A three-part series by Sephra Khan (August 22 2021)
If you have not noticed, I have been on a writing hiatus of sorts in the last year. It’s not that I have nothing to say, it is because I know the power of words, how they are felt and the impact they will have not only on my audience but on myself as well. In fact, with the lockdown of the world, I witnessed words more than ever become a mechanism that could instill hope, comfort, and solidarity but at the same time polarize, divide and hurt. Words were a way to connect when we could not express, touch or engage in person. It was easier to text away, curate a Zoom call or disappear behind an email when we needed to say something uncomfortable. It was also a mechanism where not everyone had equitable access to and those who could not move with words, were left behind. I value words more than ever thanks to the last 18 months.
In March of 2020, I reflected on my life and realized that all my past challenges, lifestyle habits, and hard lessons learned, prepared me for this moment to brave a new world. A world filled with uncertainty, tension, and heaviness. I entered into the unknown with hope, light, and curiosity. Loneliness transformed into self-preservation, space became a place to appreciate and real connection was not performance art.
If you asked me what I learned in the past 18 months, I can ramble off a novel and a critique of every sort but I chose not to do this because, in a time of innovation, complexity, and ‘politricking’, simplicity is the best. I chose 3 lessons that I know many will resonate with or think about as the world picks up momentum. This week’s first lesson will speak to boundaries.
Lesson 1: Boundaries
For those readers not familiar with my career, I am a teacher by trade, but a Jacqueline of all in reality. In my profession, I am a therapist, nurse, politician, entertainer, and computer programmer (just to name a few). I try very hard not to blur those lines between personal and professional. Switching to teaching online became a strange world to navigate where all facets of school were in my personal space. On the other side of the screen or smartphone, someone was in need of my service 24 hours a day. I found that not only were my supervisors sending emails all hours of the night but so were colleagues, parents, and students. In one day I would accumulate an inbox of 20 or more messages. Some messages were very confusing, emotionally draining, or were changing by the hour. I was feeling information overload and ‘work’ burnout.
In addition to this, I felt that my online information, which I had carefully curated, was being scrutinized, criticized, or testing my level of privacy. I saw a surge of fake accounts snooping around my LinkedIn profile or received confessionals from students and adults admitting to Googling my name to dig about who I was. This made me uncomfortable because I did not know how information was being used in the minds of others. As for Zoom calls and meetings, it was very strange to see people staring into my space, telling me they liked my wallpaper, asking whom I was living with or where I resided. I felt that technology was pushing against my privacy and all that I held intimate to who I am was unraveling.
I decided to hold clear boundaries of my personal space and respect my privacy. I made sure to be mindful of what I disclosed, how I disclosed, and when I disclosed. For example, for work emails, I took time to read what was being asked or discussed. I would either pause an email or reply to what needed to be attended to and after 5 pm, the computer was off and the phone was silent. I also made sure that if my calls were getting invasive, I would gently redirect their questioning or say, “I am sorry but I’m not comfortable with your personal question and it does not relate to the discussion on hand”. I also reiterated many times that I was a human being, not a computer, and I needed moments to rest, recharge and rejuvenate. This required me to make use of the word, NO. The word NO upheld my boundary allowing a balanced work-life, prevented burn out and respected my convictions.
I found that holding healthy boundaries is important because it sets the tone of how you want to be treated, be respected and demonstrates that you care not only for yourself but for others. Boundaries are also key in building and maintaining trust, especially over digital platforms where information can feel linear. Boundaries also maintain a line between the identities of our professional roles and personal life. Boundaries are important to reinforce who we are in every relationship of our lives.
Next week I will dive into Lesson Two, which will hopefully feel like a cozy blanket for the soul. In the meantime, I invite you to try a little exercise of your own in exploring what boundaries feel like for you and its impact on your well-being.
(The original article has been edited for Live Your Potential and LinkedIn)
Sephra Khan is a lifelong educator who is open, curious and deliciously happy! Always seeking to cultivate more awareness, flow and creativity in people. Practices and educates on an integrated, balanced approach to life (one that is holistic, diverse and inclusive). She is currently a guest writer for LIVE YOUR POTENTIAL.