learning how to set boundaries

The Ultimate Guide to Saying “No” and Owning Your Mental Health

Learning to set boundaries.

Are you like me, the ultimate people pleaser? I spent the first three or four decades of my life putting everyone else ahead of me. I said ‘yes’ to people, events, assignments, anything and everything. Even when every cell in my body was screaming, ‘NO!’ Learning to set boundaries was not in my wheel house.

I said yes to my son’s field trip, hosting Christmas dinner and organizing the company’s fundraiser. Took on all the house cleaning. Did all the grocery shopping. I took on the project at work that no one else wanted to do.

I thought that it was my job was to make sure everyone was happy, all of the time.

Did these commitments and responsibilities make me feel happy? Light me up with joy? Make me feel expansive and invincible?Hell no! Quite the opposite, in fact. All this ‘yes’ stuff left me feeling exhausted, stressed out, defeated and miserable.

I know you know what I’m talking about. Since the dawn of time, women have been trained to put others’ needs before our own. Setting boundaries was never part of a woman’s vernacular. Go on, you can admit it. I know you’ve been there. Done that. Bought the t-shirt.

stop. it's time to learn how to healthy boundaries.

But now that we’re in our 40s and 50s, it’s time that we make some changes. It’s time for us to stop trying to make everyone else happy. Plus it’s time we start listening to our intuition, bodies and souls. It’s time we start setting boundaries.

It’s time we learned that “No is a complete sentence.” Anne Lamott

Because saying no can actually be liberating. It’s like taking off those Spanx at the end of the day – your tummy relaxes, your breath deepens, and suddenly you have room to breathe.

You can learn how to say no without feeling guilty or selfish. And we’re here to help you through this recovery process.

What are healthy boundaries?

What exactly are healthy boundaries? Simply put, they are the limits we set for ourselves and others, both in terms of physical and emotional space. In my opinion, healthy boundaries are the key to my happiness, self worth and most importantly, my mental health. And they are also really important in developing healthy relationships.

healthy boundaries protect our self esteem.

Think of learning to set boundaries like building a fence around your yard. The fence keeps out unwanted intruders and protect the things you value most. Healthy boundaries do the same thing for your mind and heart. They protect your feelings, your time, and your energy, all of which are precious commodities that deserve to be safeguarded.

There are several different types of boundaries, like:

Physical boundaries

physical boundaries say do not touch me like that

At their core, physical boundaries are all about protecting your body, personal space, and privacy.

These could be sexual boundaries – knowing and expressing what you do or don’t like and want. Or as simple as not answering the door when someone pops over unannounced. Excusing yourself to go to the bathroom when close-talker ‘Tina’ corners you at a cocktail party and invades your personal space. Maybe saying “no” to an unwanted touch or hug.

Now, I’m a hugger, so I would never turn down a hug. But I do understand that not everyone wants me to throw my arms around them all the time.

Emotional boundaries

learning to set boundaries means we need to know that some intimate relationships aren't good for us.

Simply put, emotional boundaries are all about separating your feelings from another person’s feelings.

We need emotional boundaries to protect ourselves from those “raincloud” people in our lives. Be honest, we all have a few of them. You know the type – the ones who always seem to dump their problems on you, they constantly drain your emotional bucket and leave your feeling emotionally depleted.

It only makes sense then that setting emotional boundaries is absolutely key to our mental well being.

Time boundaries

setting time boundaries means learning about your personal limits.

Time is precious and often in short supply. So time boundaries are all about using your time effectively and ensuring you have enough time for all aspects of your life- from work to relationships to hobbies.

Setting time boundaries means knowing when to say no to commitments that don’t serve your goals or values. It means prioritizing the activities that bring you joy and fulfillment, and setting aside dedicated time for them each week. Also it means being upfront with others about your availability and not taking on more than you can handle.

Non-negotiable boundaries

non-negotiables are the key to maintain healthy boundaries.

Life happens. We live in families and communities. We can’t always have everything our way, all the time. And sometimes we need to be a little flexible with our set boundaries. But there is such a thing as a non-negotiable boundary.

The non-negotiables are the ones that we absolutely must have in order to feel safe and secure in life. These are the “no ifs, ands, or buts” boundaries that keep us grounded. They are essential to protect our emotional and physical well-being.

Why do we have a hard time setting boundaries?

Ummm Duh! We’re people pleasers. We like helping people. We like being liked. Plus we feel better when we can make someone laugh or smile. And we’ve been doing it for decades now. No wonder this setting boundary stuff is so hard.

So let’s unpack this a little bit…

Guilt

Let’s face it, setting boundaries can sometimes come with a big side of guilt. But here’s the thing I’ve discovered while learning to set boundaries – guilt doesn’t mean I’m doing something wrong. It simply means I’m prioritizing my needs.

Fear of rejection

Another hurdle that held me back in the past was my fear of being disliked or rejected. Let’s face it, we’re social creatures, and the idea of someone not liking us can be incredibly intimidating. Through trial and error, I have learned that my inner circle respects me and my boundaries. And support me, no matter what. And if they don’t? Well, they ain’t no friends of mine.

Lack of self awareness

For some of us, the concept of setting clear boundaries can be a bit of a mystery. We’re not in touch with our feelings or don’t know where to start. So trying to figure out how to honor our needs and values can be intimidating and seemingly impossible.

But the good news is that learning to set boundaries is a skill. And like any skill, it can be learned with a little practice.

learning how to set boundaries means practice

How to set kick-ass boundaries

The key to mastering the art of personal boundaries is to follow these few, simple steps:

Take stock of where you’re at:

It’s important to recognize where you stand when it comes to your mental and physical health. The first step to setting personal boundaries is to take some time to evaluate your current situation, including how you’re feeling and what you’d like to change.

Know your needs and priorities:

creating boundaries that make you feel expansive

What are the things that make you happy and fulfilled? And what are the things that deplete your energy? If it’s been a hot minute since you’ve considered your own happiness and you really have no idea, take the advice of the brilliant Marie Forleo

Ask yourself the simple question, “Does it feel expansive or contractive?” Expansiveness feels light, powerful and exciting. Contractive is that heavy, dense feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Marie’s hack is a simple way to help you identify your priorities and figure out what you need in to be happy, healthy, and whole.

Put yourself first:

Being a caregiver can be exhausting, but it’s important to remember that your needs matter too. Taking care of yourself should be your top priority. Because when we set boundaries and prioritize our own physical, emotional, and mental health, we become better equipped to care for those around us. So give yourself permission to get what you need.

Communication is key:

boundary setting involves clear communication

It can be intimidating to speak up and assert our needs when we try to set boundaries. The key is to be clear and concise.

I said it before, and I’ll say it again, “No” is a complete sentence. It doesn’t need to be justified. And you don’t need to apologize for your needs. Practice saying “no” without feeling guilty or offering elaborate explanations.

By stating our boundaries plainly, clearly, and with confidence, we show others that we value and prioritize ourselves. Remember, we deserve to be heard and respected, and by communicating our own boundaries, we create space for healthier relationships and greater well-being.

It’s okay to walk away:

healthy boundaries means learning you may need to walk away

If someone refuses to respect your boundaries, it’s time to walk away. Walking away doesn’t mean we’re weak or giving up. It means we value ourselves enough to prioritize our own needs over toxic relationships or situations.

It takes courage to set boundaries and even more courage to walk away when they’re not being respected. But trust me, when we let go of negative energy and create space for healthier relationships, we open ourselves up to greater happiness and fulfillment.

Remember, you’re in charge:

At the end of the day, you are the one in control of your life. One of the most liberating aspects of setting boundaries is recognizing that we are the ones in control of our lives. We get to decide what we do, how we feel, and who we allow in our space.

Don’t let anyone else dictate your path or limit your potential. Always take charge of your health, happiness, and future by setting boundaries that align with your values and goals. Remember, you have the power to create a life that feels good to you. So go ahead and take control.

Practice makes perfect:

Learning to set boundaries can be tough, especially if you’re not used to it. Start small and practice being assertive every day. This could mean saying no to something you don’t want to do, or yes to something that will bring you joy.

If you’re feeling timid or afraid to assert yourself, go ahead and practice a few of these out loud in Front of the mirror:

  • “No, thank you.”

  • “I don’t feel comfortable doing that”

  • “I can’t at this moment.”

  • “I don’t want to participate.”

  • “I would love to help, but this is not the right time for me. “

  • “Thank you for the invitation, but I can’t make it. “

  • “No!”

There. Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

Ready. Set boundaries. Go.

Setting boundaries can be a challenging task. Especially when we’ve spent a lifetime pleasing others and putting ourselves last. But it’s time to set boundaries. It’s the key to to our mental health and to building healthy relationships.

Remember that it takes time, practice, and self-compassion to set healthy boundaries. It’s okay to stumble along the way, and it’s okay to ask for help when you need it.

As we continue to prioritize our own needs and set healthy boundaries, we open ourselves up to a world of possibilities and opportunities. We become more confident in our abilities and more connected to our own values and desires. It’s a journey worth taking, and I’m honored to be taking it alongside you.

So, let’s continue to set and honor our non-negotiable boundaries. Always communicate our needs clearly and kindly. And put ourselves first.

So ladies, say it with me. Just one more time. “No. is a complete sentence.”