Reclaim Your Life: Unapologetically Say No & Set Strong Boundaries

May 1, 2023

Have you ever caught yourself agreeing to everything that is asked of you, only to discover that you’re sacrificing your own dreams and well-being in the process? It’s time to explore the often-overlooked consequences of not setting boundaries. Rest assured, you’re not alone in this battle; countless exceptional business owners grapple with striking the right balance between satisfying clients and serving others, all while safeguarding their own personal and professional health.

The problem with being a people pleaser

Consistently putting others’ needs before our own may seem like a noble pursuit, but the reality is that being a people pleaser can take a heavy toll on our emotional well-being and overall health. By prioritising others, we often inadvertently send ourselves the message that our needs are less important, which can lead to a whole host of issues, including undermining our self esteem and sapping our confidence in our own abilities. When we don’t meet our own expectations – or have to disappoint others because we have taken on too much, we end up falling into the trap of constantly apologising for our own existence and shortcomings. This not only serves to further damage our self esteem, it also trains others to expect even more from us! It’s not hard to see how quickly this situation can become unhealthy and unsustainable.

The constant urge to say “yes” to everyone and everything has the potential to trick us into neglecting our self-care. This is not only emotionally draining, it also puts us at risk of physical and emotional exhaustion, stress, and burnout. As we continue to put others first, we may struggle to find the time and energy to invest in our own well-being, causing a ripple effect that ultimately impacts every aspect of our lives. Over time, this pattern of behaviour becomes habitual, making it increasingly difficult for us to recognise and honour our own needs. Furthermore, our ability to effectively serve others and achieve our goals is severely hindered when we’re operating from a place of constant depletion, making it crucial to break free from this detrimental cycle.

Having unclear or non-existent boundaries often leads to difficulties in maintaining healthy relationships. When we don’t set limits with others, we can feel taken advantage of, which fosters feelings of resentment and erodes our trust, leaving us feeling unloved and lonely. This can create another vicious cycle where we continuously give in to others’ demands in order to prove our worth to them, while further diminishing our belief in our own value, because our efforts are never enough and there’s always someone wanting more. This ongoing struggle only exacerbates the challenge of establishing healthy boundaries in the future. Moreover, an ongoing lack of boundaries can result in an inability to differentiate between genuine requests for help and instances where others may be taking advantage of our kindness. As we become more aware of this distinction, we empower ourselves to make more informed decisions, ultimately resulting in healthier connections that are based on mutual respect and understanding.

Finally, being a people pleaser can cause us to inadvertently trample our own boundaries. When the constant pressure to conform to others’ expectations results in us constantly compromising our own values and principles, we are effectively allowing ourselves to be treated like a doormat. This self-sabotage not only wears away at our self-respect and confidence but also perpetuates a false belief that we “SHOULD” be doing more for others, even at the expense of our own well-being. This internal conflict between our authentic selves and the people-pleasing persona can often leave us feeling disconnected and inauthentic, making it difficult to embrace our true passions and purpose. By reclaiming our sense of self and setting boundaries, we begin to realign our actions with our values, ultimately paving the way for a more fulfilling and balanced life.

When you say “yes” to others, are you actually saying “no” to yourself?

When you say “yes” to someone else’s needs, do you ever stop first to consider whether that answer is in your own best interest? Before agreeing to fulfil someone else’s request, it’s crucial to pause and consider if that “yes” is truly for the highest good of all. Are they genuinely in need, and are you the most suitable person to provide assistance? If not, why are you saying “yes” to them? Reflecting on these questions allows you to honour your integrity and personal well-being. Checking in with your head, heart, and gut will help you determine whether saying “yes” aligns with your values and priorities. Take a moment to evaluate the situation and make a conscious choice, as this protects you from overextending yourself, enabling you to maintain a healthier balance between your commitments to others and the time you dedicate to your own needs and desires.

It is also important to consider whether you are actually being helpful when you say “yes” or if you are perpetuating a habitual pattern of behaviour that is actually harmful to you. Is that what the other person wants? In this context, it is necessary to distinguish between what you and the other person NEED, and what you both EXPECT.

A need refers to a fundamental requirement that is essential for a person’s well-being. At times, your needs may conflict with those of the other person. Rather than simply sacrificing your needs for theirs, consider how you might negotiate a win win solution where everyone’s needs are met. As an example from my business, I have set a standard turnaround time for contract drafting of 4-6 weeks. This ensures that I have the time I need to give my full attention to each contract I work on, without compromising my need for self care or my need to not be always stressed and under pressure, as I was before I set this boundary. Sometimes, a client’s need for a contract is urgent. Rather than turn them away, I offer them the option of paying my urgency fee for a faster turnaround. This compensates me for the extra stress and effort involved in meeting their needs. It is win win because the balance between giving and receiving feels fair and equitable to us both. In situations like this where you want to help someone and meet their needs, it is much easier to say “no, but…” and offer them an option than it is to say “no, go away.” It also beats saying “no, I’m sorry” in a situation where you have nothing to apologise for!

An expectation, on the other hand, is a belief or anticipation about how a situation should unfold or how someone should behave, often based on personal experiences, societal norms, or cultural expectations. We manage other people’s expectations when we clearly communicate our boundaries. I mention my standard turnaround time consistently – on my sales pages, in my contracts, and in my conversations with clients. I also apply it consistently, so that I am treating everyone the same. This consistency gives me the courage to protect my needs, even when they clash with other people’s expectations. We also need to manage our own expectations by taking the time to consider our motivations. When faced with the reality of saying “no,” we often worry about the potential consequences, such as appearing unkind, damaging a relationship, disappointing someone, or missing out on an opportunity. These expectations often stem from our past experiences and internal assumptions, rather than the reality of how people will actually react.

It is very easy to get into the habit of assessing how much saying “no” could cost us. That’s why it’s equally important to carefully consider the cost of saying “yes” in a particular situation. Too often we load ourselves up with external obligations based on expectations rather than needs, letting this distract us from focusing on our own important plans and visions. This can lead to a frustrating lack of progress and demoralising pile of unfinished tasks and neglected dreams. Honesty with yourself and understanding your motivations is key to setting boundaries that you can stand by and communicate with conviction. This level of self-awareness, in turn, helps ensure that your actions are respected by those who care about you, because they understand & appreciate the delicate dance involved in balancing mutual needs.

How saying “yes” can sabotage your success

Not setting boundaries that you believe in, or failing to enforce boundaries you do believe, can stifle your professional growth. Constantly saying yes to others and putting their needs before your own is likely to result in your own responsibilities and opportunities for development being ignored. Think of it like trying to tend to everyone else’s garden while your own turns into a tangled mess of weeds. Ironically, by trying to help others flourish, you may end up neglecting the very roots of your own success and well-being.

When you constantly place yourself at the mercy of other people’s requests, you may also inadvertently create a perception that you’re always available and willing to cater to their needs before your own. Training your clients, colleagues, family, and friends to expect that you will always say “yes” to their requests, even if it is not in your best interests or the best interests of your business, means you are far more likely to disappoint them when you reach capacity and have to finally admit you can’t do everything. Overcommitting yourself in this manner might seem like a way to maintain positive relationships, but it often leads to the opposite effect when you can no longer meet everyone’s expectations. Proactively establishing and communicating healthy boundaries helps to create a foundation of trust and mutual understanding, fostering stronger personal and professional connections in the long run.

It is much healthier for your relationships to ensure that those you live and work with are prepared for you to put your own oxygen mask on first. If you don’t prioritise your own well-being, you dramatically reduce your ability to have a positive impact on the world. By being unapologetically assertive about your boundaries, you can maintain your integrity and strengthen your relationships through transparency and mutual respect. Moreover, standing firm in your convictions sets a positive example for others, inspiring them to cultivate their own healthy boundaries and fostering a supportive environment where everyone’s needs are valued and respected. In this way, you not only nurture your own well-being but also contribute to the collective growth and well-being of those around you.

As I have mentioned above, another hidden cost of continuously saying “yes” is that it can damage your self-esteem and confidence. Overextending yourself can make you feel like you’re spread too thin and unable to meet the high expectations you’ve set for yourself, leading to feelings of inadequacy. This can weaken self-confidence and make it difficult to assert yourself, which can have a negative impact on both your personal and professional relationships. By recognising the importance of setting and maintaining boundaries, you give yourself the space to focus on your strengths, build your self-assurance, and develop the resilience needed to navigate challenging situations.

The key to breaking free from the self-sabotaging cycle of saying “yes” is to understand that setting boundaries is not selfish. In fact, it’s essential for your well-being and long-term success. By establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries, you give yourself the space to focus on your goals, nurture your passions, and invest in your personal growth. The more you embrace the power of saying “no” when it’s appropriate, the more you’ll find yourself standing unapologetically in your own power, prioritising your needs while still empathising with those who may be, unavoidably, disappointed. Keep in mind, anyone who is not willing to understand and respect your need for boundaries is not a good fit for you to work or collaborate with in the first place.

How I can help

If you struggle to say no, or are seeking guidance and support in your personal and professional development journey, I invite you to explore my Serenity Connective membership. Throughout the year, we dedicate each month to meaningful missions that empower brilliant business owners like yourself to be the best that we can be. Every April, for example, we delve deep into establishing healthy boundaries, while in May, we learn to stand unapologetically in our integrity. June brings a focus on confidently saying “no” to influences and activities that don’t serve us. The remaining months are equally transformative, providing invaluable opportunities to nurture connections with ourselves, our clients, and our businesses. We would love to have your companionship on this journey.

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