Boundaries & the art of saying no
(Aka The Murican word that we also need to learn to incorporate into our lives here in the North)
Today I felt the need to write about boundaries. How do we inforce healthy boundaries in our relationships (personal, work and romantic) and communicate them to other people wisely. It’s a thought-provoking topic and something I’ve at times personally struggled with. I am still learning to draw the line in certain areas of my life and unfortunately more too often than I’d like to admit, I have a tendency of being just a little too floppy which will result in me feeling drained.
Firstly, if you’re unfamiliar with the word ”boundary” or wording ”having boundaries”, what this refers to are your personal limits and guidelines (your rules so to speak) that you establish to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards you. It also refers to how you will respond when someone passes those limits. Think about them as your invisible fences you have around certain matters. These boundaries can involve how you want to be treated in a romantic relationship, how you wish to be treated at work or just with other people period. Your boundaries are not static and they are also constantly being shaped and created and tend to shift over time.
News flash: people cross our boundaries constantly. What it basically means is that we are imperfect people living in an imperfect world with other imperfect fellow humans. Our boundaries will get crossed as at some point someone will do, say or ask for something that does not feel right to you. Despite the mundane nature of having boundaries, I had never heard of the expression before moving to Mexico and befriending a bunch of Americans/Canadians. It’s simply not a word that is used enough in our Scandinavian culture. Thus, I feel like it needs to be addressed more, hence today’s lil blog post. Because at the end of the day what it comes down to is having the balls/ovaries of saying no when we don’t feel like it. Why one might ask, well the truth is, people are sick and tired, and way too many people in our society burn out due to their boundaries being crossed over and over again. But this is not just in the world of biz, maybe you’ll notice it in your personal life or perhaps even in your romantic life. Just a tiny example is if when you feel obligated to for instance attend an event you don’t want to go to but you go anyways. What this comes down to is your lack of boundaries/ your lack of communicating them. As you start to see, your boundaries are part of your everyday life in many areas as they determine what works for you and what doesn’t.
Some argue that having healthy and clear boundaries has a dirrect correlation with your self-esteem. I agree to a certain extent, but I think it’s more complicated than that. It also has to do with self awareness, your communication skills and the idea of being a ”yes (wo)man” or plain simple, just being too darn nice. In the corporate world there might be a myriad of reasons why someone is allowing the workload to keep piling up. Perhaps the person is afraid of losing their job, perhaps they are hoping for a promotion etc. The thing is, it’s not just black and white.
So how do we create healthy, reasonable boundaries? Good question. I am no master as I honestly like I mentioned, still battle with this myself, but, I have gathered a few tricks and tips under my belt. Below shared:
1. Gain clarity and learn to check in with yourself. Watch your emotions, feelings, energy level, mood, thoughts. If you’re feeling exhausted or drained, the odds are something is sucking the life out of you. If you notice yourself feeling resentment towards someone or something, most likely you need to change something. Recap of step one: become aware.
2. When you’ve pin pointed a situation where you’re unhappy or feel like someone is taking advantage of you or doing anything else that triggers you, mark it mentally. Figure out what, exactly, you're comfortable with and what you aren't. Step two is about learning about and setting your limits.
3. Make self care your priority. I’ve said this before, but the most important relationship you’ll ever have is the one you have with yourself. Put yourself first. For realz. Step three is taking your power back and wanting to change things.
4. Communication (surpise surprise!). Once you get clear on what matters most to you, then you can take the bigger step of communicating this to others. As hard as it is, you’ll have to verbalize where you stand and perhaps even break it down for others to understand where you’re coming from. Be direct. Like we’ve seen on Pinterest and the gram, growth (and sometimes change!) happen outside of the comfort zone. Step four in a nutshell: take action.
5. Baby steps. Just like with learning any new skill, it takes practice and courage. Start small and be assertive when communicating what you’re okay with and what not. Step five is a reminder of how you can be strict, yet soft at the same time.
6. Reach out. Sometimes we need a lil push/kick or enouragement from our peers, friends or fam. Talk to them about your feels and perhaps you’ll gain some new insight or another perspective around your issue. At the end of the day, we are all different and how we perceive the world is our reality. By changing perspective, your whole situation might change. Step six is a reminder that you’re not alone, ask for help.
What’s important to understand is that everyone has their own set of boundaries and we are all responsible for holding them and also sensing and respecting other people’s boundaries. As I am typing this I am also realizing how nuanced this topic is and how it actually affets all areas of our lives constantly. We have boundaries in all areas of life: emotional, career, relationship, physical, sexual and the list goes on. Like with all things in life, it takes some time for your patterns of boundaries to develop, and it may take some time to relearn and practice something differently, consistency is key.
Now, I’d love to hear from you. How do you communicate your boundaries without upsetting someone? Do you struggle with this issue? Do you find it easier to have clear boundaries in some areas of your life, but in others not so much?
With love and healthy boundaries,