I’ve had a lot of tough lessons in the last 5 years.
They have come because I am working hard. I am opening myself to reflection and hard truths about the way that I am in the world, and the impact that has on relationships.
One of the most profound lessons has been the importance of strong boundaries (which is a much bigger conversation). More specifically, what I call “Clean YES or fast NO”
What I used to do, was receive a request and angst on it for-fricking-ever before I responded. If I responded at all. That is what we call “decision making by default”.
I would spend so much time worrying about the thing, that most of the pleasure associated with it had long dried up and withered away before we even got there.
It could be anything from an invitation to coffee, to a request for help moving furniture, to an offer for help with something I was working on. I would see it, and part of me would shrink in shame, knowing how badly I didn’t want to, or wondering if I would have the energy to manage it when the time came.
RESENTMENT & GUILT ARE 2 SIDES OF THE SAME COIN
For those of you who struggle to maintain, or even identify boundaries, resentment & guilt are the fodder for your festering emotions…
They are two sides of the same coin. Either you resent the hell out of the person who has asked you to do the thing you said yes to (but didn’t want to do), or you feel guilty a.f. about the thing you said no to (but really ‘should’ have done).
Playing the martyr is one of the sneakiest and most aggressive plays in the drama cycle book. Completely abdicating ones own agency in a decision that YOU made, and then holding someone else responsible is manipulative at best and erodes a relationship over time.
A FAST NO IS BETTER THAN A SLOW YES
One of the most respectful things you can ever do is let someone know quickly “No”.
The less you feel like you need to justify your answer, the higher your level of skill at boundary setting.
Would you like milk in your tea? No, thank you.
Can you come over for dinner on Friday? No, thank you for the invitation!
Let’s all spend Christmas together this year!
You know in your gut very quickly what you want, and then many of us override that and choose the comfort of the moment over the courage for the result.
The kindest, most compassionate way to maintain your own boundaries is to quickly and respectfully say no. Don’t drag it out, angst for days, or take responsibility for their response.
From the other side of things, there are few things that irk me more than spending hours trying to book a social event or catch up. You fucking know how busy you are, what your priorities are, and what you like to or want to do. Do me the courtesy of giving me a fast no, take a rain check if you need (and come back when you say) or at least be clear about where you are at!
A CLEAN YES
When you say yes, mean it.
I hold each of the people in my life 100% responsible for their “yes”.
What that means is, if they say “yes”, then I am not going try to read between the lines, go through the motions of no, you! no, you! , or second guess whether they really mean it. Part of Adulting is owning your own results, and saying yes is one of those.
To me, a ‘clean’ yes means that you agree, want to, or have at least decided that it is a priority for you. Sometimes we say yes to things we don’t like or want because they matter in another way, and it is aligned with our values to do that thing.
Say yes, and then back yourself and follow through.
As someone who has been SO challenged by learning how to do this, I feel you.
Here is how I make it work;
I’m really clear with my friends & colleagues about what works for me.
I have limited energy, and have to choose wisely how to spend it. I say things like “Thanks so much for the invitation to drinks, I won’t be there on Friday. Actually, I find social events in the evening really don’t work for me, but I am always up for breakfast or a coffee when you’re keen!”
Now, I have respectfully said no, AND set the expectation that this isn’t a thing I do, AND offered alternatives because I DO want to spend time together!
I have a limit each week for social / external engagements.
That means if there’s two booked already, it’s “no, thank you” to number three. Easy.
I have a rule that if “Resilient Tara” has made a decision, then I follow through.
Some days I feel tired, low, or otherwise off my game. At those times, I question everything. I question myself, my choices, my validity as a human. And I also know that it isn’t real. I say to myself “Resilient Tara made this decision, and she makes REALLY GREAT decisions. So you have to do it.”
I don’t get to make choices when I am not resilient. I simply follow through on the guidelines.
I’d love to know how you navigate your own boundaries, and any tips you have for making that work!