My sacred space is my home. I’m free to light my sage, do yoga, walk around naked, and be unapologetically me. I can unwind in my tiny, one-bedroom apartment and honestly, it’s my center of emotional grounding. I might feel like shedding a tear or throwing a glass across the room – it’s my temple – and it’s one of the only places where I can control the energies around me. I know that I can be real with myself when I’m by myself. My apartment is my bubble that separates me from the forces of the 'real-world' when I’ve had enough. I often wonder, how can I maintain this sense of personal space in places that aren’t so personal?
It starts with establishing boundaries. In the same way, the four walls of my apartment conceal me and confine me to my own personal space, boundaries (physical and spiritual) help to keep us grounded when we are at work, with friends and family, and living life. I’m not suggesting being a hermit, but in life, things are going to rub us the wrong way, things are going to get under our skin, and sometimes we’re going to have to speak up about it.
In every job I’ve ever worked, from retail to corporate America, there have been coworkers that I’ve liked and coworkers that I’ve disliked. Despite making an occasional friend or two on the clock, I’ve also met some of the most envious, conniving people as well. I’ll never forget the time I had a coworker who was perpetrating the role of being my friend, yet under her church-girl mask, she would repeat everything that I would say to other people on the job. Furthermore, during an incident regarding me telling lower-level associates that they couldn’t be in the manager’s office (which she took offense to), my life was threatened and I ended up reporting her to HR. Talk about hectic right? You can only imagine how stressful that job was for me but whether at work or in social settings, you are entitled to safe spaces.
Although I love my current position, every day isn’t a walk in the park. Some days I’m overwhelmed with the workload. Some days, a comment made by someone may upset me and sometimes having to work in team settings can be dreadful (I love my solitude!) Your coworkers and work environments can be out of your control but establishing a boundary at work can help you to keep your sanity on the clock. Rather than getting labeled as the “angry black girl,” take these steps to build boundaries with those around you.
1. Make friends, but be mindful that your professionalism is on the line. Know your boundaries when it comes to what you discuss with coworkers and how much of your personal life you bring to your job. Your personal business shouldn’t be a topic of discussion in the break room and neither should anyone else’s. If you find that you have coworkers who like to gossip, keep your interaction with them to a minimal.
2. Find a sacred space. If you don’t have your own cubicle or office, you can still find somewhere to take a minute to collect yourself. I keep crystals on my desk and I occasionally bring in an essential oil to smell while I’m at work. When things get a little too much for me, I’ll go to my car and take a quick power nap on my break. If you don’t have the luxury of taking a lunch break at work, try to take a quick bathroom break to breathe a little. It might even help to hear the running water from the sink. Relax a little if you need to.
3. Confront things when they happen if need be. If someone says something and you feel it threw you under the bus or it got to you, address it. Obviously, use tact when it comes to when to say something (in the middle of a company-wide meeting or via email may not be best), and take a minute to ponder on why you feel the way you do and what can be done to alleviate the issue. Speaking up for yourself creates a boundary for you because people will come to understand that you don’t tolerate certain things and behaviors. Again, you don’t have to be an “angry black girl,” but let your voice be heard.
4. When getting ready in the morning, use positive affirmations to help guide your day. Sometimes you need to tell yourself, “my sanity is worth protecting and I won’t let the things I can’t control get to me.” You can write yourself daily notes to read later at work, or keep a few sticky notes of affirmations on your fridge to read before you head out the door. Despite the workplace stressors, it’s our choice to have a great day or not. Listening to positive, inspirational music on the ride to work helps a lot too.
5. Leave work at work. Unless you come home and work on assignments, when you come back to the safety of your home, you should leave all unwanted stress and baggage from work at the office. Try not to internalize what happened at work when you get home. Turn on the T.V. or some music to get whatever you were dealing with at work off of your mind. Do a daily self-care ritual like having a glass of wine and read your favorite book or take a warm shower/bath to help yourself relax.
Whatever you do, understand that creating boundaries at work is key to your sanity and if you don’t protect your sanity, who will?