By, Connie Sokol
There are a lot of reasons women find it so difficult to set personal boundaries—we want to avoid conflict, to keep everything nice, not to rock the boat. Mainly, I see women who want to be liked and so they don’t want to say no, or seem unkind or unwilling to do something.
The first step I suggest is setting personal boundaries in our time, energy and resources. Our time, energy and resources (such as money or skills) are so precious. And it’s not about NOT sharing or developing them—it’s absolutely the opposite. It’s safeguarding those precious resources so that your best energy is spent on those people and matters that are the most essential for your and your family’s well-being.
A few things to keep in mind will really help:
1. Recognize if you’re a “yesser”
2. Say and write a mantra and timeline. (i.e. “I am doing things differently for the next 12 weeks”)
3. Learn to say “No” and keep it objective
Being a “yesser”
Sometimes we don’t think we are saying yes all the time until we hit a mental and emotional breakdown and we say, “Oh, I guess that’s too much.” So first, as far as time, look at your life and rate it on a scale of 1 to 10: How ideal is your schedule? Are you overscheduled, do you wish you could let go of something, or “somethings,” do you need more time for yourself or your family?
Say and Write a Mantra and Timeline
If so, then acknowledge to yourself, “I am going to do things differently” and add in a timeline, “for the next 12 weeks”. Often we will rebel against doing things a new way, so set a timeline to help you stick to it, for example 4, 8 or 12 weeks. When you set a boundary and have to say no, say “Not for the next little while” or, “I won’t be doing that right now but I’ll let you know”.
Learn to say no
This is the big one. I had a girlfriend who was a professional pleaser. For her, this took practice! She and her husband would actually say the following: “Do you want butter?” “NO”, “Do you want jam?” “NOOO!”. They would do this, just to practice saying it! Sometimes we actually have to say it aloud and realize the mountains still stand.
There are always those tough situations. A good friend comes up with a really great reason and you hate to say no. That is why so many of us are “yessers.” You will need to say something from the heart, AND SAY NO. This happened to me one week when I had made the goal to not do anymore. And the very next morning two different women asked if I could baby-sit their children, good women with really good reasons. And I just smiled and said, “This is so hard for me but I am turning over a new leaf and for the next little while I’m not doing more than what I have already committed to. But thanks so much for asking, it means a lot that you trust me for that.” And then MOVE ON, without explaining yourself for two hours!
Family members, especially your own children, can make this extremely tough. For example, if your teenager wants to borrow more money and he hasn’t paid back the $125 loan he already has, instead of getting frustrated say something like, “I would love to give you that money. Unfortunately, the record shows that you still owe $125 to the Mom and Dad Bank. The good news is that if you bring us a plan of how you can pay that money off, we can talk about your future options.”
Remember, setting a personal boundary is about keeping it objective. Of course you would love to help, but a mature, in-tune woman knows her limits and paces herself. So express your desire AND say no. Express your concern AND say no. If someone gets upset and says, “You always say no to this,” then say, “You may be right, and no, I won’t be able to do that for you”.
I recently LIFE-coached a woman who had lots on her plate, very necessary things with herself and family, and yet she felt guilty for not helping those around her more, even though she was doing it a lot. It was a huge help for her to just have someone objective validate her desire to get herself and her home life centered first, then she would be free to share more. So she practiced saying no, letting go of that guilt (because it was just for a time period) and fully enjoying putting her best energy to her children and organizing her home. What a difference that made in her, so much more joyful and effective in what she did do.
Connie Sokol is an at-home mother of six. She is also a national presenter, internet radio host of “LIFEChange Live!” and regular columnist for Deseret News and Utah Valley Magazine. She is the former radio host of “Ask a Woman” for Bonneville Communications and TV host for “Standing Up”. Mrs. Sokol also currently teaches LIFEChange classes at Utah Valley State College.
With her left toe she is the author of Are You Ready for a LIFEChange? and Life is Too Short for One Hair Color, as well as numerous talk tapes, and is president of LIFEChange, an online life coaching program helping women create and live a balanced and beautiful life.
Surpassing her passion for LIFEChange, Mrs. Sokol marinates in time spent with her family and eating decadent treats.
For more information about the LIFEChange program visit www.lifechangeprogram.com.