When I talk to clients about their boundaries it’s often a tricky concept to wrap their head and hearts around. As boundaries are invisible energy exchanges we can’t necessarily touch, but we certainly do feel them. In these conversations, clients tend to focus primarily on when others constantly disappoint or challenge us, exhaust us or waste our time, ‘that guy’ in the office who constantly misses deadlines, the drain of the politics in the leadership team, the parent at the school gate who talks your head off and you try to avoid running into, the sister who consistently offloads her marital problems on you but takes no responsibility to change her situation. All those moments we say ‘yes’ to, when internally we’re screaming out ‘no’ I don’t want to do that, listen to this, be part of this situation.
I get Clients to consider interactions like energy exchanges. And whether the people/ situation leaves them feeling charged up and energised, or exhausted and drained. We start to identify where and how they can spill, leak, and give away their energy to others. And ultimately be grinding up against their own values.
These energy exchanges can also work internally, we can deplete ourselves with our own inner voices through repetitive negative thinking, anxiety and worrying. For this post we’ll focus on the external energy exchanges.
I see energy much like a commodity.
I challenge my clients to ask, “what is my return on investment when it comes to the exchange of my energy?” Can they see their energy investment as being a ‘boost’ or a ‘drain’. Does this person/ situation lift and elevate, or exhaust me. Giving away our energy is a common dilemma people have, and I’ve heard all kinds of terms and phrases for it, from energy vampires, leeches, depleters, people who drain me, they exhaust me, and so it goes on…
Our energy levels shift and change based on where are in our lives, boundaries aren’t a static principle. Some days you can be on a high and other days you can plummet to a low, and the cause and effect is assumed to be (very much) influenced (or caused) by external factors. But ultimately, it’s how well charged and in tune we are internally. That internal awareness makes the difference to our energy levels and sense of vitality, and maintaining it. Or better still, to keep your energy and therefore boundaries firmly intact.
Are you one of those people who wants to be known as ‘nice’ or perceived as a well-liked, popular even? Do you struggle being someone you’re not for the sake of getting pleasing others, or getting the job done. Can you identify the negativity inputs in your own life, from the media you consume, job you have, how organised your life is. Are you constantly putting important conversations or tasks to another day. Is it time to de-clutter or simplify your life in order to feel back in control and not so guilty for everything you haven’t done.
But exactly ‘how’ do you get better at not leaking your energy to others, to your projects, commitments or just literally not giving your energy to anything or anyone that doesn’t deserve it?
Let’s play with a tool I’ve created called Your Energy Bubble.
So first, ask yourself, how often do you feel depleted?
I’m talking about being physically tired or exhausted from giving out to others. Getting the energy zapped right out of you? Oozing out to the point where you are floppy, sad and horizontal. Pissed off with the world for taking from you or bored with your own repetitive ways of viewing the world.
Well here is my take on it…
It’s all ‘your’ fault.
Yes, your fault. It’s based on your ability to manage your boundaries and make effective choices. Being able to say the magic words, ‘yes’ and ‘no’.
We all have a visible boundary around us, much like a bubble.
Visualise this concept, we each float about in these pop-able bubbles. Think of those bubble wands kids have, where you dip it inside the detergent and blow a lovely rainbowesque bubble. Within our bubbles are our intentions, goals, and ideals of how we want to live our life and who we want to be around.
We each have the ability to see everyone else outside of our bubble, and people inside their own bubbles. Some of us float unaware, colliding into whomever crosses our path causing destruction, pain, sorrow, surprise and delight – popping other people’s bubbles. Others glide with consciousness, with choice. Knowing exactly their path and which other bubbles they are attracted to and want to form with.
Here’s the magic part… you get to chose how you want to exist inside your bubble, whether it’s happily or with angst, you can choose who you drift towards, who you join forces with, how you conduct yourself inside the bubble, it’s all up to you. Think of that rainbow detergent layer that shines on the outside much like a boundary, you have the permission on who you let in and who you exclude. That’s the energetic boundary we all have around us in every day.
Inevitably our bubbles do get popped by others (and even by ourselves). If your bubble gets burst, that boundary gets crossed, you can simply re-blow your bubble and re-protect yourself.
Experiment a little…
I invite you to start to view yourself inside your bubble. Where you can see, hear, touch, feel everything outside, but also create an environment inside the bubble that is intentional and values-led.
Consider who you let inside or around your bubble world and why they are welcomed. Consider who you’d prefer to exclude and why. Who will enable you to strengthen, feel stronger or lighter, or who will you allow to burst the bubble, penetrate it or damage it, and under what circumstances…
Start to notice when people ‘pop your bubble’ with their choices and interaction you’re having, or when you’re popping it by saying yes when you don’t want to. It’s quite an enlightening exercise.
The skill of visualising the bubble will start help you to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ more often when making decisions with confidence.
If you struggle with difficult conversations and avoiding conflict, also check out my 8 tips for nailing brave conversations.