Written by Jocelyn Lovelle

Inward: Capacity, boundaries and pausing.

Here at Root + River, we just participated in an intensive class on curating a LinkedIn presence. I found myself overwhelmed by the homework each week. Not because it was difficult or confusing, but because I hadn’t clearly defined my why, my purpose, for being on LinkedIn – besides knowing I should be.

Shoulds are often deep wells that drain our capacity. I spent 12 weeks attending the classes and feeling uneasy. When it came time to do each next task: connect with more people, update my skills, write an article – I was stuck. 

I scheduled a call with the instructor three times asking for help. Each time, I felt pressured and frozen, moving from overwhelm into task paralysis. 

But then I did two radical things.

  1. I paused. Instead of pushing myself to do something, anything, that kept me up with the class, I gave myself some grace. I admitted that I was at capacity with my current projects, and did not have the bandwidth to devote even 15 minutes a day to building a LinkedIn presence.
  1. I held space to not know. I didn’t have a clear vision for what I wanted my LinkedIn presence to mean. I didn’t know how to move forward, because I didn’t know my why. 

Our capacity grows in tandem with our ability to set boundaries that allow us to pause.  

We often think of boundaries as externally facing – telling someone else no, or telling them how and when we can be available to them. But boundaries, like compassion and trust, must start from within to be effective without. 

Fans around the world are in an uproar because Selena Gomez announced she’s recorded her last album. In an interview on the SmartLess podcast, Selena told the hosts she loved working in multiple fields when she was young, but now she wanted to focus on one thing, acting. When the hosts pointed out she could do both – sing and act – she replied, “You’re right, but I am going to want to chill, because I’m tired.”

We are our first line of defense, and need to set internal boundaries that allow us to engage, dig in, and process everything to which we’ve already committed. When we are over capacity, it takes more energy, more time and more resources to do everything.

Brene Brown understands the risk inherent in setting boundaries as she says, “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others. We can’t base our own worthiness on others’ approval (and this is coming from someone who spent years trying to please everyone!). Only when we believe, deep down, that we are enough can we say “Enough!”

Pausing and giving myself space, allowing both my capacity and my bandwidth to settle down to a manageable level, allowed me to find what I was looking for. I could have pushed through and connected with the 100 people that was expected. I could have set up meetings and written content, just to be keeping up and to be producing. But something told me to just wait it out. 

We are pushed to think that the only real productivity is visible productivity. We vastly underestimate the value of stepping back, of waiting, resting, pausing, of allowing something to reveal itself. 

Rather than always pushing ourselves, we can practice setting boundaries and engaging in rest. Like many practices, these are simple, but not necessarily easy. 

We cannot rest if our plates are over full. If we are people pleasers, this idea is cringe worthy, and yet we are almost always over capacity. One of the biggest gifts we can give ourselves, and others, is to say no. We cannot be powerful and generous and helpful if our tank is empty.

It’s okay to retroactively say no. If you know you are overcommitted and are feeling overwhelmed, it may be time to un-commit. Many of us find it nearly impossible to rescind a yes. It goes against our values and our upbringing. But if we are beyond our capacity and bandwidth, we must tend to ourselves before we can be of service to others. 

Once we have created some space, we can practice rest – whatever that looks like – spending more time with our family, going to a museum, reading, sitting and doing nothing, kayaking, knitting. We must engage with those things that feed our soul and make us feel more like ourselves. 

In the last LinedIn class, as I was listening to the instructor and the other participants discuss challenges and takeaways, it finally occurred to me how I wanted to show up on LinkedIn, what my why was, and how I could be of service to myself and others in that space.

I would not have gotten there had I forced myself past my capacity. But having given myself room to not know, I created the space for something true, rather than something just productive, to surface. 

And now, I feel both satisfied and excited about my next steps. Capacity in balance.

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