Jen: Manage Your Boundaries, Manage Your Stress
“I was born in MN in 1986, but lived in Kansas until about third grade. I was a ‘normal kid’ there.” You can hear the excitement, passion, and loss in her voice as Jen talks about her memories participating in 4H, showing rabbits, being a part of the rodeo, and sewing club as a kid. Her family moved back to Minnesota when she was 8 or 9 years old, and this is when Jen recalls the bullying began.
According to authors of The Confidence Code For Girls, Katty Kay and Clair Shipman, a girls confidence begins to plummet at the age of 8 years old. They attribute this to the “avalanche of biological and cultural signals telling girls to be careful, value perfection, and avoid risks.” It is this sort of conditioning that leads girls to believe they are not worthy of establishing healthy boundaries for themselves, but rather attempt to please and appease those around them.
Jen describes how the violations of her emotional boundaries she experienced from ages 8 to 13 led her to attempt to take her own life at school one day. Jen says what happened after was a “monumental event – I got a label.” Jen was diagnosed with Autism. “Back then it wasn’t understood so I was just pushed through the system.” So began the violation of her intellectual boundaries.
After high school Jen attended an educational program for adults with different abilities. During this time, she experienced the traumatic event of unexpectedly losing her Mother in a car accident. Due to the global lack of understanding of Jen’s Autism diagnosis at the time, she was not provided with the coping skills necessary to manage these stressors in an appropriate fashion.
She eventually found herself in an unhealthy romantic relationship that she knew she needed to get out of, but did not feel she knew how.
Jen scheduled an appointment with a therapist, and at her first appointment told them she did not care how they helped her get away from this relationship, but she needed help, NOW. In that moment Jen established one of her first boundaries that would ultimately lead to on-going success through more boundary setting, stress management, and confidence.
During this period of healing and growth Jen found support in several local organizations, which led her to Life-Work Planning Center. Through one-on-one counseling with a Life-Work Planning Center Self-Sufficiency Counselor, Jen learned about confidence, boundaries, and stress management. She says boundaries with herself were the hardest part – to “just say no.” Jen says she learned how to think of boundaries “like a cup. If I keep giving, giving, and giving, I won’t have anything left.”
One-on-one counseling gave Jen the opportunity to practice interview skills, learn to navigate the local bus system, and how to establish emotional, intellectual, and time boundaries at work. Life-Work Planning Center was also able to provide financial support for interview clothing. Jen says, “the best thing they did for me was teach me I can actually be myself and love myself, and gave me a feeling I had somebody who believed in me despite my disability, that I was wanted.”
“Life is HARD”, Jen says. She recommends that “no matter what others say or think, consider yourself a butterfly. Just when it starts to get hard is when you grow your beautiful wings.”
Since working with Life-Work Planning Center to develop healthy personal and professional boundaries, Jen has also learned how to manage her stress better, or as she says, “just roll with it”, because the stressors “are still there, they don’t just go away.”
Jen’s resilience in establishing and respecting her own boundaries led to an increase in her confidence as well as her ability to adapt to everyday stressors. Jen is currently employed full time, has her own apartment, and has developed a support network for herself, including a healthy romantic relationship. She has had an opportunity to share what she calls her “tool box” with other women as well, and reminds them that “the stars don’t know they shine – but dang do they light up the sky.”