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The Power of Saying No

How Setting Healthy Boundaries Can Help You Regain Control in a Fast-Paced World

Advancements in technology have blurred the lines between work and home life. This is because modern technology such as the smartphone has made it easier for others to reach us. Time and location no longer serve as barriers. It is not uncommon for work-related matters to reach us via email or text afterhours. People are continuing their work from home rather than enjoying precious time with loved ones. 

The antidote to this technological pitfall is firm boundary setting. Boundaries are an emotional fence between you and others. The fence contains a gate. This gate is sacred and one of the few things that you can control.

Think about how little control we have. We do not even have full control over our bodies. Our organs function on their own without our input. Our immune system fights off invaders without our volition. We succumb to illness without our choosing. If we have such little control over our own bodies, you can imagine how little control we have over other people. We cannot prevent someone from asking us to assume additional responsibilities. The lack of control can lead to feelings of helplessness and anxiety. 

However, there is one thing that you can control – the gate on the fence. This is your responsibility and of utmost importance. It is the path to setting healthy boundaries and regaining control in your life. If you do not control this gate properly, you will find yourself spread too thin and overwhelmed. 

You open the gate by saying yes to others’ requests and taking on additional responsibilities. The gate cannot stay open indefinitely. Otherwise, you will be swamped with obligations. If you never say No to others then you are saying No to yourself by relinquishing your freedom and peace of mind.  

Therefore, you need to say No. This can be difficult. Feelings of guilt and obligation can interfere with our ability to say No. Exploring such feelings is imperative for healthy boundary setting. 

Guilt arises from the difference between your behavior and what you expect of yourself. It is the feeling that you are doing something wrong by failing to meet expectations. There are only 2 ways to reduce feelings of guilt. You may increase your level of activity to match your expectations or lower your expectations to the level of your behavior. 

Saying No provokes guilt when you feel that you should be saying Yes. As a result, you succumb to the guilt and reluctantly assume additional responsibilities. Feelings of resentment can arise when you assume additional responsibilities out of obligation rather than sincere desire.  

To understand whether feelings of guilt are warranted, it is important to examine what you expect of yourself. Reflect on whether you have set your bar of expectations at a realistic level. To do this, assume the person you love the most has set the bar at the same level as you. How do you feel about their self-imposed expectations? If you feel they have set the bar at an unfair level, then why is it appropriate for you to operate on that same set of expectations. In other words, why the double standard? 

Lowering the bar of expectations to a more realistic and sustainable level is not an invitation to complacency. Rather, it is a tool to help you better cope with feelings of guilt. Subsequently, saying No becomes more feasible. 

Saying No is not as selfish act. It is an act of self-preservation. Being selfish is defined as caring only about your own wishes and desires while completely ignoring those of others. Engaging in self-preservation involves taking steps to promote your wellness which is necessary to continue meeting your responsibilities and serving others.

It is your responsibility to say No. You can set healthy boundaries by having a respectful conversation with your boss about work expectations. You can also set up your email to send an automatic notification that you are off work and unavailable but will respond upon return to work. You can even keep your phone on silent when you are driving or going to bed. The email or message can wait. 

Please be aware that you have no control over how someone responds to you saying No. People may become upset when you set boundaries. Recognize that you are not responsible for their emotional reaction. If someone becomes upset when you set a boundary, then it is their responsibility to regulate their emotions and respond in a mature way.

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