This is the first in a ten part series called, Extreme Self-Care: It’s Not Selfish!
“Good fences make good neighbors.” When it comes to neighbors, the fence sets up a boundary. The fence ensures privacy and makes the property line clear – each neighbor will know immediately if they have trespassed on their neighbors property. Fences make it easy to know and respect the other person’s property, privacy and space.
Too bad we don’t have personal fences around us. It’s difficult to know when we’ve crossed over into the other person’s space. It’s hard to know when we have gone too far and it’s even harder because most people won’t let you know immediately when you have crossed the line.
Often, we don’t make our own boundaries clear. We want to maintain positive relationships, so when someone does tread on us, by making too many demands, or not valuing our privacy, we grin and bear it. Grinning and bearing masks the mounting frustration we feel when the other person steps on us too much.
Not setting clear boundaries leave us feeling overworked, underappreciated and overextended. We say ‘yes’ when we should have said ‘no.’ We push things that we value off of our plates to accommodate the other person’s needs. As a result our needs take a back seat. In fact, often without clear boundaries, we run out of room and instead of occupying the backseat, we push our needs out of the car all together!
When our needs aren’t being met, we can’t be our best. Eventually, we snap at the spouse or significant other, we get impatient with the kids (or in traffic!), we lose our ability to focus at work, we don’t spend quality time with friends and family.
We are often reluctant to set boundaries because we don’t want a negative reaction or to cause conflict. I maintain that we are going to eventually get to a negative place once we’ve reached our limits. Besides, long before you blow up at someone else, you will have been feeling the effects of your lack of boundaries internally.
So, learn to say no with grace. Decline with a reason. Maybe you can’t do anything right now or maybe you can do something just not what is being asked. Be clear about what you can and cannot do. “I’m sorry funds are pretty tight right now and I cannot loan you the money.” “I would love to help you but with everything on my plate, I cannot coordinate the entire job fair, however, I would be glad to help you set things up the day of the fair and I could help you design a flier.”
By being clear about what you can and cannot do, you stay in control. You make your needs known. This can work, more often than not, with significant others, friends and even kids. Think about it, when you ask for something you know there is a risk that the person will say no. The person asking you for help knows that you might say no too.
Don’t feel guilty about stating your needs. If you get pushback at first, stand your ground and reiterate your point. You will not lose friends or family by standing your ground. Whatever inconvenience they feel will be short-lived. After you’ve done this a couple of times, they will get the point and get used to respecting your boundaries.