It is often discouraged in our society to set off boundaries, to say no or to prioritize our own needs but it is time to learn that doing these things are not selfishness.  As we grow older from the time we were in our childhood, we were raised to be helpful and to look after others, repeatedly told ‘don’t be selfish’ or to ‘stop being so attention seeking, it’s not all about you’.

Self-sacrifice behavior is emotionally rewarding but can also be extremely damaging.  Know your limitations and the limitations of being to compassionate and sensitive to other people’s needs, you may end up straggling with your own identity, with what you want, need and what your boundaries are.  Not reinforcing our boundaries may cost you of the feeling overloaded, resentful and unfulfilled.  It is not healthy to say yes when really you want to say no.  You must learn to prioritize things and you must consider prioritizing taking care of yourself, especially if you have other people relying on you.

The air-plane metaphor, like in an emergency on an airplane you need to prioritize saving yourself first before other.  This explains why prioritizing your needs is not selfish but essential.

Homework – how to say no

Buy some time that will allow you to check in with yourself, it can hard to say no but instead try and get in the habit of not answering immediately. Instead say ‘I’m going to take some time to think about this’ or ‘I’ll call or text you back, I have to check if I can fit that in’.

Check in with yourself, reflect whether this is something you want to do and what affect it will have on your needs and wants.  Everything is difficult in the beginning specially when you feel disconnected from your feelings and needs, but over time it will become easier.  There are many mindfulness techniques that you can use to tune into yourself that I will talk about in a later article.

Consider your medium, if you are finding it hard to say no in person then why not say no via text or email.  If you feel nervous about saying no in person try role-playing what you want to say before hand with a sympathetic friend or counselor.  Then eventually you’ll get used to it and it will be easier.

The power of no, a small but complete sentence that can be very hard to say.  Practice saying it in the mirror repeatedly.  You’ll find that on repeating it’s just another word.  No scarier than any other.

Do not explain or apologize, be concise and there is no need to explain rather say ‘Thanks for asking me. But I can’t do that.’  You are opening yourself up to a negotiation by explaining thus giving the other person to persuade you.

Be kind to yourself, perhaps this will be hard and you won’t get this right the first time or even in the next times but that’s OK.  When you feel that you could have handled this situation differently try using it as a learning situation, not an excuse to mentally beat yourself up. It might feel uncomfortable at first, change often does. Learning to reinforce personal boundaries is a process not an end result.