How many times have you been asked to do something and said, “Yes” when you truly meant, “No?” The answer simply popped out of your mouth before you fully processed the level of commitment, your schedule or even what you wanted to do. You replay the situation later and see how it could have been different, while experiencing feelings of regret, resentment and frustration. Then, you fully realize, “I don’t want to do this.” Multiple instances in my past are playing in my head as I write this and think about my old, automatic “sure” response!
To me boundary setting involves checking-in, clarity and valuing your desires to determine if a requested action, task or commitment is supportive of your goals and intentions, BUT there is more to it. It also involves how we interact in the world – our conversations, how we make requests and how much value we place on our own desires, time and well-being.
Here are three keys to setting boundaries and unlocking your true, genuine “YES” and feel respected at home, at work and in the community.
- Identify what you want and your priorities. It is easy to be swayed by work pressures, competition, and family obligations. Pay attention to the “shoulds” and “have tos.” I see these as “red flags” or warning signals. It will be helpful if you have specific intentions already established involving work, home/family and socially/community involvement. Write your priorities down in your calendar or planner with time frames. Then before you commit, you can say you need to refer to your calendar and give yourself time to check-in.
- Know how you want to be treated. As I have mentioned to clients, it is our responsibility to treat ourselves with respect and compassion, then others will follow. We cannot expect others to create supportive and healthy situations/environments for us. How we are treated at home, at work or in social circles starts with us and our decisions. Do you sacrifice your personal time to work longer hours, skip meals or stay up late to watch television. I’ll admit, I have and I realize in the long run, it isn’t worth it. In other words, if a healthy diet, exercise program or sleep routine are priorities as a part of your self-care program, make these non-negotiable and schedule according (as mentioned above).
- Be aware of your habitual responses and tendencies. We each have established habits and patterns that may contribute to how we react in situations, to requests or how we respond under pressure – avoiding, playing small, people-pleasing, over-achieving, etc. Avoid making decisions out of old conditioning (habits), guilt or fear of disappointing others. Awareness of our automatic responses is a powerful first step in making conscious choices in the moment.
Utilizing these few boundary setting strategies and feeling confident saying “No” allows you to say “Yes” allowing you to be open and have room for more of what you want. I loved receiving the following feedback after a recent workshop when the attendee put new boundary setting strategies into place.
“The workshop has already helped me feel comfortable saying no and MEANING it. I don’t say no to something and pedal backward. This feels SO GOOD! I’m also surprised by how receptive and ok people are with me saying no.” ~ Tessa (Workshop Attendee)
Are you ready to make decisions and commitments in a conscious way? To truly advocate for what you want and to take better care of yourself and allow others to do the same? If so, try these intital strategies above, respect yourself and speak up!