For many women and some men, just the thought of having to say “no” to someone or set a boundary can create the sweaty palms, a racing heart and feelings of shame.
I recently attended an event that a friend of mine created and I was honoured to be one of her guest speakers. My topic was centered on how to take care of yourself while taking care of your business. We always take care of our clients and colleagues only to find out later that we forgot to take care of ourselves along the way too. Why do we do that? Maybe we were just brought up that way, we don’t want to disappoint others because we know how bad it feels, or is it because we don’t have the right words to let someone down with grace and love? On the other hand, is taking care of yourself before taking care of others a selfish act? One thing I do know is that I’ve been there and I’ve learned from my mistakes. I am a helping professional on two levels, a life coach and a nurse. Saying “no” is usually not part of my vocabulary but over the years, I realized it can be and asking for help is a sign of strength, contrary to popular belief. If you ignore your boundaries, you are headed for burnout.
In order to have a more well-balanced life, something’s gotta give. Where do we draw that blurred line? A great place to start is with the oxygen mask theory by putting your own oxygen mask on first because caring for others requires taking care of yourself first. You can only give the oxygen in your tank so you must monitor it at all times so you have enough to give to others. It is about creating a healthy boundary for you.
Cheryl Richardson, a guest on the Oprah Show and author of The Art of Extreme Self-Care says “when we all care deeply for ourselves we naturally begin to care for others, our work, friends and family in a healthier, more effective way. We tell the truth. We make choices from love instead of guilt and obligation.” My favourite chapter in her book is called “Let Me Disappoint You” which is about mastering the art of disappointing people, learning ways on how to manage their disappointment by not taking it personally and by setting some boundaries by saying “no” out of respect for ourselves. Clearly, there will be times in your life where a “no” is inappropriate but when you have a real choice, consider your options before jumping in and saying “yes!”
So how do we end the madness?
*Buy some time…when someone asks a request of you take your time to give your response. You could even say “I need to check with someone before I commit” (even if that someone is you). Prepare the other person that you might not be able to commit upfront so they can consider other options if needed.
*Absolute yes or no…is this request something you absolutely need to do or not do? When you use the word absolute, it changes the importance and urgency of the request just a tad which can be helpful in making a decision.
*Tell the truth with grace and love. You can say “I feel bad about letting you down but I need to, my plate is full.” Don’t leave the door open when you need a lock. There is no need to over explain which is what most of us tend to do because we feel guilty.
One of the hardest things to do is say “no” to someone you care about and having to manage their disappointment. However, what’s even harder is saying “yes” to someone you care about when you really want to say “no” then having to manage your anger and resentment towards them long term. Think about what drains you and what replenishes you. After all, this is your life and you are in charge of it. Remember, you are not responsible for everyone’s happiness or sadness for that matter. You are most responsible for your own.
Take good care of yourself…and live an authentic, meaningful life.
Much Grace and Love,