I am 11 days into no social media and I have to tell you, it’s freaking hard. For the sake of transparency, I have logged onto Facebook several times to make sure my blog posts are uploading correctly (because although I am willing to give up social media, I am not willing to give up control) but quickly exit out for fear of seeing something interesting on my feed and undoubtedly getting lost in the wonderland of posts. Instagram, however, seems like a distant friend as I haven’t touched that feed since LAST YEAR. Okay, that’s a stretch considering last year was only 11 days ago, but my blog, my rules, and I’ll say what I want.
In the midst of this no social media start to the new year, I have tried to spend more time doing things that actually nourish my soul. Despite the many hours I typically spend scrolling through my social media feeds, I often don’t feel nourished or filled up when I exit those apps. For something that I spend so much time on, you would assume it might make me a happier person, but in reality, social media often fuels my natural fire to compare, covet, and criticize. Time away has reminded me of a few things I love, and I am marveled at how many hours in the day I now have to partake in those things. Where has all this time been?!
Brené Brown is one of my favorite researchers and authors. Her latest book, Rising Strong, might be one you’ve heard of as it’s become a widely popular read among Christians, those interested in counseling/social work, and the whole idea of boundaries. Recently I watched this short video on boundaries and empathy (thanks to Amanda Watters) and was reminded of how setting boundaries effects all aspects of my life. Often when I think of boundaries, I think of setting them in place for my marriage. Spencer and I are pretty intense when it comes to relationships with the opposite sex. We don’t ride in cars alone with the opposite sex, we try hard not to be in a room alone with the opposite sex, and we certainly don’t communicate privately with the opposite sex. Those are boundaries that we’ve set in place in order to protect our marriage and our family. To some, this is extreme and even unrealistic, but to us, it is everything. Our marriage is the most important thing to both of us (sorry Cam), and you better believe we will do whatever it takes to protect it, regardless of what might seem ridiculous.
After watching that video though, I realized I haven’t set many boundaries in other parts of my life such as relationships with family and friends, church responsibilities, expectations from others, time management, and of course… social media. I work very hard to protect my marriage by setting up boundaries because it is important to me. This same logic should apply to other areas of my life as well. Brown defines boundaries as knowing what is okay and what’s not okay and then living within those lines. I have this tendency–and maybe you do too–to people please regardless of what I am comfortable with or believe in. I want people to like me. I want people to approve of me. And when I give into those desires, I am often left with making choices and decisions I normally would disagree with. All for the sake of being liked.
This comes in many forms for me.
Keeping my daughter up past her nap or bedtime in order to appease family or friends who are visiting.
Committing to serving or volunteering at church because my husband is a pastor there.
Downplaying my fierce political beliefs because they seem a little too liberal for where I live.
Over-scheduling my family during the holidays.
Feeling guilty for distant or completely dissolved relationships regardless of who initiated the change.
And on and on.
Although it is clear from Brown’s video and from my own understanding that amazingly boundaries create protection, I am more fascinated by the fact that boundaries create freedom. Brown talks about how empathy and compassion become genuine actions and reactions when we have boundaries in place because we are protected from the need to people please or put on a mask or hide behind insecurities. I think we are able to genuinely empathize and be authentically compassionate with boundaries because we are released from the constraints of selfishness. We are able to be fully present and fully love the people, places, and things in our lives because we are fully present and fully love ourselves. And not in the self-obsessed kind of love, but in the I am sure of who I am” kind of way. With boundaries, we are able to know what we’re okay with and what we aren’t and we are able to articulate that to others without fear of rejection or disapproval.
I talked earlier this month about resolutions and how I’m typically not a fan of them. I do, however, want to become more present this year. Fully aware of who I am, who I surround myself with, my home, my family, and most importantly, aware of God and what He is doing. I also want to add to this by saying I hope to set up more boundaries this year too. Not only for my own mental health, but also to protect this little girl I am raising every day. I get to spend most of my hours with a tiny, precious person and I have the responsibility of raising her to be strong and independent, yet also compassionate and kind. Those qualities are taught at home. And even at three months of age, she is already watching, already learning, already understanding what kind of woman I am and what kind of woman she might become one day. What a heavy load to bear for us mamas. What a privilege it is.
Might we have the courage today to realize what is okay in our lives, and the bravery to say, “No more.” to what’s not.