Let’s talk about boundaries. Do you have trouble setting and then keeping them?
If you do, you’re not the only one.
The other day, my friend was sharing with me all the things she begrudgingly agreed to do for one of her friends.
“So don’t do it,” I told her.
Her response? “But I feel bad.”
I realized that when we say yes to things we don’t want to do or agree to take on more than we can handle, we’re not being completely honest.
How does the thought of saying no to someone make you feel? Maybe you don’t want that person to judge you, or to be upset with you. Maybe you’re struggling with people-pleasing.
But what happens when you say yes when you really should — and can — say no? You may feel angry or get burned out. You may do less than stellar work because you’re coming from a place of frustration and resentment.
In this scenario, it’s not your kindest, best self that’s showing up.
When you overlook your boundaries, the people on the receiving end aren’t getting the best of you. You’re also not getting the best of you — and you may be signaling to others that your boundaries aren’t set in stone.
Do you feel like you’re taking too much on at work or another area in your life? Are you feeling like you want to set healthy boundaries but you feel bad or don’t know where to start?
Here are three ways to set clear, healthy boundaries and to do so from a place of confidence.
1. You are not pizza! Accept that you can’t please everyone.
My sister told my 13-year old niece the other day: “You are not pizza! You can’t please everyone.”
People-pleasing can start at a really young age. I don’t know about you, but I was told often how important it is not to disappoint other people.
In some ways that allowed me to build a lot of empathy. But it’s a message that can also lead to toxic thinking and behaviors.
What about disappointing yourself?
When you don’t observe your boundaries, you’re telling yourself your needs aren’t important enough. What is the impact of that? How does that make you feel?
Let go of what other people think of you. Let go of the need to please everyone.
I know this is hard.
One of my biggest self-saboteurs is my fear of rejection which shows up as people-pleasing. I often have a need to be liked because rejection brings up a lot of discomfort for me.
But the truth is you’re going to disappoint people in your life at some point. That’s part of life.
Can you come to terms with that?
2. Pick your poison.
The other day I was speaking with my mom. I love my mom, she is one of my heroes, but I didn’t learn to set clear boundaries from her. Maintaining boundaries is something she’s still trying to navigate.
We were talking about how difficult it is to say no even when you really want to.
All that guilt shows up.
The thing is, you’re also going to feel bad if you cross your own boundaries.
Either way you’re going to be uncomfortable, so pick your poison.
You can either be uncomfortable because you’re honoring what you need, which means disappointing someone else, or you can be uncomfortable because you’re meeting someone else’s needs but ultimately being inauthentic by doing something you don’t want to do.
One form of discomfort harms you. The other form of discomfort serves you.
I’d go as far to say that it serves others, as well.
It’s powerful when we see others uphold their boundaries and meet their needs.
3. Make the choice and celebrate yourself.
I know that it won’t be easy to choose the discomfort that serves you. Sit with that discomfort, and allow yourself to feel it. It’s uncomfortable not just because you’ve said no but because you’re breaking years of conditioning: to saying yes, not meeting your own needs, or people-pleasing.
Allow that discomfort. Make the choice to maintain the boundary anyway.
Then go celebrate yourself for doing the courageous thing. Not just because you’ve earned it but because celebrating difficult choices and big steps leads to building healthy habits and experiencing more success.