31 Oct 2020

Three words

In September 2019 (six decades ago, right?) I booked myself a ticket to join Intention Seekers, a guided workshop run by Holly June Smith. She's a life coach and a wedding celebrant and very wise and eloquent and kind. An all round good egg, they'd say.

Intention Seekers is a satisfyingly-worded workshop which helps you to dust off your foundations and reconnect with, or even identify, your values, needs, and wants. I won't go into it all because SPOILERS in case Holly runs it again, but I found it incredibly helpful, wholesome and strengthening. The bit I do want to go into is her final task: choose a word that will ground you for the next month, season, year...

One word? Impossible. I'm a copywriter, I like words, but to pick just one? A nightmare. You couldn't pay me enough. 

So I chose three. Fuck it. Three words to act as a lens through which I made my future choices, dealt with future feelings, and bring me back to my foundations when I was in a kerfuffle. 

Boundaries. Energy. Intention.

I didn't really expect to be using them during a year of break-ups, bereavements and banned-from-doing-nice-things-and-seeing-loved-ones pandemics, but there we are. These three words were truly put to the test and I found them powerful. This is what they mean to me...


I used to think boundaries was a boring, restrictive word. I thought it was about holding back and not being honest and having to be professional at all times. Bollocks to boundaries, I thought. I'm going to share what I'm feeling all the time! With everyone! This is good! This is open! This is helpful to people! People will learn! I'm going to document my life! My experiences! My thoughts! My struggles! My breakdowns! My traumas! Oh! This is actually quite a lot!

I felt like I had to share all of me all the time with everyone, in order to be liked or successful or different. And that is inordinately unhealthy.

I realised in the last couple of years that I was very tired and felt very exposed. I figured that I had not processed some shit, was not good at dealing with my feelings or self-soothing, and that I was stuck in a cycle of 'be super open on social media and get (lovely, tbf) attention to validate these unprocessed feelings and help people with their own shit by being open and then be open some more and some more and some more' until all this mess was out there and yet I still felt like tangled earphones. I was addicted, you could say, to talking about what was going on in my head in order to help other people - because then it made all the mess worth it. 


So I stopped. This year, aside from talking about my nan dying, I stopped talking to thousands of strangers (mostly) about my personal life. And my god does that feel freeing. Boundaries are freeing! Who knew!

Having boundaries does not mean shutting yourself off and burying your thoughts, feelings, experiences. Boundaries mean choosing who you let in, who you share with, and considering why you're sharing that thing with that person. It's about having control over your sense of self and personal life. It's learning to say 'no' to people who want to gossip with you, who want your latest drama, who want your time when it's either not going to do you any good or you're not going to get anything back. It's learning to respect yourself, to evaluate your relationships both with people and online, and where you get your energy from (more on that later). And, importantly, it's about stating your boundaries when you need to and learning others' boundaries too. 

I've felt so much safer in myself and my circles since consciously practising boundaries. I don't feel the bad kind of vulnerable. It's still scary and I still get it wrong, but I can recognise now when I've gone too far. I feel and acknowledge the ick, and learn from it. 

No one deserves anything from you, that's the bottom line. No one deserves your time and energy. Boundaries build integrity and a stronger sense of self-worth. 


It sounds wanky, but stick with me. If boundaries are about choosing what you share and with who, energy is about how that act of sharing translates, and whether it's worth it. Hear me out.

I'm a yes person. I get FOMO and I want to be involved and I don't want to disappoint anyone - I'm a people-pleaser and attention-seeker. I like being liked and accepted into social circles. But a side effect of sharing that energy willy nilly is sometimes not getting any energy back. I'd often be e x h a u s t e d. I'd give too much energy to people or things or situations that either couldn't address the balance or didn't serve me at all. I was over-extending myself to be liked or interesting, or in fear of not being/doing enough. In reality, I was simply doing too much for everything and everyone.

Now, I'm very aware of my energy and my own restorative process. Is doing this thing going to serve me? Am I going to get anything back from it? If it serves others, will I enjoy it or at least be able to chill after? Does this give me energy or drain it? Do I feel exposed or overly vulnerable after sharing something with someone? Was there no comfort or reason in it?

I especially check myself when I realise I'm doing something in the hope it means I'm better or more-liked person. I know that I have different friends for different things - I don't need to share everything with everyone, I don't have to have the same level of friendship with everyone. Sometimes I know I'll be exhausted after spending my day a certain way, but I'll remember to restore that energy afterwards (THIS SOUNDS SO WANKY, GOD) either with a certain routine or by having a clear following day.

Do I get it right? Absolutely bloody not, but at least I now realise when I don't.


Why why why. This is my why. Energy is the what, boundaries are the how, and intention is the why. What is my real intention here? This is where I really check myself and pull myself up on my bullshit. Before I even consider my boundaries and energy in a particular situation, I have to check my intention. Why am I doing this and who am I doing this for? It's totally ok to do something for someone else, obviously, but am I doing it because there's a need or want to genuinely help out - because it's the right thing to do - or because I want to be perceived in a certain way? The red flag's a'glowin'.  

Such an important thing I learnt in Holly's Intention Seekers workshop (clue's in the name) is that my thoughts and behaviours are (were, hopefully) a result of how I wanted to be perceived by others rather than actually meeting my own wants and needs. I had never even considered my personal wants and needs, really. I didn't know what they were. I did things for others, even if that was in a roundabout way. My actions would only be worth it if they affected others, either in their own selves or in their perception of me. 

Twisted, innit. I blame social media. It's all a game. 

I'm not going to share how practising the behaviours behind those words has helped me this year, because BOUNDARIES (lmao, look at me go) but here are some questions I ask myself on the reg, just in they they help you too:

- Do I really want to spend time doing that thing/with this person? Or do I just feel like I have to?

- Am I doing this for me or for others? If for others, is it negatively affecting me in some way or am I chill?

- Does this align with my values?

- Will I gain or lose energy from doing this thing or being with this person? Is that ok?

- Am I happy right now doing this thing, and can I stop if I want to?

- Do I need or really want to share this info with that person or online? Why do I want to? What is the effect? Will it serve me?

- Have I slotted in some rest time after 'doing things' time, like a Sim who needs to up their energy level?

- Do I really need or want to get involved in that activity/drama/with that person? Or is it not worth it, not healthy, not protecting my peace?

I'm so thankful I went to that workshop, and grateful to Holly June Smith always. You should follow her.

I'm going to choose another new word for next year. Just one word this time. And hope that practising these three continues but becomes more unconscious. You should pick a word/s too. I hope it/they ground you. I hope you can feel as wanky yet realigned and true to yourself as I do. After all, as a wise woman once told me, you do you and look after number one. Always.

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