My ever-changing relationship with boundaries

Yin and Yang with coffee and milk cups.

Social media is an ever-increasing part of our lives. Politicians find themselves in the middle of a storm triggered by liking pictures of a sexual nature on Twitter. Friends lock their account and change profile picture and privacy settings on their night out posts when looking for jobs after university. Influencers mix life and business. Bridal magazines write about the benefits of unplugged weddings vs couples who have their own online hashtags to share the big day in real time. Every parent is posting pictures and videos of their children, and some are writing on women’s magazines about how they grow up to be unhappy with the whole thing. Catholic college girls are encouraged to give up social media for 90 days as part of an extreme ascetic challenge, while others go unplugged for a day or for Lent as their penance. We share when we’re on our way to Mass or adoration asking if people need prayers, or we refrain from asking for fear of being holier than thou (I genuinely debated whether to post my on-brand way to die for that reason). We find friends based on what we have in common, and mistakes are made incredibly public, with full on witch hunts resulting in people getting off a plane having lost their job in a Twitter storm following something they tweeted on the way to the airport. There is very little private: you may not post about something, but you may still end up on the Internet thanks to friends or strangers that post something about you, anonymously or otherwise. We’ve all done it.

Some of us are more guilty than others: travel bloggers are being called out over their invasions of private property to get a picture in popular locations. Sometimes it’s not the privacy of others we invade in our quest for sustained engagement in our little corner of the blogosphere, which is vital if your bills getting paid depends on how much you can command on brand collaborations.
Bloggers are avid readers of other bloggers, and many of us know first hand how much better it is to read something personal compared to just another post about your favourite ever hand moisturizer, because you’ve got 3 gifted in a row. I have about 4 different brands at present and I don’t think I can vote an absolute preference so no judgement, I know you can genuinely think every week’s one is an improvement on the one you tried before, but buzzwords can be tiresome.
My blog has gone through different phases, growing alongside me, and I’ve been anything from someone chronicling life to a political opinion-sharer, to some sort of inadequate religious teacher, like Bridget Jones if her job was for the Catholic Truth Society.

I have also talked about relationships, or the lack of thereof, a lot. While I was single, it came easier. Only my very close friends would have an idea of my dating life, and any references to someone would be anonymous. Sharing anything personal was just me, and I was in control of my own boundaries. I shared a bit more about friendship, but it never felt as much as risk of violation as relationships do.
I applaud the bloggers who successfully navigate sharing their family life without crossing a boundary: I love reading your work, and you’ve helped me greatly. At present, I haven’t felt comfortable doing much of the same. The topics for this year’s challenge have been agonised over, every sentence picked apart to work out how much of it can stay if I’m trying to protect the integrity of my private world from gossip and judgement. At the same time, I carefully sift through everything to chuck out anything sterile and not worth publishing. Some of these boundaries are difficult because they’re of my own making. For obvious things I ask permission to share, but that’s not the only way I put boundaries for what I allow myself to make public. It’s a difficult process because I’m not good at setting or keeping boundaries, whether they are about privacy or other things.

One of my resolutions for 2019 was to have a no phone zone after 9pm. It happens most days, but I often find the one friend who knows I’m doing it being the one who realises I’m online past the curfew, and he’s not even in the same timezone as me.
Living in a studio flat makes physical boundaries harder, too. I have the same table to work and eat, although the limited kitchen-counter space means I need to get rid of the laptop if I want to cook in the first place, so I’m getting better at not eating at the desk. Less so at not eating in bed, with many days spent working with my laptop on the breakfast tray because I really only take a full sick day when I’m really unable to even sit up on my pillows and work that way. My sofa looks, more often than not, like an open wardrobe, making a serious demarcation between living spaces and a bed just to sleep near impossible. The lack of physical boundaries between spaces, in the form of walls, requires strong discipline that I really don’t have. Yet, I am somewhat grateful for the opportunity, in the spirit of St Paul’s words in the letter to the Hebrews (12:11 – For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. RSVCE).

I am slowly learning to build discipline with small steps, like a (mostly kept) night routine of washing my face with an electric brush and putting on a night cream, writing the Bible verse of the day in a diary and getting the Pray More Novena’s reminders in my inbox alongside the Blessed is She daily devotionals every morning. Instead of forcing change that is unattainable and frustrate myself out of doing anything at all (through confected hard borders based on what people think is best), I now use discipline and boundaries to work at improving myself in a way that comes natural instead. As someone with tendencies to perfectionism, setting boundaries can turn from a helpful tool for efficiency and balance to something that sucks energy stressing about never getting it wrong, ever. I’m also slowly learning to cut myself some slack over things that aren’t that important, and not judging myself by how disciplined I am: I choose very carefully which boundaries are helpful to set, and I use them more as a map helping me to figure out the right direction, than a set path that I have to meet. I can always take detours as long as I know what my ultimate destination is. Sometimes, the destination is even the only thing I need to set in advance.

This is a view that has also, over the years, coloured my view of vocations. I grew up thinking that vocations are something clear-cut, and once you know which vows you are called to then everything will fall into place once you discern the right person or the right community or figure out we need none of that, but while vocations are, in a way, clear-cut, it’s not about the job we do day to day. Our vocation is the same, and it’s to love God in all we do, and be the love of God to others in all we do. In a way, our vocation is the race of 1 Corinthians. This is the boundary by which I judge every decision I take, whether at work or in my personal life. Even the decisions to set other, secondary boundaries. One of my favourite things I own remains the tote bag with Micah 6:8 from an old Threads event, because it really sums up the only boundary that I truly need.

This post is part of the LoveBlog Challenge on the subject of Boundaries.

Meet your hosts

Brita of Belle BritaWoman in pink and purple flower dress and white straw hat in front of pink flowers

Brita Long is the pink and sparkly personality behind the Christian feminist lifestyle blog, Belle Brita. On her blog and social media, you’ll discover more than authentic storytelling–she’s brutally honest about pursuing a fulfilling and joyful life even with Crohn’s Disease and depression.

 

 

 

Sara of Mrs Imperfect

Woman in red top and glasses hugging man in grey top and sunglasses on his head for a selfie

Sara blogs at Mrs. Imperfect about letting go of perfect and embracing your quirks and messes. She writes about marriage, self love, mothering, and mental health and runs an Etsy shop offering printables on the same subjects. She is a writer, book lover, crafter, and mom to a six month old daughter.

 

 

 





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Pinterest Graphic with Blog Post title

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My Week in Mia Tui

It can’t be just me who follows #myweekinbeulah on Instagram! Since I don’t really have the slender body of a Made in Chelsea star, my birthday present hasn’t been their velvet jumpsuit I have been lusting over since the new collection was launched. Still, birthday money coming in has resulted in me finally getting around to replacing some things that had been in dire need of retiring for a long time. Thanks to the sales I was also able to throw in a smaller bag that I didn’t really need but is helpful to have now I’m one clutch down because one broke just a few weeks ago.

I had been keeping an eye on Mia Tui ever since Jenna from A Balanced Belly and the Bloglancer reviewed one of their bags. What I liked about them was that not only they were stylish vegan leather bags, but they were made with the modern woman in mind. I already feel as organised than my mother, whose bag makes a Marie Kondo-decluttered home look like a mess despite the amount of stuff it contains. I also haven’t lost my keys for the whole 2 weeks since they got to me with next-day delivery (I had an extra £5 off on signing up and who wants to wait 3-5 days for a birthday present?), and if you have ever stayed with me you know what a change that is. The key clip alone is worth the money for me.

What I like about Mia Tui, which is the reason I went back to Busy B for my diary after trying one last year, is that the item is designed around the life of a modern woman instead of the life of the modern woman having to adapt to the item. I never look like a polished human being when travelling: by the time I am two doors down on the street, my bag has fallen off my shoulders about 10 times and the stress and effort to put it back all the time has already me sweating like I’m playing the final at Wimbledon (maybe I should wear a headband when I travel). It’s even worse if I attempt to put my bag on my suitcase, but the Jennie travel bag has been designed to fit on the handles so that I can put my bag on my suitcase and be very zen up until I realise that I’m going to be late because the trains are delayed. Then I’ll still have a panic attack and begin to pray for time to stop. That part of the bag also has a decent-size external pocket with a zip, and it works really well to hold drinks when the bag sits on your lap and gives it the support not to fall through the crack (tried and tested, by accident- as all the best inventions are!)

The Jennie is meant as a travel bag, and unfortunately, I haven’t yet used it as such, but my hand luggage never really contains much more than what I usually take out with me on a day working out of the house, and I’ve once put the gym kit in it with everything else so it’s big enough to double as a weekend bag too. At first, it seemed massive to carry around, but I’ve got used to it. In addition to the elastic key clip, it comes with three pockets of different sizes, two insulated pockets for bottles, and two spaces for pens. It also had a transparent bag that is now my gym toiletries bag but will be good for flying whenever I fly next, and a pouch that can be also used as a small crossbody bag (the main bag can also be made crossbody). I bought it in Scarlet, so it goes with all my clothes and looks a bit less boring than other colours (I already have a mustard yellow bag, I just don’t like to use it as a work bag as the handles aren’t good for carrying a laptop around). They have a very nice range of work bags but I’m trying to scale down my wardrobe and I like a good multitasking piece. I don’t exclude the possibility of buying another bag in the future, especially if any of the ones I have reaches the end of its life and cannot be repaired further.

The other bag I bought was the Megan in teal. It’s a small bag that can fit the essentials, although my wallet is massive and I need to scale it down if I want to fit that and my diary at the same time. The downside to that bag is that it won’t fit my water bottle, but it may fit in a smaller one and anyway, if I go out of the house for a limited time I won’t take one unless it’s 30º and I would die (= get a migraine) without constant hydration, so I’m not in a rush to find a bottle small enough to fit it. It’s mostly a day bag, but it looks smart enough to be a casual evening bag so I’m sure it’ll get used more as time goes on. So far I took it to have coffee with friends and to the cinema, and used it over the shoulder even if it should fit crossbody (it doesn’t with the massive hoodie on my winter parka). I’m too clumsy not to keep putting the bag back on the shoulder as I have a slight imbalance and one shoulder is lower than the other (you can’t see it but it’s there), but I don’t think there’s much that can be done to make it stick on the shoulder a bit more, which is a pity as I really like the look of it on the shoulder instead of crossbody.

If you (or a woman in your life needing a present) are a woman on the go and known for having the content of a house with her in her bag, this is a brand you want to look at. The price is reasonable and, as I said, the leather is vegan, but you couldn’t really tell as it’s so soft.

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Book Review: Little Black Book by Otegha Uwagba

The Little Black Book next to a cup of cappuccino“This Sunday Times Bestseller whose subtitle is “A toolkit for working women” was an interesting book I did not intend to read, and only picked up because I don’t like to enter shops “just to have a look”. I know the time that goes into running one, and how the livelihood of the people working there depends on sales and so while I was bored waiting for my aunt to do exactly that in every vintage shop in Brick Lane (if you own one and are reading this, I apologise for your time she wasted), I wandered into the Brick Lane Bookshop and, not finding anything on the list of things I wanted to buy, I bought this book that was there by the till.

I did not realise that the book was targeted at women in the creative industries and therefore covered anything from being employed to being self-employed and different women from different walks of life, and it turned out to be more relevant to me than I had anticipated. I don’t agree with everything it suggests (I am not and never will be an early bird, I cannot just train myself to be one, in fact I begin to suspect I suffer from a Cicardian Rhythm Disorder), but it helped to be more confident in my own ways, as I saw other women who’ve been there and struggled with the same things. The chapter on public speaking was particularly insightful, as that’s an area that is not my forte, and the same goes for the one on networking, but I’ve got a few golden tips about productivity and overcoming creative blocks that I hadn’t thought of before. The chapters on money were a welcome subject, as I have been guilty of undervaluing my work in monetary terms, and it was great and very timely to read about the important of rest (which has been a theme for the year). I knew some of the truths shared by Otegha Uwagba, but to read them espoused by a best-selling author gave me the kick in the teeth that I needed: this wasn’t a lazy person who didn’t achieve anything in life, if anything it was someone who achieved a great deal more than the examples of work ethics I had growing up. I also appreciated how much emphasis the author and the women interviewed put on learning new skills, as I just can’t seem to cope without having something I’m studying.

The final chapter, which listed resources, contained a lot of valuable information that I didn’t know about, among some known ones that it was nice to see recommended, and that chapter alone was, for me, worth the cost of the book, which, at a mere £5, is just over the price of a small fancy Starbucks latte (my mental wellbeing and waistline are rather happy that I have chosen to spend that money on this book rather than a caffeinated sugar bomb). It’s likely to be a book that I will go back to over and over again when I need a friend and mentor to give me a piece of advice. It seems to be written that way rather than as a book that you can read in one sitting and forget about it, although at 115 pages in roughly A6 dimensions it can be read quite swiftly. The size makes it also ideal to carry in your work bag to always have the knowledge at hand as you go about your day. If you haven’t read it yet and are looking for a good start to 2019 it’s worth getting it as a cheeky Christmas present to yourself.

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Three Simple Ways To Set Goals That Stick

Last month I wrote about the state of my goals for 2018, and with just over one month left until 2018 exits stage left, I’m already thinking about my personal goals for 2019. Successfully following through on the targets I set myself gave me so much in the way of achievement – goals give us long-term vision, short-term motivation and focus our minds to enable us to make the best of our time and our resources. Goal setting is one of the keys to living purposefully and celebrating the life we’ve been given. That being said, plenty of us have good intentions that we struggle to follow through, and this has been true of me until this year. It’s not by any means unusual to encounter a slump in motivation along the way, and you shouldn’t beat yourself about it. If 2018 was not a good year for achieving things, how can you make 2019 better?

Start From Zero

Many professional project managers follow a budgeting system called ‘zero based’, which simply means no finances carry over from one year to the next, and no plans are considered pre-approved. It’s literally a fresh start. This approach can work really well with personal goal-setting as well. Don’t automatically transfer goals over from last year or even last month if they aren’t working for you. Consistently making no progress is demoralising, so if you aren’t seeing any movement at all then perhaps it’s actually the wrong goal. Cutting things out that you can’t achieve is important, because it gives you the energy to focus on areas where you can make a change. We change over time and so should our aspirations and ambitions. Don’t be afraid to postpone or ditch an area where you can’t seem to make progress – you can always revisit it with fresh eyes later on.

Prioritise Your Desires

You may have a whole heap of things you want to achieve, from going travelling and seeing the world to completing a course of study, spending more time giving back to your community, working towards purchasing a home or even wanting to pay off debt in collections. All your aim are important, but you need to learn to prioritise just a few so as not to spread yourself too thin. Think about some goals you may have which will enable others – like paying off a store card so you have more money to save and invest, or completing an internship so you can then make some contacts in your chosen field. Make sure your bigger picture vision is broken down into a sequence of achievable smaller steps and you are more likely to succeed.

Celebrate Success

Often we can be hard on ourselves, or so focused on what we want that we don’t realise how far we’ve come. If you are a driven, alpha personality like me, then it’s easy to fall into habitual self-criticism. Learn instead to be your own personal cheerleader and celebrate the changes that you have made happen. Sometimes it’s the small things in life that can give us a big boost and actually help us to stay on track for the big stuff.

 

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When you lose your passion #LoveBlog2018

Woman looking sad in the distance from the side. Blonde hair and grey coat, orange backdrop.

I have spent 4 hours and £15 in a Starbucks today, slouched on my iPad reading a chapter on Protestantism as the basis of British national identity, wondering when it was the last time I felt any enthusiasm for what I do. It was 2 weeks ago, actually, when the seminar topic led me to research and write extensively about the birth of the national myth of Italy. It was the first time I enjoyed what I was doing since the setback of the marks from the last semester, when I have nearly dropped out of uni. Only this morning my FB memories brought up a blog post from the 2016 edition of Love Blog. It’s all about my passion for old things and the stories they tell.

At some point in my quest to make history my profession, I became so tangled into my own sense of identity as an academic and the achievements that go with it that I have forgotten why I wanted to do it in the first place. What in my eyes was failure meant I couldn’t carry on, as if doing things as an amateur isn’t good enough. Like it means I’m not smart enough, and that threatens me. I already talked about rediscovering how my identity is received from Jesus and not achieved by me, and I am slowly trying to apply it to all aspects of my life and trying to find my passion again for the things I am, deep down, passionate about.

First of all, I have decided that no matter what social media tells us, it’s ok to lose passion and sometimes doing things half-assed because you have to, especially if it’s work and your career. Chances are, as a creative and a wannabe-recovering perfectionist, my half-assed work is better than many people’s full effort anyway, because I just have a habit to try and run a marathon like a 100mt sprint and burn out in the process. There are aspects of my job I love, playing with colours and materials and seeing something come together from out of nothing is one of them. Admin and paperwork, setting up the marketing and to an extent even the design of a website (which is a visual thing I would normally enjoy) not so much. As I fight an illness with the long day at a trade event each week followed by one unable to get out of bed, the whole business of running a business has lost its appeal. Instead of forcing myself to find my mojo again, I have decided to let it be and just take it a day at a time. The same applies to university and blogging, although I seem to still have more passion for the latter than I have for the former two together (hence why I’m backdating the posts for the week I missed due to peak illness).

Another thing I have lost passion for is politics; I am still passionate about the community and the potential that politics has in driving change and achieving the common good, but I don’t follow the news and the speeches and the whodunnits that politicos and pundits seem to feed off. I don’t feel about a reshuffle like a child on Christmas Day, and aside from being a political “wife” (speaking of which, I have developed a taste for statement jewels…), I have drastically reduced my time hanging out in political circles. All that I do lately is, on good days, campaign-oriented, but the bad days are outnumbering the good ones, and even that feels like a chore. Ironically, cleaning the kitchen (which is a household chore) has become my new favourite activity to do when my energy levels allow me out of bed with some free time.

Something I haven’t lost my passion for, no matter how difficult our relationship is at this time, is the Church. Once I have accepted that an institution made of humans will inevitably be broken, and I needed to be graceful towards her in the way I expected her to be graceful to me, and allow the Holy Spirit to mould each and everyone involved, I have found in me a deeper longing. Past the guilt for something beyond my control, and the feelings of inadequacy instilled in me by those who try to make them look like they are in my control and I’m just lazy, there was great love that can be more freely expressed and pursued if I “let go and let God”. Coming clean about the struggle has been weirdly cathartic.

There is a fil rouge in all this, which is to let go of pressure (whether from others or myself), expectations, ideals of what things should look like, and accept that it’s ok to be down, it’s ok to go through the motions, it’s ok to live a life that isn’t constantly purpose-filled like the hashtags say. In some twisted way, it’s precisely in these lows of life that I have found a passion I had abandoned: that of living an authentic life, embracing the mess of it all without polishing the diamond for an audience feeding off the carousel of unrealistic standards and pretty things.

Today’s blog post has been part of the Love Blog Challenge 2018 on the subject “Passion”. Find the rest of the series here.

Flowers and graphic saying the titles of the challenge

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