Do you find it difficult to say no when asked to do something you don’t have time for? Or something that doesn’t quite sit with your own values?
This is something that all of us have to face and some of us seem stronger in being able to say no than others. It can be especially hard if you’re a people pleaser by nature, I know how this feels from personal experience.
For example, this morning, I found myself starting to clear surfaces around our old sink, ready for the new one to be fitted. I’d already promised myself to not do anything more, that it was my husband’s responsibility. But tiredness, a need to do things perfectly and keeping some sense of control temporarily took over. Particularly when the workman turned up & there was still gunk in the old sink! However rational brain took back control and I was able to walk away, just about!
If there’s anything this Covid season has taught me, it’s that I need to do less and keep things simple. But as our economy starts to open up and social expectations rise, I’ve found myself exhausted and alarm bells have been ringing at the back of my head. “Hang on, what happened to taking things slow and steady? How did I get back to this headless chicken state?”
It’s at this point I had to do a reality check. What am I trying to achieve here? What are my priorities and what are other people’s? A friend of mine has recently found herself diagnosed with a condition that means her energy levels change from one day to the next. We’ve been meeting to support each other’s creativity and she has taught me a lot about slowing down and taking things at my own pace, even in my business.
Brene Brown, in her book Daring Greatly, talks a lot about the quest for perfectionism in our society and how it’s linked to shame, particularly in women. Her research shows that shame can be a result of not meeting society’s expectations around body image and women being kept in their place. I found these revelations a breath of fresh air, in the sense of realising the impact these pressures were having on me. She talks about naming perfectionism when she sees it in her own life to overcome the shame barrier. To say that it’s ok to do things to a good enough standard and let go of control when it’s not perfect.
So where do boundaries come into it all? It’s all about putting healthy limits on what we do. In a relationship, this may mean only being available at certain times or contacted in a certain way e.g. email if we supporting someone in need. See Dr Kate Middleton’s book, Refuel, for further info on this.
In a work scenario (this is particularly pertinent if you are still working from home WFH) – putting boundaries on your time. For me this means I only look at my email during my work hours and keep my workload to said scheduled work days. I know it’s not easy especially when we might still be home-based, but it’s important that work and home life don’t become too blurred.
A big help I’ve found is being able to step back from the situation when asked to do something and first say “I’ll think about it,” rather than an immediate “yes.”
Then I ask myself:
1. Do I realistically have time to do this activity? If that means looking at my schedule for the next week/month, so be it, to help me to decide.
2. Does this fit my values? Especially in business, I may find myself offered something which doesn’t sit right with me, in which case it’s also a ‘no.’ This is something that Nisha Vyas, life coach, taught me in a SEIDs seminar.
These questions can be life changing, because it gives us a framework from which to set up boundaries from.
If you want to read more about Boundaries, check out Townsend & Cloud’s book on the subject (see image above).
Boundaries take time to establish and be prepared for some kickback with those you set them with. They won’t like the status quo being changed. As you stick to your boundaries, things will get easier and the new limits will become accepted.
Is there an area of your life where you need to establish a new boundary? How can you put that into place? Will you need anyone or anything to help you reinforce it?
I wish you well in embracing this new boundary. It may feel hard at first but it will pay dividends in the long run.