Setting Boundaries 101
We’ve all been there. A close friend or maybe even someone less close like a colleague or an acquaintance asks you to participate in some function or benefit that you really aren’t too keen on attending. Yet when they ask you what do you say? Yes. Tiny word. Big impact.
For some of you, who don’t struggle with this issue, you might be thinking, “well if you didn’t want to, why did you say yes?” And therein lies the great question. Why do we say yes? Oftentimes, the simple answer is that we need to practice setting boundaries. There can be a number of underlying reasons that incline us to agree when we want to decline, but ultimately, if you have trouble setting boundaries, this is going to get the best of you far too often.
Conversely, due to anxiety, apprehension, and fear, you may say, ‘no,” when you really want to say yes. One of my dear friends told me a story that rings true for this aspect of boundary-setting (and you may not think it has to do with boundaries, but trust me, you’ll see why when we explore further).
In high school, she was always very athletic, but she desperately wanted to audition for a school play. A teacher had even invited her to the audition and to practice with the Drama Club. But she was terrified of what they might think if the tomboy showed up for Drama Club, or if the captain of the soccer team tanked her audition, just because she “thought” she could sing. Plus, she didn’t want to step on any toes and take a role or spot on stage that could go to someone else who was probably a BETTER performer than her. All these fears led to her declining the invitation to audition. No. Another tiny word. BIG impact.
You might think that setting boundaries doesn’t have to do with that story, but it does. Because sometimes we set the WRONG boundaries. Those are the boundaries that keep us WITHIN our comfort zone. Yet to live fully we need to immerse ourselves in all types of different experiences and environments throughout our lives and break free from the BAD boundaries that have become cages and safety nets we trap ourselves in, and CREATE boundaries where we need time for ourselves, and our true priorities.
The topic of boundaries can be funny. It can be somewhat paradoxical when you think about how setting PROPER boundaries can actually set you free. What I mean by that is… take the first example, you’re invited to attend and provide baked goods for a charity meeting you expressed a passing interest in joining. But now you’re not certain it fits with your current schedule or you’re more interested in joining another group. You feel the person inviting you might be offended or think poorly of you if you say no. Now you’ve committed yourself to something that ultimately doesn’t serve you. It won’t make you happy and it takes away your precious time and energy.
We need to learn to accept that we cannot PLEASE everyone and that our time is precious, and me-time, too, is deserving of a reservation in our schedules–we are allowed to prioritize OUR time however we see fit. The same rules apply to everyone else.
One way I like to skirt this issue is the classic line, “I’m not sure I’m available. Let me check my schedule and get back to you.” That way, you buy yourself time to decide whether or not this really does work for you and if it’s something you want to partake in. Some people just don’t like to be put on the spot.
Now, you might say that telling someone you’re busy when you aren’t is wrong. I believe it’s a white lie. Ultimately, it does no harm or very little harm. I wouldn’t advise allowing this to become a crutch, BUT as you get used to this and practice saying, “no.” It can be helpful. Now, I just say, “No thank you. That doesn’t interest me” …
– “Unfortunately, I am utilizing my free time elsewhere.”
– “I simply don’t have the mental stamina to engage in that level of social interaction.”
– “My current schedule does not allow me to use my free time on that.”
You’ll get the hang of it. Try to find a phrase that is honest and sounds natural for you. As someone who can get quite exhausted from over-stimulation and social engagements, sometimes I have to cancel plans after a tough workday and simply explain, “I do not have the wherewithal to do that tonight. Let’s reschedule.”
Obviously, you want to be a reliable person, and not do that all the time. But you must practice saying, no (or yes depending on the situation). Accept that you can’t please everyone all the time, AND still be there for yourself, and truly, canceling plans is NOT the end of the world.
So this week, I challenge you to set a boundary and stick to it. Say no. Or say YES. Say it intentionally and say it CONFIDENTLY. Practice.
If I can offer one last piece of advice: take time for YOU. Make a plan to do something just for you; spoil yourself. You deserve it! You’re worth it! Then if someone invites you to dinner or asks you to work late or whatever it might be – DON’T cancel on yourself. Tell them you are otherwise engaged. Because YOU ARE.
Self-care is #1. Don’t give it up. Do this and I bet your confidence will soar; and remember…
Confidence is freedom. More confidence Blogs