Last week in our boundaries series, we discussed how to establish healthy boundaries with others. Let’s explore this a little further with one of the hardest parts about establishing boundaries:
Developing the ability to say ‘no’ can empower your life, save you time and energy and help you accomplish your goals.
Have you ever gotten to the end of your day and thought, what did I even accomplish today?
You helped a co-worker complete a project.
You listened to your friend process a problem.
You ran to the store to grab something your child needed for school tomorrow.
You did accomplish a lot, but it wasn’t what YOU needed to get done. You came through for others while your own to-do list just kept getting longer.
So how can this change?
The key is to learn to say NO to others so you can say YES to you.
What keeps people from saying no? I can think of three common roadblock:
Guilt says you have done something wrong. I encourage you to question the guilt. Are you really doing something wrong by spending your time and energy on what you need to get done?
If the situation were reversed:
Would you want someone to help you out of guilt?
Would you want them to neglect their life in order to help you? Probably not.
When someone tells you no, how do you feel? You may be disappointed, but can you survive that disappointment? Yes, you can. And so can others. So if you say yes to everyone, are you protecting them from all disappointment in their life? No. That is impossible. We all disappoint each other.
Don’t let guilt drive your bus!
Most of us wouldn’t say that other people are more important, but the message is clear in our actions: I believe others are more important than me.
I know what some readers are thinking: Isn’t it selfish to put yourself first?
I’m not suggesting you say no to others EVERY time, or that you are much more important than everyone else. I am suggesting a balance between yes and no. I’m saying you are EQUALLY as important as others!
Allowing yourself to matter is healthy. When we always say yes to others, we are actually in an unhealthy place. Being healthy means you can consider what your goals are before you say yes to others, and trust that you are not the only person who can meet others’ needs.
It takes practice
I know this is a hard concept for many people, and it takes practice. Find a friend who is safe, and tell them you’re practicing saying no. Then do it, and see what happens. Tolerate the guilt, and then see how it feels when you accomplish your own priorities.
Pay attention this week for opportunities to practice a more empowered life, and enjoy the outcome!
Next week we’ll continue the Boundaries series by discussing the 3rd roadblock to saying no: being afraid of offending others or hurting their feelings. I’ve got some great ideas and can’t wait to share them with you!
Donna Durham, MMFT
President and Co-Founder