suggestion of something I maybe, possibly, thank you, please, might like to read as I browsed Amazon for books about blogging. How the internet knew about my current OBSESSION with nomadic tales I just don’t know… Recent reads include Tracks and Wild. Apparently I must have alerted the internet powers when repeatedly searching for terms like “living in a camper van” and “hippy buses for sale” on a daily basis… But anyway I got completely sucked in by the description of the book which detailed how the author traveled across the US in an RV with his wife and toddler while trying to discover what the meaning of true health and well-being truly is.

 

Now before I go further into what the book is about here’s what it is not about: traveling America in an RV. I know. I too came away disappointed not to hear more about life on the road, however that’s not to say I didn’t find it enjoyable, I actually couldn’t put it down which is unusual for me because I get distracted very easily! What it is however is a journey through what makes a healthy lifestyle and it was so refreshing to read something that was:

  1. a) Funny. How often can you say that about a health book?!
  2. b) Relatable

Kevin was a vegan and raw-food vegan at that because he thought that was the most healthy lifestyle until he got a wake up call from his doctor who pointed out to him that actually it wasn’t working out for him. So he packs it in, starts eating meat, eating only organically, packs on some weight, goes back to the doctor again who tells him… errrr yeah this ain’t working either. The book is in essence a push and pull between the extremes of health and wellness and what he ends up discovering is that what we think is healthy isn’t necessarily and vice versa; the facts are very interesting particularly the section on coffee and caffeine. It’s certainly given me some food for thought… (Oh the puns! Haha)

What I really liked about this book was that compared to your typical book on this topic, peppered with anecdotes from the journey across America, each chapter led into the next with such ease that I just kept reading, I found it funny and yet I still learned an awful lot.

It covers diet, exercise, mental and emotional stability, and asks what it is that makes some people live into their hundreds and others not. Turns out it all has a lot to do with your genes. What works for one person isn’t always a good fit for the other and that is really something quite lovely to read these days when, especially as a woman of 30, all I hear about is the latest diet that WILL make me lose weight, the exercise program that will make me the fittest I’ve ever been and if they don’t I am probably doing it wrong. This book has definitely changed the focus for me. Instead of being told what is the healthiest option for me it occurs to me that it’s important to do  your  own research, knowing my own body, and telling myself what it is that I need to make myself healthier.

If you’re interested in the varying aspects of what makes up a healthy lifestyle I’d say this is a good book to read and one I will be returning to again once I’ve cleared my backlog of new books!

What’s your current read?

Next up: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

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