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Setting Boundaries and Saying No


Picture yourself standing with a fence around you. Inside the fence contains your feelings, beliefs, values, your ideas and emotions- who you are as an individual. Without that fence, others can begin to easily influence and sometimes dictate how you live your life.

Keeping our boundaries in place, which often includes saying “no,” puts healthy limits on relationships and prevents others from taking advantage. In order to show others how we want to be respected, we have to respect ourselves and determine our own worth.

Setting boundaries is a way of telling others how they can and should treat us. When we feel vulnerable or are seeking approval from others we are more likely to break through our boundaries and compromise our own beliefs and feelings to please others.

Saying “no” can be so challenging for people-pleasers often because they don’t want to feel “mean” or “rude”. But assertiveness does not mean aggressiveness, and there are kind ways to say no, that show love to both us and the other person.

The inability to say “no” is sometimes a sign of low self-esteem. Learning to set a boundary and be assertive, and not feel guilty about it, is a way of building up our self-esteem. Sometimes it is because we don’t realize we are worth more. Often saying “no” involves an underlying belief that the needs of others are more important than our own.

Saying “no” allows us to feel more in control, and literally gives us the time to spend on our own wants and needs. We are sending ourselves a message that we matter too. Setting boundaries is also about standing your ground and feeling secure in your beliefs and ideas. Having a good sense of when to say “no” and when to say “yes” gives you a stronger sense of your own feelings about things, it makes you realize what’s important to you.

How can I say no?

  • Ask yourself, “do I want to say ‘yes’, or do I feel like I should? Will saying ‘yes’ bring me happiness or benefit me?

  • Be direct, be polite, offer an alternative

  • “Thanks, I’d love to, but I have too much going on right now”- an excuse

  • “Thanks for asking, but I’m taking a break from going out right now”- general not personal

  • “I’m not around tonight but next week might work better?”- alternative

  • “I don’t think that’s something I’d be good at, but maybe try...” -offering help in another way

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