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Secure YOUR perimeter: A beginners guide


Throughout the whole of my mental health journey, the biggest struggle I have found is securing my own perimeter aka setting boundaries!


Without having personal boundaries it’s hard, not only for you but for others, to know when to start and when to stop and if you are an empath like me it can be even more challenging.


Empaths are highly sensitive people with an acute ability to pick up on the feelings, emotions, and energy of others. This can be draining, sometimes even painful, as empaths often internalise what they pick up from others. I can always tell if someone in the room is feeling stressed or anxious. I’ll be honest I don’t know how but I just can! However what I struggle to do with that knowledge is separate their emotions from my own, I make their problems my own.


This is exhausting!


Securing our own personal perimeter by establishing healthy boundaries is not something we are generally taught, particularly as a veteran.


When serving we belong to the military and if they call u at 1 am in the morning, u get up and go running... if they say you're deploying tomorrow, your deploying regardless of the fact your best mate is getting married in 2 days and you're the maid of the honour!


You have no perimeter, the boundaries are blurred. That’s ok though when serving as this is life, this is the norm for everyone.


However, mix all the above together when entering civilian/veteran life and you can find yourself in the horrendous position of burnout.




Burnout is a state of physical or emotional exhaustion resulting in a feeling of reduced accomplishment and loss of personal identity.


As a veteran further loss to our identities is definitely NOT something we need!


However, the ability to be able to identify your perimeter and set out boundaries to secure it can be a complete game-changer, helping to prevent burnout and safeguard that all-important identity (that no doubt is already in crisis from stepping out of the bubble of military life!).


It is also a vital and necessary tool to have in your toolbox to preserve your mental health and well-being.


Something unfortunately that I personally learned a little too late!


I crashed and burned… HARD!


So, what exactly are boundaries? What am I babbling on about?


Well, boundaries can be both emotional and physical.


They can range from saying no to that over-time, or night out you don’t want to go on, to choosing not to take on the emotions of others or feeling a personal responsibility to fix it! (I’m a chuffing nightmare for this!).


Side Note:


In fact, our interference can actually not only be detrimental to us but to the individual, you think you are ‘saving’!


They have the right to personal growth too and need to be allowed to learn from their own feelings.


Setting boundaries is key to ensuring relationships whether personal or at work are mutually respectful. That means respecting the boundaries of others too...



A cautionary tale:


I didn’t have a personal perimeter! Never mind knowing how to set boundaries in order to secure it!


I left the military and got civilian jobs and would put my heart, soul, and pretty much my existence into it.


I would work all the hours god sent to the detriment of my family and my own mental health and well-being, so much so that at Christmas my mini wrote a letter to Santa and one of the items on her short and humble list was to see Mummy more!


This absolutely broke me… the final straw that broke the camel's back shall we say!


In my personal life, people have the impression that I’m a strong, confident individual, which you know what I am! However, I was also a people pleaser, spending so much time being there and caring for others that I would neglect myself.


This goes back to the past statements I have made reference self-care. If you don’t care for yourself how on earth do you expect to be able to step up for those that matter most in your life?!


Seriously, by not securing my own perimeter and setting boundaries, I became so broken that I just wasn’t there at all… I was a shell… I was emotional, crying, angry, guilty (that Mum's guilt is the worst!) and exhausted. I would find myself hiding in disabled toilets at work in the dark and living in my phone.


I lost myself, not just my identity, everything.


It was only when I completely burnt out and had to finally stop that this changed. I started to undertake some deep soul-searching and asked for help, only then did I realise that I felt overwhelmed physically, emotionally, and mentally.


I was being continuously asked to perform even when I simply couldn’t, I was exhausted!


You know the saying!

Well, I was definitely empty!


The worst part of all of this was that ultimately this was my own fault.



I was allowing others to pile on me and use me while putting my own family, daughter, mental health, and well-being on the back burner!


For what??


So they can be successful?!


Sod that!!


That’s mental!!


So I started to learn how to say No… to myself and others!


As an empath, this was crippling at first, as I felt guilty for letting people down. So much so Initially I would make up excuses as to why I couldn’t do something in a poor attempt to soften the blow for others… kinda defeating the object there! (Knob! But hey it’s a journey!)


Then I came to my senses, grew some cahonas, and just said No... without any excuses or explanation.


It didn’t go down great with everybody I’m not gonna lie as I had set a precedent. So much so that I made the decision to also cut out toxic individuals and walk away from toxic environments.


However surprisingly the majority of people, those that mattered, just accepted this newfound conviction of mine… even admired it!


Healthy Boundaries are the foundations for trust and help build strong and healthy relationships. Even when some people don't like your choices, they will ultimately respect you for being honest and standing your ground.

Boundaries also generate safety in relationships, both mentally and physically. When you respect yourself and identify your perimeter, so will others, thus allowing you to feel heard, valued, genuinely validated as an individual, and of course, appreciated.


Above all else setting clear, reasonable, and realistic boundaries in line with your own wants, needs, goals, and desires prevents you from being taken advantage of by others whether that be your loved ones, work colleagues, or bosses.


Ultimately you must remember that YOU MATTER too!


Your boundaries are the limits you set, to teach others how to behave around you, to learn how you want to be treated, what you will accept, and what you will not!


It is about self-care, self-preservation, and knowing yourself!


So How do you do it?


Here’s a quick and simple guide that you can start using today:


Know yourself!


Knowing who you are and knowing your own personal idiosyncrasies is the very first step when it comes to identifying your perimeter and establishing boundaries to secure it. If you don’t know your own limits how can you teach others? (See blog post “No.1 thing to know in Pre-Transition” if you're struggling with self-discovery! It’s a process well worth undertaking!)


Learn from others, observe, find a mentor, or even a coach!


I initially started observing the behaviours of individuals that were excellent at setting boundaries and tried to model their behaviours.. it helped however I have over 38 years of poor boundary setting habits to overcome and therefore decided to speak to a professional i.e a coach.. this has truly set my path off on a positive and genuinely enlightening route and I have since studied coaching and mentoring more in-depth myself!


Learn and say the word No!


Practice saying no with conviction and confidence. There are many ways you can say No without conflict, one I’ve recently used when I was asked if I fancied going somewhere I didn’t want to be:


“Thank you for the offer but that’s not really my bag. I hope you have a fab time though and look forward to hearing about it!”


This is a far cry from the usual unnecessary apologetic and elaborate answer I would give. You do not need to apologise for not wanting to or being able to do something. This is particularly hard for veterans, particularly as a woman veteran, as we have spent eons having to either explain, justify or hide our emotions, feelings, and actions! No more. We have rights, thoughts, and opinions too and it’s perfectly acceptable to exercise them.


Communicate honestly, directly, clearly, concisely, and kindly!


Ensure there is no ambiguity. This will prevent any awkward or uncomfortable situations whilst also maintaining mutual respect with any relationship.


Practice, tweak, and hone!


Whenever you start learning anything new, it takes practice. Securing your own perimeter and establishing boundaries is no exception! It will no doubt feel alien, to begin with, you may experience feelings of guilt or uncertainty (I definitely did!). That’s ok!


Experiment, try different things, identify what works for you! Remember I’ve said it before it’s ok if you get it wrong as long as we learn from it.


Finally, ensure you also recognise the boundaries of others!


It’s important to appreciate those of others, too — even if they’re different from your own. So how can you determine what they might be? Use your common sense, read the room, read the vibe, engage the brain before opening your gob (a skill I continue to struggle with at times.. #workingprogress #nofilter), or just simply Ask!


I ask often! It doesn’t have to be awkward or confrontational… just talk to each other!


Ask simple questions like: “Is this ok?” If they say No... respect that! Don’t push or myther because when you do this you're violating their boundaries.


If you make a mistake, which you undoubtedly will, own it, step up and apologise. Explain if you want, that you are learning. I have done this quite recently which I have talked about in a previous post. The person involved appreciated my candour and I believe it actually strengthened our friendship.


Setting healthy boundaries is not selfish, rude, or self-centred. It is about knowing yourself and understanding your value, knowing your priorities, and making sure that others do as well.


It is about you creating that all-important space and time for yourself, that coveted work-life balance, and achieving both your personal and career goals!


It’s also about creating and maintaining positive, healthy, and mutually respectful relationships with others.


 

Why not get started on setting your boundaries now, grab a pen and paper and try answering these questions:

(or come back to it later when you have more time)!


 

How often are you overwhelmed worrying about what other people may think?

When did you last say a simple no to someone?

When did you last agree to do something you didn’t want to?

Why didn’t you want to do it?

What about it made you uncomfortable?

Why did you do it?

How could you set boundaries and manage that situation differently in the future?

What are 5 things that you hate doing?

When you think about saying no to someone how does it make you feel? Afraid? Guilty? Why?

What really matters to you?

What 5 things do you value most in a friendship?


What are your priorities now and for the future:


  1. in your career?

  2. in your personal life?

What boundaries can you create to protect those priorities:

  1. in your career?

  2. in your personal life?


 


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