Updated: May 31
Does it matter who is in our circle? Do we have a choice of who is in our circle? Should we care?
Yes! Yes! YESSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Our inner circle is vital to our success. Since we have been kids, how many times have we allowed people in our lives who have depleted our energy? More than I would like to admit.
A controlling boy/girlfriend. The meddling in-law. The competitive coworker who walks all over us. The friend who always needs something, but never gives anything back. A parent who critiques instead of just saying "I'm so proud." The spouse who minimizes our wins instead of celebrating them. A boss who does not value our opinion...
Sarah, stop it, this is depressing!
Here is the thing, if we are experiencing these relationships, the ones that deplete our energy, there is usually one thing in common. We are giving more time and effort (energy) than the person is giving us. And the rub…we usually don’t even recognize it’s happening. Why? Because we have been programmed, in various ways, to make excuses or justifications for their behavior.
· They are controlling because they were treated terribly in another relationship · They are family, they just want to know what is going on · They are just trying to get to the top like I am · They need help, I cannot turn my back on them · They are my parent; they are supposed to give me feedback · They just don’t understand what it takes · They have been here longer, they probably know more
I’ve been there. Shoot, I am still there in some cases. We owe it to ourselves to reflect and evaluate those that surround us. And if the relationship does not serve us – take a break, hit pause, cut the cord, sever ties…whatever we need to do.
Now, why the heck is this important for us to talk about? Because there is a direct correlation between emotional wellness and productivity. And being productive keeps us focused. And being focused is a key ingredient to accomplishing what we want to accomplish.
Listen, I am not saying anything we don’t already know. Our inner circle plays such an integral role, not only in our success but in our damn happiness too.
So, if we all pretty much agree with the above, what do we do now? We plan. We commit. We execute.
This process will probably feel uncomfortable, at first. But understand, that redirecting this wasted energy will open you up and create avenues you didn’t realize were blocked.
1) Identify your circle.
Who are the people in your life and what role are they playing? How do they lift you, help you learn and grow and inspire you to succeed? What is one word you use to describe these people? Are you starting to identify the stressors? Are the people that are causing stress depleting your energy? What excuses are you making for them? Have you set boundaries that they are ignoring?
2) What are your boundaries?
Sometimes we have neglected to set boundaries in our relationships. You are allowed to reset them, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Identify the minimum requirement boundaries (MRB) to continue the relationship. No exceptions or compromises. No “I feel bad"s. No double standards. These MRBs apply to everyone in your life. What is your current reality? How do the people meet these MRBs today (whether they know the boundaries or not)? Boundaries are for your emotional wellness, not others (PS, down the road it will benefit their emotional wellness too). This is not selfish, this is vital.
You are not required to set yourself on fire for someone else's warmth
3) Set (or reset) your boundaries.
Remember I said you will feel uncomfortable? Well, when action is required, that is likely where that discomfort will creep in. A wise person once told me, “those who don’t like the fact that you have boundaries, take advantage of those without boundaries." If your boundary requires you to set them with another person, remember that.
I always recommend rehearsing and visualizing. Visualize the conversation, the objections, and your concise responses. Be prepared. If you are still feeling scared or nervous, I encourage you to tell the person how you are feeling before the conversation. “I am feeling a little nervous about this conversation, but here goes…” I also urge you to stick to the facts and eliminate justification statements. Justification implies there is an argument to be had. And we already decided on these boundaries. There is no argument because we are not going to compromise on our well-being. This is not a selfish act. This is how your relationship grows into something healthy or…
4) Time to take a break!
If your boundaries are not respected, you aren’t being respected. Say that again. If your boundaries are not respected, you are not being respected. It is time to let go of someone that is not serving you. It doesn't have to be forever. Just for now. I recognize this is easier said than done. But hopefully going through this process will help you build confidence to be an advocate for yourself. Taking a break doesn't need to be dramatic. It doesn’t need to be mean or nasty. But if it doesn’t give you back what you are putting in, it's time to put it down for a bit.
Boundaries are not finite. New ones can be added. Existing ones can be changed. You may have different boundaries for different people. All of that is OK! Reflect on your experience. What did you learn? How can you proactively implement these practices vs retrofitting them? How has your life changed since you set and honored these boundaries? Even if you don't journal, try writing out your reflections. Putting pen to paper tends to solidify our thoughts.
6) Be Fabulous, not FAB.
We all have a friend who keeps getting back with that boyfriend. Shoot, we may have even been that friend (I know I have). What happens here is that as a little time passes, the not-so-good memories start fading away. It is called the Fading Affect Bias (FAB). And it is exactly what it sounds like. As a coping mechanism, the body will bring the positive events to the forefront and the negative bits will fade away! So don't let FAB be a reason to justify removing those boundaries. Stick with it, you put them there for a reason!
This is not easy. This is hard. It is hard identifying those who do not serve us (because we make excuses). It is even harder setting (or resetting) boundaries. And it is really hard enforcing consequences. It takes vulnerability. It takes discipline. It takes practice.
Surrounding yourself with people who lift you up, who celebrate your wins, who want you to be the best version of yourself. These are the people we need in our inner circle. Other people’s happiness is not our responsibility, but we are responsible for our own happiness. An unsteady foundation or support system will eventually crumble a building. Creating a solid inner circle gives you a solid foundation and support system to build on. Lean on that.