When you’ve decided to set up boundaries in your life, it is imperative that you start that exercise with the right foundation beneath you. Dr. Shannan Crawford, licensed psychologist and CEO of Crawford Clinics, walks through her first two steps she advises someone takes as they begin to incorporate healthy, beneficial boundaries into their life.
You can listen to this entire conversation with Dr. Crawford on our podcast, Work, Love, Pray! Listen below or click here to find your preferred listening platform.
What would you say is a good first step for setting boundaries?
The first step is identifying your true spiritual vision. We are strong, capable, and competent. We can do a lot. Every woman reading this, you are here because you’re probably a very high achiever. I get you, girl! At the same time, if I’m a fire hydrant and I’m spreading my energy everywhere, I’m not really being laser-focused.
We have four levels of processing. You have your smart brain, the brain that thinks of strategy and long-term vision, and uses common knowledge and human understanding. Then you have your subconscious mind, the part of you that can “do” automaticity, like a background autopilot. I work with a lot of CEOs that have become very comfortable and without realizing it, they are just relying on “what’s always worked” and aren’t truly getting vision from the Lord of what the future holds, which is the “danger” of relying on your subconscious mind.
The next level of processing is unconscious processing. This is the part of your brain that wonders, ‘Am I enough? Do I need to overcompensate? Do I need to perform? Am I an imposter?’ The answers to all of those questions then cause us to be driven. The vision we have from the unconscious mind will sometimes fluctuate between being fear-based and catastrophizing. On the flip side of that, your unconscious mind may also veer toward the fantasy of, ‘I’m gonna be the best. Everybody’s gonna love me, and it’s gonna work like this.’ This fantasy way of thinking is a result of your brain trying to escape a present reality.
The final level of processing is your spiritual mind or the mind of Christ. In cybersecurity, they’re actually starting to call this processing ‘spiritual intelligence.’ Your spiritual intelligence is that inner intelligence, or gut or intuition, whatever the world wants to call it. I would say it’s your spirit connecting with the Holy Spirit to be able to get vision from the Lord.
So to set boundaries, you have to realize what part of yourself are you really operating from. Are you gaining vision from what makes sense to your human understanding? Are you making vision from what’s comfortable, low-hanging fruit? Are you overcompensating by creating a fantasy? Or are you truly setting aside time to have vision from the Lord?
Once you have vision, you can narrow the parameters so you’re budgeting your energy. We don’t just budget time; we also budget energy. The amount of mental energy and capacity to think about something and be constantly ‘on’ takes a huge amount of your limited resource of neurochemical energy. Whatever you invest in shows you where you have vision.
Once you’ve clarified God’s vision for your life, what is the next step in setting boundaries?
I love that the Lord usually gives very long-term vision but doesn’t give a set of steps. I think He’s actually asking us to deal with self-sufficiency. People who are high-performers tend to be very self reliant, right? When I go into self-reliance, I get my vision and then think, ‘Okay, let’s make it happen.’ I pray with and talk to God, but I don’t realize that I’ve (on accident) reverted back to my prefrontal cortex that’s coming up with the strategy for the plan.
I use that example because the Lord has really been teaching me to slow down and to repent self-sufficiency, which is a form of self-reliance. Self-reliance is a form of self-idolatry, because I’m looking to me to have the plan, to set the boundary, to be wise, and to make good decisions. That’s a lot of pressure! A clue to figuring out if you’ve fallen into self-reliance is to recognize how many times you say ‘I’ in a sentence when talking about what you’re working on. That amount of Is reveals the source of where you think your strategy is going to come from.
Just open your heart and posture yourself throughout the day. The neurotheology field of research has shown how brainwaves and meditation will actually set you up for success in a day if you start that day with them, versus starting your day with your phone, your email, and your laptop. As a Christian, you can (and should) start your day with a heart postured toward God, asking Him to lead and guide. This posture is a relational equity of moment-by-moment walking with Him. When I’m meeting with clients, in my heart I will ask, ‘Jesus, what do you want say about this? What’s Your heart for this person?’
And this is how we protect ourselves from burnout: by learning to be in relationship and partnership with God, moment by moment. If you’re feeling a lack of peace, or a feeling of uneasiness, immediately step back and ask, ‘God, what’s your intel on this?’ Don’t get the vision, run with it, and then make God almost a prop that you pray to along the way. Like a constant friendship, continue to truly listen and then respond to God in those moment-by-moment interactions with Him.
Dr. Shannan Crawford is a licensed psychologist and the CEO of Crawford Clinics where she and her incredible team of counselors provide innovative psychotherapy services using a holistic Christian approach tailored for individuals, executives, couples and families. She is the host of the podcast Unlock U with Dr. Shannan Crawford.
As the innovator of the Restoring Self-Cohesion (RSC) approach, a hybrid of psychotherapy and faith-based inner-healing models that facilitates deeper healing than talk therapy by identifying and resolving the unconscious roots producing personal, relational, spiritual, and vocational symptoms.
Dr. Crawford weaves RSC into her work as an Executive Coach helping leaders and influencers overcome areas of self-sabotage, imposture-syndrome, procrastination and self-limiting beliefs undermining enjoyment in their calling. As a conference speaker, Dr. Crawford speaks for a variety of audiences on topics such as, emotionally healthy leadership, business, anxiety, trauma, marriage, resolving childhood wounds and traumas etc. She has spoken nationally and internally including Singapore, Indonesia, India, Brazil, and Bangladesh. Dr. Crawford loves serving as an adjunct professor at univeristies such as The King’s University in Southlake, TX.
Passionate to see the end of human trafficking, she serves on the board of untrafficked.org. She is working on a trilogy book project; an allegory fiction adventure that explores the nuances of the internal world through the story of espionage and romance.