By Emily Soccorsy
Years ago, I began working with a coach for the first time in my life. I was in my late 30s. While I was content in my personal life and on the rise in my career, Lisa rocked my world mainly through the questions she asked me and the simple concepts she introduced.
One of those was about healthy boundaries.
Up until then, I had come to think of a boundary as something that was defined and created with an exterior purpose: it was something other people needed from me, that I had to supply. In my mind, a boundary helped other people to understand and feel secure.
Lisa shattered that idea.
“A boundary is for you first,” she told me during one of our coaching sessions. “It’s there for you, then other people can adjust to it.”
Whoa! I had never thought of it that way.
This reversal gave me a sense of sovereignty and possibility. It meant I could choose a boundary – for me!
I could set a boundary that simply gave me space, which is what I needed more than I had admitted to myself. It meant that a boundardy would serve me and not be another obligation (I had plenty of those). It meant that a lovely boundary could be mine alone and was not based on anyone elses’ needs.
For a lifelong peacemaker, people pleaser, and empath, this was a revelation.
There’s a lot of talk these days about boundaries.
They’ve come to be discussed with a tone of harshness, of intractability. Like so much in our society, it seems we’ve taken the idea of boundaries to the utmost extreme, once again.
I see boundaries as the walls of a bouncy castle more than a stone barricade.
They should be forgiving and pliant, something that we set and hold as best we can and often bounce against in our humanness. Something we rebound from (often jovially) after throwing ourselves at them.
I explore this because repelling (which I wrote about here in my earlier piece about repelling as part of branding and as an inward practice) is reliant upon setting and holding boundaries, as best we can.
Once you’ve done the inner work of repelling, you can turn to the outer work and apply this concept to your relationships, your team, your work.
To repel includes three key practices.
- Getting clear on what you believe. Have you explored, uncovered and named what you believe in more than anything else? If so, have you applied that to your work, to your brand? Is your team in alignment with these beliefs, often referred to as core values? You must be solid in your beliefs before you begin declaring them to the world, and you also must know how the brand/the team/you are living them out each and every day. Without this clarity, you cannot repel those opportunities not aligned with your beliefs. Note: if you have established your core beliefs, have them been examined recently? Like everything else, these can shift over time so its good to check in on them at least once a year and do a hard look every three years.
- Let go. When you practice repelling in your work, and truly internalize the idea that you will not be a good fit for every possible opportunity or client out there, you must let go of the idea you are a good fit for everyone. The ego loves to tell you that, over and over again, which has probably helped to build your confidence and get you to where you are. However, it can be a destructive force, too. Sometimes your dedication to repelling may put off a person or opportunity you really thought you wanted. It can mean passing up income you desire. It might mean that a potential new member of the team that you’d really like to have on board passes you up for another opportunity more aligned for them. The only thing to do in those moments is to breathe (always), and repeat your letting go mantra. (If you don’t have one, you can borrow mine, “This is not for you.”) Instead of spinning on what was lost, you can turn your attention to the next beautiful, aligned opportunity heading your way.
- Declare it. Repelling is not something that will work because you made a quiet, personal, or internal team, commitment. It requires that you share what you believe out loud. It means you declare who is a good fit for you. It requires you own what you want to repel, openly and clearly. As I have quoted before, “Clear is kind,” according to the wise and learned Brene Brown. Do not make your potential clients or audience members work doubly hard to understand what you stand for and what you want to attract, and repel. It’s a waste of time and energy on everyone’s part. Tell them directly. Share with clarity what it is you want. Then they can respond in an informed way.
Lastly, as a leader and as a team, practice self-compassion.
Repelling means you may get rejected from time-to-time, although in my experience this quickly fades the more readily and consistently you practice number three above.
When repelling and rejection happen, instead of turning on yourself and being critical of your judgment, be kind to you.
Feel what you are feeling.
Accept that this is part of the trail that’s a little rockier.
Talk it through with your team.
Try celebrating the repel – looking ahead to the aligned opportunities coming your way.
And if you need more, Dr. Kristin Neff’s work on self-compassion is freeing and enlightening and, in my humble opinion, should be taught in every classroom from Kindergarten to college.
Be strong in your desire to repel – and be soft in how you handle it.