Knowing When To Say No: Creating Healthy Boundaries

Have you ever felt resentful doing something for others because you know deep down that you should have said no? You’re not alone. I’m a recovering people pleaser who didn’t know how to say no or set personal boundaries. 

Learning how to set boundaries have been an interesting journey for me; dealing with my own People Pleaser that used to worry if I’d still be loved and accepted when I set boundaries. Well, I wouldn’t be writing this if I hadn’t come out of the other side. In this post, which I’ll try to keep it short and to the point, I’ll share with you the steps you can start taking so not only people start respecting you but you also start respecting yourself. 

1. What are your values? 

All of us have a set of core values that makes us who we are at this point in time. The key to living an inspired life is to know what our values are and to do the things that support our top values everyday. Dr. John Demartini says if we don’t fill our day with high value activities, someone else will come and fill it with what’s important for them. 

2. What’s your limit? 

I’m not asking you to be the rigid person who won’t bend her rules for anyone else unless it serves our purpose. No, that would make us selfish and insensitive. However, in order for us to set healthy boundaries, we need to know where we stand; what you will tolerate and won’t tolerate on all levels of emotional, physical, energetics and spiritual. 

3. Noticing the red flags

You might be thinking, I’m not sure if I need to set boundaries. Everyone loves me and I’m pretty happy. Good on you! However, if you’re still curious, here are some of the red flags you can look for. 

  • Are you saying yes to everything or most of the things that people ask for? 
  • Do you do things that you know deep down you wanted to say no? 
  • Do you feel resentful after you’ve done something for someone but you justify yourself why you had to do it? 
  • Are you feeling that you are the one giving all the time but not receiving anything in return? 
  • Do you tell yourself that you’re a good person because you put other people’s needs before yours? 

If you say yes to some or all of these things, the following steps may just be the beginning of your freedom. 

4. Give yourself permission

Of course, the first step is to allow yourself and give yourself permission that it is safe to set boundaries. There are so many reasons why we don’t set boundaries. For example, in our culture, it’s engrained in us that we’re supposed to help each other out even if it’s at the detriment of our own well-being. It could also be personal where we have certain belief systems installed growing up. We’ll discuss more about this in #5 below where we’ll dig deeper into the root reason of why we do what we do. However, before we do that, we need to recognise it first that if we haven’t been setting boundaries then the time is now. 

The question is, will you give yourself a permission to do that? 

5. Going back to the roots

As you know we’re always looking at the world through the lens of our belief system - which has been programmed and updated since we were a child. 

Example 1: Mary wasn’t loved as a child. As a result, she believes that she needs to give everything in order to receive love from others. So she does exactly that with everyone but a part of herself is resentful of this behaviour and at the same time, fear stops her from setting boundaries. 

Example 2: Jack was left to fend himself by his family when he was 16. He’s 42 now and he’s done well in his life but that incident created a belief in him that in order to survive, one must do things that he doesn’t want to do. So today, as much as he hates it, he lets people walk all over him and he doesn’t know how to stop it. 

Example 3: Jess has just quit her 9-5 job and started her own business. This is her dream of being her own boss and now she has private clients that she works closely with. But the stakes are too high; she no longer has the security of steady income so she created a belief system that in order to keep her business afloat and also to not get criticised by people around her, she needs to make sure all her clients are happy. That means her clients can call her 24/7, ask her for massive discounts, complain whenever they don’t get what they want, leaving Jess completely overwhelmed and helpless. 

Looking at all three examples, you’ll see that somewhere along the way, we’ve created a belief system that dictates why setting boundaries can work against us. So now, I’d like you to pause and dig deep to uncover…. what is the belief system that’s stopping you from setting boundaries? When you think about setting boundaries, what fears come up? 

6. Say what you mean and do what you say

Great, now we’re getting there. Only a few steps away from liberating you from the shackles of unnecessary obligations! Now first things first. I’m a big believer in integrity and integrity starts from home. The first step to building that integrity is saying what we mean and doing what we say we’d do. It starts from something as simple as saying yes when we want to say yes and saying no when we mean no. It makes us simple. 

So if we say that we can’t tolerate ABC but we go on and do it to others, how can we be the change that we want to see in others? Change starts within us and if we are going to try to change others, most likely it’ll be a waste of time. However, there’s a way to change others; by embodying the change and inspiring them to do the same. 

7. Don’t beat around the bush

Many people have the fear of speaking their truth, whatever that truth may be for them. And many people are afraid of hearing the truth also. The other day, I posted on Facebook about speaking my truth, little did I know that it would trigger many people. I got messages from people telling that we can’t always speak our truth and sometimes we have to lie because the other person may not be ready to hear the truth. Agree to disagree. 

Who are we to decide where other people are in terms of their growth and evolution? I believe that it’s our responsibility to own our truth, speak our truth and be authentic. But yes, the key is to speak our truth with love and compassion. 

From experience, beating around the bush doesn’t get us anywhere. I believe that if we truly care about others and ourselves, we cannot make excuses for the negative behaviours but to call it out. By not setting boundaries, we are also somehow enabling their unhealthy behaviours and disempowering them to grow from the experience. 

8. Conscious awareness

Of course without having the need to say, it’s important that we need to be conscious and aware of our own thoughts and behaviours as much as possible so every time we notice that we’re falling back into the old patterns, we can create a conscious reminder to self that we’re now moving away from the old patterns and that it’s safe to do so. 

9. You’re not responsible for what others feel

Now I’ve kept the most important thing at the end. One of the things that many people are afraid of is to have to take responsibility of what others feel. You are not responsible for how others feel. As long as you communicate your boundaries with love and compassion, how others respond to it is their choice. From my own personal experience, through setting healthy boundaries and communicating them both verbally and energetically, it has given many people around me the permission to do the same. Because through healthy boundaries, we can cultivate mutual respect, build thriving relationships and create deeper understanding between two people. 

I have a tendency to write blog posts that are up to 7000 words so I tried my best to keep this one short to the point. I hope this post serves as a reminder for you and now I’d like to hear from you…

>> What is the first simplest step are you going to take to start setting healthy boundaries and claim back your personal liberty? Leave a comment below.