Month: August 2019

How To Use Boundaries and Effective Communications

Family relationships are key to growth and development, particularly during the teen years, not to mention the opportunities that family life offers for learning new skills that will not only support you as a teen but will also set you up for the future.

For example, though boundaries might feel like rules that only cramp your style, they are crucial to learning to be responsible.

Reflecting upon my own teen years, I do recall having loads of boundaries—some to do with going out and others to do with staying in. I had to be home at a certain time and visitors, particularly boyfriends, had to be in to visit me at a certain time and out at a certain time, too.  Fair enough, although I didn’t think it was fair at all when a boyfriend and a distant cousin of mine turned up about half hour later than was allowed and found themselves turned away at the door by my father.

How embarrassing? However, looking back, not only can I see that it was fair but it was necessary for me to understand the importance of honouring other people’s boundaries. First, I realised that the boundary was set set out of care and concern and for my own wellbeing. Next, it taught me discipline and responsibility. For example, somehow it helped me to value time and to respect other’s boundaries and expect them to respect mine.

I am sure having boundaries opened up opportunities for me to begin thinking of setting my own with friends, for example. The principle works in general. Knowing that you don’t feel comfortable doing a certain thing under peer pressure is one thing but having a boundary to avoid the consequences just might ease the pressure a bit. And thankfully you can take your boundaries right into adult life whether that is university or a job and then into your own family life.

The point is that boundaries are there to serve you, both mentally and physically.

Another skill to pick up from family life is learning how to communicate effectively. I know from my own personal life how difficult this can be even as adult, let alone as a teenager.  But it takes commitment and practice to become a good communicator and while there are many tips for communicating effectively–two key elements of practicing is listening and talking.

Easy peasy, right! Not necessarily, talking for example can be misunderstood if you don’t understand your own message and aren’t clear and concise about what it is you are trying to say.  So, the next time there is a misunderstanding with a parent or guardian, really think about what you would like to say and say it with clarity. But do make sure the timing and the tone are right. You’re speaking, not protesting.

And equally important is listening, actively, making sure you understand what is being said to you in response. That means not interrupting, not paying lip service to something and planning what you are going to say or do next.

The bottom line is that like setting boundaries, effective communications is there for you, as well, to make your experience the best possible scenario.  So why not tap into the opportunities to incorporate setting boundaries and communicating effectively into your own life at school, with friends and so on.  Check out our podcast: UIO: Your Family Inside Out with Helen Lewis for more hot tips on family life.


Focus On Character For Developing Identity

In the midst of a tense time such as waiting for and receiving GCSE and A-level results, it can be quite easy to feel like your life will be defined by the outcome, desired or undesired.

Actually, however, they are exam results, albeit important ones but exam results are unlikely to define one’s life identity, if you will, no more than landing a certain job or making a sporting team can. Identity is one of those things that can shift shapes throughout life. It is all about being in the moment but not being swallowed up by it, if you will. One moment in time simply cannot define who you are, no matter how strongly you identify with an outcome or an experience.

For example, though I identified with being a journalist early on in life, I found myself desperate to leave my first newspaper job due to a moral conflict, if you will, and set my heart on landing a local PR position, even if it would take my career off track. Never mind it was available and could solve my problem instantly. I was on a fast track to being swallowed up by the moment.

But the moment didn’t embrace me, thankfully. To make a long story short, the job was given to a colleague who didn’t even need a new job at the time. I was devastated. And though I sort of stumbled out of the stupor into a job that would pave the way for me to move to New York, I had not made the connection between character and identity at the time.

As former Paralympic swimmer Elizabeth Wright, our guest for UIO: On Character Building puts it: “Character is an integral part of life.  In a nutshell, character is who you are, it is those elements inside of you that are a part of you that develop and grow. They can be strengths for people. They can be parts of your personality, parts that you can pull on when times are tough.”

Upon reflection, of course, my desire to become a storyteller of some kind influenced my decision to move to New York. It is the land of opportunity after all but I could have stayed put in Georgia, which was the popular opinion, but it was part of my character, having a bit of fortitude, that drove the move. I took courage and belief that a stint in New York could help me to reclaim my loss, not only get back on track but also make some new ones.

Not to mention, the girl cell inside of me, which Sisterhood co-founders Rachita and Rebecca, guests of Your Identity Inside Out, describe as “your super power. “

The moral of the story is this: whether your results are the desired ones or not, focus on who you are, not what you happen to be doing right now, to become the best you possible. And follow your dreams and use your character strengths to identify the right moves for you.

For more hot tips and inspirational advice on being who you are,  listen to Your Identity Inside Out and On Character Building, both available wherever you listen to podcasts and right here on our website.




Taking The Time To Care For Yourself

Though the summer holidays are in full swing for some, they are completely over for others.  Regardless, it doesn’t feel like there is anytime to slow down, take stock of where you are in life.  Whether it is now figuring out what to do with your A-Level results, SAT scores or vocational achievement, the intensity can linger.

The thing to remember, however, is that very things are urgent! It doesn’t hurt to take some time to digest big news, big achievements and what might feel like big failures. They are all learning opportunities. Last December, on the heels of our On Personal Development podcast, I published a blog about taking advantage of down time.

And though you might be as busy as ever and feel anything but down, though heavy with decisions to make, those same tips might be just what you need for a spot of personal development, if you will.  Here they are:

1) Start the day on a positive note with some form of meditation. For me, that means a prayer. For others it might mean a session of mindfulness or full meditation.
2) Keep it moving physically. Walk, run, find some time to do exercise from right where you are.
3) Eat foods that serve your body, not ones that are going to depress the mind and the body further. As Robyn Spens points out in our latest podcast, On Personal Development, go for whole foods. As much as I love croissants, the difference in my mental and physical capacity is amazing when I pass on them, any gluten.
4) Reflect upon personal goals. If you are on track, that is amazing! Look at ways to stay on track but don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If you are not, ask questions, loads of them. What are the hindrances?  “You can do anything you want but not everything at the same time.”
5) Take up a new activity. Ever fancied learning to draw or even knitting. Such activities require quieting the left side of the brain, the chatter box, and just letting things flow naturally.
6) Catch up on your reading and your UIO podcasts. Stretch the mind, use the imagination to live beyond any mind traps that keep you in a negative space.
7) Write it all down. I highly recommend keeping a journal as many of the guests from our UIO podcasts suggest. Doing so gets your thoughts down and also teaches you loads about yourself.

When all is said and done, if you do these things and others that serve you in developing personally, there will be less time to worry about what university to choose and so on.  The important thing is working on developing your full potential in the space you are in. And if that is coming to terms with a different university to the one you planned or preparing to attend the one of your dreams, remember very few things are urgent.

Take the time to take care of you.

Emotional Bullying Can Come From Afar, Too

Emotional abuse is a big topic. No wonder we keep returning to it—it can happen to anyone and at any time. More often than not, the abuser, if you will, is someone familiar, whether at school, home, work and so on, but there are instances when emotional bullying can come out of left field.

Someone who you hardly know hurls an insult your way or says something that makes you intensely uncomfortable.  And though the person speeds off in their car, disappears into the night, leaves the room, their words stick with you far longer than their presence did. They hang over you like a dark cloud.

So much for sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never bother me.

Recently, I drove up to my neighbourhood after a morning session with my personal trainer. Definitely on a natural high, I felt good as I reversed into the space on the opposite side of the road from my house. With a million things to do, I gave myself kudos for parallel parking in one go and jumped out and grabbed the shopping I had picked up along the way. As I crossed the road, my equilibrium was shattered by the honking of a horn and a voice yelling at me.

“Hey, move your car,” the woman said.  “You are parked in front of my house. Why can’t you park in front of your own house?”

I did a double take to recognise my neighbour’s irate face behind the wheel of a small red car. Quickly I got out of the road and then turned to try to reason with her, though she continued to raise her voice and sound her horn.

Still I tried to remind her that with my parking permit and hers, we could park anywhere we wanted to in the given area, yet she wasn’t having any of it, though she admitted that she didn’t own the road.

She spouted off something about being inconvenienced. “Why can’t people just park in front of their own house,” she said loud enough for the whole street to hear.

“There is a space right in front of my car,” I said rather quietly. “You can park there.” This space was one door down from hers.

Now her voice an even higher pitch, she said a thing or two that I didn’t understand but I did make out “why don’t you park in front of your own house?”

Clearly, she was distressed, so I thought maybe I should move the car. I didn’t want to suffer a penalty for parking in a space that I had a right to park in.  So, I said, “if it means that much to you, I will move my car. Honestly!”

My gesture enraged her, caused her to shout at the top of her voice. “Why can’t you park in front of your own house,” she demanded repeatedly until I answered.

“Look you have to get a special permit if you want to park in front of your house all the time,” I said. “Anyhow, to answer your question: I don’t want the sap from the trees on my car.” This I thought she would understand.  I mean, who would want sap on their car, whether new and amazing or old and dilapidated, right.

By now, she was in hysterics. She told me to F-off and dare I mention the other expletives. On that note, I unlocked my door and went into my home but even behind the safety of my own door, her words had seeped into my pores.  Exasperated, I told Paul what had happened and for days to come I told everyone I came in contact with. Later that day I had to move the car and when I came back she was in the space, thus I parked in the one in front of her.  But the next morning, I moved the car as far away from hers as I could and tried my best to avoid her.

Still, weeks later her words are in my head but not as boldly as they were and not because time has waned them but because I have had to first of all, recognise that I was emotionally bullied, even if it did come from a stranger. No ifs, ands and buts about it. Next, I had to fully accept that as personal as it felt that it wasn’t. Though, I don’t believe that she would have behaved so appallingly with Paul or any man, the abuse was about her and not me. Clearly, she was very distressed and projected her anger on me. So I have long stopped trying to name it!

Finally, I’ve had to constantly remind myself that I have a right to park anywhere I want to in the area of my permit, without being yelled out. I didn’t do anything wrong. It was my neighbour who was clearly wrong but pointing fingers and casting blame keeps me in a space that doesn’t serve me.

What serves me is to think my way positively out of the corner, she backed me in.  A great segue to two bits of good news. First, she’s gone–the relevant neighbour moved a week or so later, which might explain why she was so cavalier but even before she left, I kept my distance. Next, we’ve re-released our podcast, On Emotional Bullying with Jillian ‘JJ” Simmons.  Check it out, not only for tips on how to manage emotional bullying with those up close and personal but also with this who are distant strangers, too.

It could be what you need to put the distance between you and an emotional bully. It worked a jewel for me.

Dating as a teen – setting boundaries

I am surrounded by teen girls, not literally of course, but here in Sorrento, Italy, lots of girls from around the world and of course, boys, too are on holiday with their family. Also, teen girls are holding down or shall I say holding up summer jobs, not only at our hotel, but also at restaurants and shops, many of them family establishments.

It is wonderfully refreshing not only to see the camaraderie but watch the girls gain life experiences and skills, which is a great segue to this week’s topic—dating.

Bear with! You might wonder what family and work have to do with dating? Quite a bit though indirectly. For example, learning how to relate overlaps in all three areas of life and so does respecting boundaries and honouring values.

Learning is a big part of growing up and rarely do we think about growth opportunities when it comes to dating.But the truth is: just as we learn all about driving and get a bit of practice in before driving a car responsibly, so it is with dating.

Brushing up on your communications skills while on holiday with family might come in handy. Not only can you practice the art of conversation while talking to parents about new and exciting experiences, you can learn a lot about yourself and others along the way. Just keep in mind that a good conversation requires effective listening, too. As one expert put it during a workshop I attended years ago: to be interesting is to be interested.

That said, you might find yourself interested in things that others simply are not. Happens all the time and as with family sometimes it’s appropriate and fun to try new things and sometimes it simply isn’t. A respectable no is all that is necessary if the situation is not for you or wait awhile. It could go against your values; put you out of your comfort zone.

Knowing where to draw the line teaches the importance of not only having boundaries but also honouring the boundaries of others. Sometimes other’s boundaries might feel a bit like a drag but it’s their space, not yours. For example, I noticed a teen chuck water on his sleeping mother on her chaise longe, after she had been in the pool playing ball with him earlier. She was not amused, though he was. Never mind! The point is at that particular moment, she felt he crossed a line. As for dating, it is important to establish boundaries upfront and to honour yours and the boundaries of your date, too.

After all boundaries are intrinsically linked to values, your own as well as your date’s. So go ahead, enjoy your summer, growing and gaining experiences that are not only fun but will also serve you as you explore dating. For more tips, listen to our podcast series 2, episode 4 – UIO: On dating Inside Out with Cat Williamson. Check out other related UIO podcast, too.

Enjoy your summer!