This week on Sunday Lately, I wrote a bit about boundaries and how they felt limiting. I’ve always thought that having boundaries meant you said no a lot. And in a sense, that’s true, but so much more goes into it than just saying No.
Oooh, I can hear you now… “Angelica, how much more?” I’m glad you asked! Why? Because I have struggled with setting boundaries (I have an aversion to the word no) and just a little mindset shift has been helpful for me so maybe it’ll be helpful for you, too.
First, a little backstory.
I used to think that boundaries were constricting and that it meant choosing myself over everyone else in a greedy way. When presented with the option, I always picked everyone else over myself. It’s just how I am. I’m a people-pleaser. And it got to the point of resentment. I’d feel resentful for doing things for others. That’s not cool, man. I wanted to help.
It goes hand in hand with not asking for help. I see asking for help as a sign of personal weakness, that I’m admitting defeat and saying that I can’t handle it, which is another conversation straight from Daring Greatly by Brene Brown for another day.
What were we talking about? Right, boundaries. I’ve noticed that I’m most resistant to things that I know will take a lot of work but will also help me the most.
Setting boundaries in and of itself felt constricting, like I always had to say When presented with Situation Y, I must always answer with Z. And I didn’t like that. As much as I like plans and order, I want to have the ability to change my answer. But you can’t do that when you think boundaries mean always answering the same way (no) to certain requests.
See my conundrum now?
My question up until recently was: how do you hold yourself to (seemingly inflexible) boundaries while wanting to be able to change your mind?
It isn’t about asking What would make me happy? which, I mean, is a valid question, but that’s so vague and takes a lot more work to get to the heart of why you’re saying yes or no.
Instead, ask yourself: what will make me feel comfortable saying yes to this request? Repeat that with me, chickadess. What will make me feel comfortable saying yes to this request?
Kinda like saying yes to the dress. But not. Because this isn’t a dress. Anyway.
Re-framing how you look at boundaries as This is how I want people to treat me feels better. It’s not no, it’s I’d appreciate your understanding that I cannot do that right now, but I can help you this way. You’re still saying no to the request (really, still saying yes) but doing so in a way that feels more comfortable.
And of course, that also means that you get to say yes to other things, too. Like projects you want to do or collaborations that really excite you.
It’s all about honoring your intentions and your values. What do you prioritize? What will make you feel in control? What will make you feel like yourself?
As a recovering people-pleaser, I’m always trying to figure out how to value others’ requests while still making myself feel free and giving of help.
To get a little woo-woo here, setting boundaries teaches the Universe what you truly prioritize, too, and lets it know what opportunities to send your way way. For example: if the Universe knows I’ll say yes to anything, it’ll throw anything my way. If it knows I only want to be open to work on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings, it’ll send quality opportunities to me on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings. Cool, right?
To recap: life with boundaries looks like more intention, more flow, more flexibility. Life without boundaries looks like resentment, restriction (ironically) and constriction. Oh, and constantly feeling like you need to please everyone before you can start on yourself. Life without boundaries seems kinda like the loser here, no?