It’s okay to say “no” sometimes!
Steps towards a healthier you
by Cheryl Dizon-Reynante
“I have so much to do!” “Everyone turns to me for help.” “I’ve always taken care of everyone else first.”
I talk to many caregivers who spend so much time and energy helping others that they feel exhausted by the end of the day. Healthy boundaries are important for our own physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Imagine that a boundary is a line between you and someone else that represents what they are responsible for and what you are responsible for. Although it might feel rude, uncaring, or even wrong to say no to someone else (especially someone we love), it is important to let them take responsibility for their own life and actions. Often, we can feel guilty if we say no to someone, but it is important to take care of ourselves too!
Healthy boundaries protect us from negative influences, establish self-respect and self-worth, and build positive relationships with others.
One of the primary benefits of healthy boundaries is increased self-awareness. When we set healthy boundaries, we become more aware of our own needs, values, and beliefs. We learn to identify our limits and communicate them effectively to others. This, in turn, helps us to develop a stronger sense of self and to be more confident in our decision-making.
For example, if we tell ourselves, “I will not accept disrespectful behaviour from anyone!”, we then become more aware of what we consider disrespectful (e.g. swearing, yelling or name-calling) and are better able to communicate that to others. (“You raised your voice and called me a name. I won’t take that and will leave right now unless you tell me that this will stop right now.”) This increased self-awareness can lead to greater personal growth and development.
Another benefit of healthy boundaries is better relationships. Boundaries help us to set clear expectations. When we communicate our boundaries to others, we give them a clear understanding of what we are comfortable with and what we are not. This can prevent misunderstandings and arguments. In addition, setting boundaries can help us to identify relationships that are not healthy.
For example, we might tell a friend in need, “I can’t stay all day, but I will help you to paint your house until noon because I also want to spend time with my family today.” By setting boundaries, we have positive relationships that are based on mutual respect.
Less stress and anxiety
Reduced stress and anxiety are further benefits of healthy boundaries. When we do not have healthy boundaries, we may feel overwhelmed or anxious because we do not know how to say no or protect ourselves. This can lead to physical and emotional stress, which can have negative effects on our health.
For example, we might feel stressed and anxious when a co-worker asks for help with their project, but we already feel short on time with our own responsibilities. One way to set a healthy boundary is to say, “I would like to help you with this, but I have to focus on my deadlines this week. If I finish early, I’ll let you know.” It is important that we give ourselves permission to say no, to take time for ourselves, and to prioritize our own needs. This can reduce our stress levels and promote greater overall well-being.
Greater personal fulfillment
Finally, healthy boundaries can lead to greater personal fulfillment. When we establish boundaries that are in line with our values and beliefs, we are more likely to feel content and satisfied with our lives. This is because we are living in accordance with our authentic selves, rather than trying to please others. When we set boundaries that allow us to pursue our passions and interests, we are more likely to feel fulfilled and happy.
An example of this would be if a good friend asks us to go to a concert where the music and lyrics do not agree with our beliefs and values. A healthy boundary would be to advise them of why we will not go, but that you’d be happy to do something else together on another day.
By setting healthy boundaries, we can create a life that is meaningful and fulfilling.
“As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” – Maya Angelou
Cheryl Dizon-Reynante is a licensed therapist with the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association.