"Yes." People Learning to Say, "No."
The Practice of Healthy Boundary Setting.
How many of us out there are “yes” people? Is it difficult for you to say “no” when your boss asks you to take on a project or a loved one asks you to take care of some errands, leaving you feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated? If you are curious about ways to address this unsettled feeling or understand it, thinking about boundary setting is a good place to start. Very often people end up justifying or rationalizing what’s been asked. When we seek to please others, we become really good at convincing ourselves that it’s smaller than it really is or that it isn’t as big an ask as it seems. In the meantime, we end up taking on much more than we can realistically handle.
The good news: This is normal We all at some time or another have said “yes” thinking that it will help us in the long run. But, the truth is that more likely than not, we are left feeling resentful, unmotivated, and wishing we had the time to get to the things we had on our own checklists. How do we notice it, address it, and prevent it from becoming a burden?
Boundaries and Being Present for Others
This is a common challenge that many successful people work to overcome especially in high-stakes and high-pressure work environments. The expectation often (not always) becomes a standard that places high value on productivity and low value on quality of health and life for others. We may even think that it’s a “way of doing things” and is the norm. While good for creating resilience, it can easily slide into exhaustion, lack of motivation, and create long-term stress. Healthy boundaries are a way to prevent ourselves from falling prey to others’ expectations of us, even the pressure we place on ourselves to perform.
Healthy boundaries include being able to identify our own needs and communicate them to others. They also allow us to set our own standards based on what we believe will give us the most energy, productivity, and motivation to get things done. Overall, when we have healthy boundaries, we live a more fulfilled and satisfying life and experience healthier relationships and connections to others around us.
What is Healthy Boundary Setting?
Positivepyschology.com defines healthy boundaries as, “those boundaries that are set to make sure mentally and emotionally you are stable” (Prism Health North Texas, n.d.)” (Accessed 11.8.2021). The author describes that often our identities are crafted based on how we are in service to others, it serves to validate self, establish a sense of connection to others, and also shapes our identity.
When we seek to please others before ourselves, sometimes we put more value on being liked and define ourselves based on the perceptions and the expectations others have of us. Some of us might grow up in a culture where we place high value on community and family care over ourselves. Often, it is seen as selfish or self-centered to think of ourselves. However, we are discovering that when people are able to develop a personal sense of security and decision-making over what works for them and what doesn’t, the more willing and able they are to support others than when others expect us to always be available.
Setting Your Priorities, So You Can Be Available for Others
Having healthy boundaries helps you to focus on your day-to-day life and have a sense of control of your life and personal well-being. It truly speaks to the common saying that “we can’t fill other’s cups if ours isn’t full in the first place.” Healthy boundary setting helps us harness the energy, emotional, physical, and mental stability for ourselves so we can good a solid for others.
Healthy boundaries help us:
- Be available for others.
- Have the energy and motivation to be productive and present.
- Know what our limits are.
- Establish a clearer sense of our core values and what is important.
- Identify healthy ways of communicating our needs to others.
- Ask for help or support when we need it.
- Manage areas of our life where we might feel overwhelmed or burdened.
- Establish a self-care routine for mental, physical, and emotional stability.
Simple Steps Toward Building Healthy Boundaries
Establishing our personal boundaries, are not only good for our overall health but, serves to shield us from others who may want to test our boundaries. The other benefit of being able to build healthy boundaries is that we are able to become better at noticing when or if someone is being manipulative, dependant, or setting unrealistic and burdensome expectations on us. Sometimes, this can be intentional or unintentional, so it’s important not to set our boundaries too hard. We don’t want to build barriers and shut people out. By openly naming what you can and cannot do, in a respectful way allows others to know what your needs are. It is important to stay consistent and to hold yourself accountable for holding those boundaries, you (and others) will thank you for it.
Here are some simple steps for building healthy boundaries:
- Identify what needs to change or be addressed.
- Identify your personal motivation for saying “yes” and/or what the risk is for saying “no”.
- If you are motivated and want to say, “Yes” and there is no burden to you – do it.
- If you are hesitant and want to say, “No”. Ask yourself: “How can I enforce a healthy boundary in this situation?”
- Follow up with what you’d like to change or address.
- Communicate with compassion and sincerity
- Offer alternatives to support the other person (but, within your bounds)
- Make it about your boundaries and not about the other person.
The Self-Care Connection: Know Your Limits
Having healthy personal boundaries is an essential component of self-care. Having personal boundaries are established limits we set for others that preserve our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. They are a form of maintaining our personal sense of self-worth, confidence, and security. Here are examples of ways that we can establish healthy boundaries:
- “ Let me check on that first and see if I’m available. If I’m not, I will see who can help.”
- “ I have four other deadlines in front of this one. I will need until X date and time to get what you’re asking for done. Would you still like my support with this or would you like to ask X person? ”
- “ My schedule is really full right now, can I get back to you tomorrow? I will have a better idea then, of what my schedule looks like. “
- “ Thank you for reaching out to me to ask, you know I would love to do this and it’s difficult to say ‘no’ right now. How does the week after next work for you?”
- “ I’d love to meet in person, however, I’ll need to connect over the phone, just this time, does that work okay? ”
I’m here to support you. As a professional life coach and consultant, I am trained to work with high functioning, successful, every day people to develop the tools and strategies for setting boundaries. I am available to support you with establishing healthy personal boundaries. (We also make good accountability partners to help you learn how to best communicate with boss’, co-workers, close friends, children and family!)