Now here’s a trend I can get behind: saying "no" in November, the movement to empower stronger voices and boundaries.
Women especially tend to struggle with saying no, whether it be to a friend, spouse, colleague, or family member because women, in general, have a stronger drive to be liked (the “agreeable” personality trait). And since women possess natural maternal instincts, it lends them to want to take care of others, often at the expense of neglecting to take care of themselves.
As women increasingly take on more responsibilities today than in the past, the word “no” is becoming a necessary staple in the female vocabulary. We’ve seen the rise of women forging ahead in their careers, now comprising over half the workforce in America, which is a jump from the 30-40% we saw in the 1970s. In addition, women are still juggling raising children and the obligations that come with being a mother and a wife. A survey conducted in 2018 concluded that being a mom is the equivalent of working 2.5 full-time jobs!
Now take the above schedule of upholding work and family, and mix in self-care routines, maintaining friendships, keeping up with extended family, nourishing a marriage, and everything in between.
Am I the only one exhausted just from reading this?
As we know, if we keep trying to pour from an empty glass, no one benefits. Lack of sleep, poor nourishment, and heightened stress all provoke unwanted negative feelings of overwhelm, resentment, anxiety, and unhappiness. There’s nothing sexy about being strung out and energetically depleted.
To protect your emotional, physical, and mental wellbeing, setting strong and loving boundaries is essential. And it all begins with saying “no.”
Why You Shouldn’t Fear Saying "No"
Most women fear saying “no” because they don’t want to be perceived as “mean” or “difficult,” which is usually not how it’s perceived at all – the bottom line is those who love you want to see you thrive. They don’t want to contribute to your stress. Saying "no” actually helps to build respect in your relationships. Expressing yourself confidently will let others know you feel comfortable enough to set limits with them and that you’re intentional with your decisions, which strengthens overall trust.
Saying "no” actually helps to build respect in your relationships.
Saying “yes” just to please, showing up half-heartedly, and not having the capacity to function at your best can actually look like you don’t respect the responsibility at hand. Being intentional, however – saying “yes” only when you have the ability and showing up with full energy – will prove that you’re committed.
You know that saying “quality over quantity”? Apply this golden rule to your tasks by not making it about how many things you can take on, but rather how many things you can take on comfortably.
How To Set Boundaries
If you find yourself guilty of the “disease to please” and being accessible to everyone at all times, setting boundaries is the gift to give yourself this holiday season! But you may be wondering how to effectively and confidently do that.
Here’s a guideline:
1. Take a Breath
When requests are being thrown at us at rapid speed, our mind actually finds it harder to say “no” and manage the little time we do have. After habitually saying “yes,” we then find ourselves buried, in over our heads, and shorting our own wellness to overcompensate for the list of demands. Therefore, a good practice to get into is taking a breath before replying.
We live in a very instantaneous society. Everything operates at lightning speed, at our fingertips, with the expectation of being accessible 24/7. This makes us falsely believe our answers have to keep up with this tempo too. This isn’t true.
Take the space to consult your own plans first, instead of making a decision on impulse.
Instead of reacting, respond. For example, say your colleague comes up to you and asks if you can pick up the slack on a project due at the end of the week. You know your daughter has dance recital practice that will run late, you have family coming into town, and you’re already pressed on your own deadlines. Instead of agreeing right away, or getting irritated with your co-worker, take a breath and say, “I would be happy to help if I am able. Let me check my calendar and see what availability I have this week. I will have an answer for you tomorrow afternoon.”
You’re respecting your own time and theirs. By taking the space to consult your own plans first, instead of making a decision on impulse, you can look at things with more clarity.
2. Open Communication
With technology, most communication happens over text or email. This leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation. When setting boundaries, it’s important to have face-to-face dialogue to translate your desires appropriately and to be sure both parties involved are heard.
If there’s someone who’s constantly draining your energy, it’s time to sit down and talk. Set up a time that’s distraction-free and allow yourself to speak your truth about the change you want to see, without being aggressive or accusing. Most people will respect that you took valuable time to communicate and come to a conclusion that serves both parties.
3. Avoid Assumptions
If there’s someone who feels like an energy vampire, it’s easy to jump to conclusions about that person’s motives. In reality, they may not even be aware of how they are coming across. Instead of assuming the worst and reacting from that perception, be direct and ask. Because no one is a mind-reader!
We’ve all either been the one judging or the one judged, and it usually leads nowhere fast. So many arguments can be avoided just by simply confronting the situation in the moment instead of being passive about it.
Addressing situations sooner rather than later is the best prevention method for avoiding conflict.
For instance, say you have a family member who’s constantly coming to your house unannounced. This interrupts your own routines and you find yourself short-tempered with them. The assumption becomes “This person is so rude for not calling and showing up like this when I have XYZ to do.” But the reality might be they just want to see you because they love you and enjoy spending time with you.
Here’s how to set a boundary: “I really love that you want to spend time with me, and I cherish our time together. However, I feel these visits lose their value when unannounced because we have to rush our time together and I can’t invest my full attention. Can you please call in advance to see when the best time is so we can all show up with our best foot forward?”
You will probably find they’re surprised to hear you were feeling this way and are more than happy to call in advance. This will dissolve the tension and potential of saying something hurtful that you will later regret, and it sets everyone up for a successful social gathering.
4. Prioritize You
The three essentials to prioritize your own well-being are to calendar, delegate, and unplug.
Adding the unnecessary pressure that you have to do everything is unrealistic. Let go of the need to control and delegate responsibilities in a way that feels good. Especially when it comes to the little, time-consuming tasks that you don’t necessarily have to have a hand in. Asking for help is a powerful tool; don’t let your pride convince you it’s a weakness!
Asking for help is a powerful tool; don’t let your pride convince you it’s a weakness!
Be fierce with your calendar. We often follow our schedules diligently when we can see our days mapped out. Be sure to put your self-care routines on there and pencil them in like you would a work meeting. Make it a non-negotiable to show up for that time whether it be a yoga class, a 15-minute meditation, or a morning walk. When unwanted pangs of guilt arise, keep in mind this is time you deserve to support your health and show up better for others.
And lastly, this is probably the most sanity-saving tip of all – unplug! In this digital era, it’s easy to fall into the trap of taking work home and snuggling up with your laptop, interfering with your at-home connections. So set a time at night where you unplug entirely and communicate this to the people in your life. Clearly state, “I’ll be inaccessible via email and phone after 6:30 pm as this is the time I need to be fully present with my family. If there’s an emergency, please contact me (fill in the blank).” This puts everyone on the same page and clarifies a timeframe of expectation.
Saying “no” and establishing boundaries are only complicated when we label them that way. In truth, they’re quite simple and come down to conscious communication and self-respect. Addressing situations sooner rather than later is the best prevention method for avoiding conflict. Being loving and understanding in your approach dissipates the fear of being seen in an undesirable manner.
In fact, as you communicate your needs and boundaries while hearing others out as well, you’ll notice stronger foundations and heightened levels of respect begin to form. By keeping your doors of communication open in a society that tends to have them closed, you will truly find peace in saying “no” when necessary, and “yes” when able – without apology or hesitation.
Let “NO-vember” usher you into a new way of life and allow these healthy practices to become a part of your new normal.
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