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say-n.o.-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

Learning how to say N.O.

Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should

When you’re a kid, saying N.O. comes easy. So easy, that there are times when all kids seem to say is N.O.. Kids do this to test their boundaries. To see what they can – and can’t – get away with.

As you get older, boundary testing loses some of its lustre. Not because of the testing per se, which can still be a lot of fun. But because of the response you get to it, which isn’t much fun at all.

You see, by the time you’re an adult, you’re expected to know the rules. The rules of what you can and can’t do, of the behaviour expected of you. The boundaries are set. So when you’re asked to do something – even something you might not want to do – saying N.O. becomes harder. That’s the start of the slippery slope towards saying Y.E.S. to everything.

Saying Y.E.S. to everything seems pretty awesome. It makes you appear very accommodating, very obliging. Kind even. But appearances can be deceptive.

Saying Y.E.S. to everything is anything but awesome. It’s disrespectful. To you. To others.

Why saying Y.E.S. to everything is disrespectful

The boundaries that are set in stone by the time you’re an adult are the problem. Because they’re not your boundaries. They’re society’s boundaries, an attempt at one-size-fits-all rules for behaviour. But the notion of one-size-fits-all is fallacious. It fails to take into account that you’re unique. As am I. 

How can one size fit a collection of unique beings?

Before we touch on the complex world of personalities, let’s look at a simpler example. How one-size-fits-all works in the fashion world. One-size-fits-all is typically a medium size. There’s the rub. Medium isn’t the average size of all women. The average size is larger than a medium. So one size fits few. I’ve always known this. As a 6ft tall, slender woman, I’ve long been a vital statistics outlier.

So, if one-size-fits-all fails to work for clothing, you can imagine how big a fail it is for boundaries.

When you say Y.E.S. to everything, you’re saying Y.E.S. to things that aren’t yours to do. Just because someone asks you to do something, it doesn’t mean you have to. Or should.

Your own behaviour rules should be your guide. Not society’s or someone else’s. That’s where the disrespect comes in. By not following your own rules, you’re disrespecting them. In favour of someone else’s rules.

What does this look like in practice?

Imagine you’re at home on the weekend, working through your never-ending To Do list. A friend calls. She needs some help with something on her To Do list. Do you say Y.E.S. or N.O.?

If you say N.O., you’ll feel guilty for letting her down. But are you letting her down? No! If you backed out after she’d booked your time days ahead, that’s one thing. But when she asks last minute, and you have things of your own planned? No!

But if you say Y.E.S., you’ll be letting yourself down. You’re saying that your To Do list is less important than your friend’s. That you are less important than she is.

That’s how you’re being disrespectful to yourself.

Then there’s being disrespectful to others by saying Y.E.S.. If you say Y.E.S. to helping someone with something very specific, and that’s all you do, no problem. But if you go beyond that, doing extra things that are easy for you to do at the same time, then that’s not OK. It’s not OK, because your actions are implying: “I can do this better/faster than you.”

And that’s how you’re being disrespectful to others.

Learning how to say N.O.

Unlearning long-practiced behaviour – habits – can be hard. Especially if you try to go cold turkey.

It’s much easier if you replace one habit with another. Replace saying Y.E.S. with saying N.O. But, before you can do that, you need to get clear on what your own boundaries are.

Your boundaries are the lines that define you. What you will, and won’t do. What’s for you to do, and what’s for others to do. They’re your personal rules for living.

You determine your boundaries from the keystones of your life. So, if you don’t know what your keystones are, you’ll have to start there. My keystones are those things in my life that are non-negotiable. Like not doing anything that goes against my values. Like spending my time in pursuit of my own goals, ones that come from my life vision. Like not eating anything I know is harmful to my health. Like getting enough sleep. Like not helping others to fill a need in myself. Like using love to guide my interactions with others. Like daily physical activity. Like living in the moment. Like learning new things every day. Things like that.

Knowing what my boundaries are has made it much easier to say N.O. Anything that sits outside my boundaries gets a N.O. Deciding whether to say Y.E.S. or N.O. has become a no-brainer.

The other thing I had to learn about saying N.O. was to do with its delivery. How to make sure my N.O. didn’t sound like a F*** You. This, too, was helped by my having boundaries. Boundaries mean the N.O. never comes with baggage attached to it. Today’s N.O.s come from a place of peace – of knowing what’s for me, and not. Before I got clear on my boundaries, my N.O.s were always triggered by something. That could be stress, an old memory, unfairness – there were a lot of potential triggers. And that made N.O.s tumble out of my mouth like F*** Yous.

Know thyself, and life gets much easier

Learning how to say N.O. is all about knowing yourself. Who you are. What you stand for. When you’re clear on this, everything else falls into place. Decisions get easier to make. Life feels more comfortable. Because you’re living it on your terms, not someone else’s.

Remember, you are unique… wonderfully so. And that’s why it’s OK to say N.O. 

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).

 

boundaries-http://agingdisgracefullywell.com-sarah-blick

Why being yourself and having boundaries go together

For most of my life, I’ve had trouble with personal boundaries. Both with stepping over other people’s boundaries, and with allowing others to step over mine.

In my particular family dynamics, there was no such thing as personal boundaries. Walls, yes, but not boundaries. I had to do what I was told and wasn’t allowed to question anything people in positions of authority said or did. This led to my boundaries being crashed endlessly.

Back then, I didn’t have the awareness to know what was going on, just that it didn’t feel good. That having no voice and being made to go along with things I didn’t agree with sucked.

Boundaries are lines that define you. What you’re willing to do, and not do. What belongs to you, and what belongs to others.

Part of being yourself fully is deciding where your boundaries are. That’s why it feels so bad when someone else decides this for you.

Boundaries are crucial in all your interactions – with other people, with animals, with organisations. They’re a matter of respect. They’re being violated every time someone invades your privacy, or tells you what to do or how to behave. If someone’s presence or input is uninvited, it’s disrespectful.

Boundary setting comes from deep within. It’s based on your beliefs about what’s right for you in your life. You get to define how you behave, how you respond to someone else’s behaviour, what’s your to do. You also get to maintain your boundaries. And that means learning to say NO.

Whenever I’m feeling frustrated or angry, it’s because I’ve not maintained my boundaries. I’ve not said NO when I should have. This tends to happen when I rush into something, or when I feel sorry for someone. I’m suffering the consequences of my failure to say NO right now. I’m looking after someone’s dog, an incredibly needy, inactive dog, whose presence in my home prevents me from living my life. I love dogs, but don’t have the bandwidth right now to deal with a dog whose modus operandi is so different from mine.

You can learn to say NO in response to someone asking you to do something that’s not right for you. And you can learn to say NO in anticipation of someone offering you unsolicited advice. e.g. “I’d love to share something with you and just want you to listen – I’m NOT looking for any input about it.”

If you don’t maintain your boundaries, you cannot fully be yourself. Your ‘you-ness’ is compromised by every failure to say NO. If being yourself is important to you, then boundary setting and maintaining must also be important to you.

It takes courage to say NO. It also takes strong guiding principles. The reward is your freedom and a more joyful life.

 

Sarah Blick is a very tall, dog-loving, morning person. She loves to be in the great outdoors, to write, to eat well, to be active and healthy, to make her own household and personal care products, and to listen to indie music. She’s an ENFP (Myers-Briggs) and a Rockstar (Fascination Advantage).