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The B Word - Boundaries! How to Say 'No' Without Feeling Like A B!^$*

Updated: Jun 20, 2022

Are you comfortable saying no to people? How often are you taking things on, doing things you don't actually want to do, because you're worried that other people will be mad at you?

For many of the women I work with, the number one thing I hear (ok, the two number one things I hear...) are

1) I feel like I've lost myself, and

2) I'm exhausted.

Both of these straight up come back to boundaries.

We're in summer now, and often times summer is busy season! And when you have a busy season, it is your responsibility to know what you need so that you can show up at your best. That will require some boundaries.

So, I'm going to split this conversation up into two parts:

Part One: What Boundaries Are and What Boundaries Are Not.

Part Two: How to Set Them and How to Support Yourself In The Process.

If there's one thing I know for sure, it's that if you haven't been a person who sets boundaries in the past, this process will be UUUUUNNNNCOMFORTABLE!

But it is so worth it! Because YOU are so worth it!

THIS right here is true self-care: How you show up for yourself.

Ready? Let's dive in.

What You Need to Know About Boundaries

First and foremost: Boundaries are the limits and rules we set for ourselves within relationships (be those romantic, platonic, work, familial, general social interaction, as well as with time and money).

Boundaries are for you - they are not about other people.

Often times we begin to look at boundaries when we realize we are doing much more for others than we are for ourselves: care taking, bending over backwards to accommodate others, over-worrying on someone else's behalf, or simply being afraid to say no. And, as it's commonly stated as: People Pleasing.

But here's a hard truth: Boundaries are a direct reflection of ourselves.

I'm sure you've heard the phrase: We teach people how to treat us.

What boundaries are NOT

If you grew up with parents with poor (rigid or little to no) boundaries, it can be confusing to know what they are or are not.

So let's start here.

Boundaries are not game-playing, manipulation or to change someone else's behavior.

They are not a means to get what you want or to coerce someone to do what you want. That is control. That is not a boundary. That is manipulation. A boundary is, "This makes me ___uncomfortable___, and I am going to leave." It's about YOU doing what you need to do to support you. It's not about the other person's behavior.

Boundaries are not threats or ultimatums. You set boundaries to care for yourself and the other person gets to choose what choice the choice they make for themselves in regards to their behavior. Not to please you. Example: If you really loved me you would ____. That's a threat. "If you continue to ___yell I at me____ I will ____walk away___." That's a boundary.

Boundaries are not selfish!! Can we please get that out of our heads once and for all!

If you don't have strong boundaries you may see people with strong boundaries and call them selfish. Often times, people with zero boundaries have the hardest time dealing with boundaries because they expect others to behave in the same manner they do. Of course, people who benefit the most from your lack of boundaries will be the loudest about you having them now. They will try to guilt you. After all: they've had huge gains! Boundaries are about taking responsibility for the life you want to live. Boundaries are the foundation of your self worth: they are how you show yourself that you matter in your life. Be it with time or in relationships.

Boundaries are not justifying or explaining. "This is why and I want you to know this and then because of that, I can't this and this." Boundaries are, "Thank you for the invitation, but no thank you." If you actually do want to attend something with someone, but already have plans (be it with other people or with a book and your couch) you can add: but next week would work. When we justify or explain we're trying to soothe our own discomfort. Often times, we just don't want other people to not like us or judge us. It's from the old survival part of our brains - when our lives literally depended on not being kicked out of the tribe.

Examples of Poor Boundaries

Or in therapy terms: Porous Boundaries and Rigid Boundaries.

  • Difficulty saying No to the requests of others. Or, fear of rejection if you do not comply with others. (Full disclosure: This was a big one for me. The need to be liked - or at least not actively disliked was strong with this one.)

  • Going hand in hand with that: being dependent on the opinions of others. Constantly looking outside of yourself for answers or opinions is a reflection of your lack of self-trust. Let that sink in...

  • Bending over backwards to make sure everyone else is taken care of. For me, I had a habit of making exceptions for clients (moving schedules around, squeezing them into hours that don't really work for me, etc.), and when they would late cancel or no show I would be so mad. Maybe you don't have clients or a business, but how many times have you said, "I could really use a relaxing night in" or some down time, and then someone calls and you find yourself going out when you don't really want to? Or you find yourself filling that downtime with something else?

Caveat: Maybe you want a relaxing night at home and you want to attend the night out. It's important to look at what's behind the wanting to attend. If you're body is telling you that you need to relax but your brain is screaming FOMO you may want to examine what's behind that fear.

  • Becoming over involved in other people's problems or constantly trying to save people. Believing that other people are not able to take care of themselves generally stems from your low self worth. Being the 'care taker', 'savior' or having 'martyr syndrome' often creates a sense of worth outside of ourselves. It may start very innocently: helping others feels good! But when you begin to derive your self-worth from that action outside of yourself, you've slipped into the shadow side.

  • If you're wondering why you often feel hurt, resentful, or always feel let down by others there are definitely boundaries missing. Communication is key! I was the queen of setting boundaries in my head but never actually saying them out loud...and then getting resentful about people crossing lines they didn't know existed...

  • Vague boundaries: Keep setting boundaries without following through. Example: I am no longer working after 6pm! And then you find yourself at the computer at 8pm. Or, your levels of tolerance keep increasing. "I'm going to bed at 10pm." aaaand here we are at 1am... Porous boundaries with yourself.

  • At the other end of the poor boundary spectrum is rigid boundaries: Becoming intolerant of others. Cutting people out and walking away rather than leaning into looking at your role in the relationship. Are you in complain, blame and control mode instead of taking personal responsibility with you role in this relationship? Are there patterns? Blame is a huge red flag for me. When I get into blame I know I'm actually in the dark side of control and it's time take a step back and examine what's not working. Sometimes it's that I need to check my expectations, and sometimes it's that I need to have a conversation I've been avoiding.

  • Are you in a constant state of anger all the time with all the things? Anger is the superficial feeling: it's easier to express than the feelings under the anger like fear, sadness, resentment, grief. There are poor boundaries with anger - either with others or with yourself that's manifesting outwardly onto others. Examine the anger - what is it trying to tell you?

When it comes down to it, ask yourself:

What do I need to feel my best and show up at my best every, single day?

Where in your life are you NOT currently holding boundaries?

Look at your current way of thinking and being, and take inventory, because next week I'm going to discuss what healthy boundaries look like, and what setting them will require from you.

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