This month, we are recognizing Mental Health Awareness Month and adding to that powerful conversation a discussion of our own: how setting boundaries can help you learn to say “no” so that you can say “yes” to the right things. Joining us this month to educate us on setting up boundaries that protect our mental health is Dr. Shannan Crawford, licensed psychologist and CEO of Crawford Clinics, host of the podcast Unlock U, and long-time friend and supporter of 4word and our mission. Come back each week to learn more from Dr. Crawford!
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.
Can you share about a time in your life where you felt like something was holding you back from being unstoppable?
So I’m a seven on the enneagram and I want to say ‘yes!’ to every opportunity. I started noticing that, about every three months, I’d be in burnout. I looked at my life and everything I was doing was good. I was a CEO running a business that I love. I was serving on boards that I love. I was being mentored. I was teaching at the Kings University. All of these things were so good and yet I was exhausted and drinking too much caffeine and snacking too much.
I started to assess my life and realized I had become a ‘yes machine’ because I love being helpful and jumping in. We have so many opportunities in life, so how do we decide what to say ‘yes’ to and what not to? It’s been the hard-fought lesson in my own life, trying to learn how to narrow my focus rather than just amassing a ton of accomplishments and service opportunities but then not really showing up excellently. We’re a finite resource and if we spend all of our energy, we’re not budgeting for the opportunities God’s really setting us up for.
A practice that is often mentioned when talking about prioritizing and you’re protecting your mental health is the idea of setting boundaries. Is this a practice that you encourage those with whom you work to do?
Absolutely, it’s a non-negotiable. I work with a lot of high-achiever drivers that are naturally driven toward being helpful, doing the right thing, fighting for a cause, serving the underdog, making things happen. If we don’t have boundaries, then we spread ourselves way too thin and before we know it, we become more irritable, less clear, and less sharp. By setting boundaries, you’re actually protecting your best. As I said earlier, we are a finite resource. There is a limit to how many neuro-chemicals your body can reproduce in a day, so without quality sleep or time to replenish and do something creative, you’re not allowing the recharge and replenish to happen.
Boundaries are about setting aside time to honor how you’ve been made as a limited resource, so that you can replenish and then give your best ‘yes’ to the situations and the relationships that are fostering the greatest legacy of your life.
Why do women in the workplace overexert their ‘yes’ in their lives?
Being a psychologist, my passion is to help people go to the ‘hard drive level’ of themselves, not stopping at their conscious awareness or ‘software level’ of their inner world. Think of yourself as a computer. The software is everything you consciously know you should do. You read the books, go to the seminars, and notice the boundaries, but then we don’t act on what we learn. Why? Because there’s a hard drive, an unconscious mind that’s created by automaticity. So why do you keep overextending yourself in work, home, or community when you know you need to rest and prioritize? It’s probably something in your hard drive or unconscious mind that was set up early in life.
Work is the quickest and easiest way to assess how you felt as a child growing up in your family. As a child, you wanted to know, what is my role? Am I the strong one responsible? Do I get performance-based acceptance and approval? Do people want and love me because I’m helping with my siblings and being so responsible and helpful? Most of us have performance-based acceptance, which creates, at an unconscious level, the fear of man and people-pleasing, where we look to outsiders to affirm that you belong, are wanted, are smart, are capable, and have what it takes.
If you’re not getting enough feedback from your outside world, you’ll become even more needy for it, right? It’s like they say girls that date jerks, you know, because we’re wanting that approval from that person we think is unavailable. And so it’s a natural unconscious projection to take me as an employee or what rank wherever I am, the corporate structure and then whoever I see, even if you’re the ceo, seeing it as the trustees or the board or whomever, that I’m always looking for someone outside to validate me.
Along the way, we’ve accidentally put our sense of value and worth in outside people who are fickle, like a manager or boss. On accident, your unconscious mind has set up the approval of your workplace and your success as your new God. It’s an idol on accident. I’m not saying to not be excellent or don’t show up and do great work, but at an unconscious level, there’s this unconscious striving toward wanting that approval and acceptance, and without it, we feel anxious. This is where people fall into imposter syndrome and develop anxiety over time being a limited resource. Then we go into depression and feel weary and tired and burnt out because we’re looking for a God in the approval of whoever you’re looking to tell you that you’re succeeding at work. That source will never validate that unconscious question, which we really have to take back to the Lord for Him to answer it once and for all.
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.