“No”vember has come to a close but we want you to continue using the “no” skill as long as you’re on this planet. Your job of looking out for YOU will not end until you’re gone. Hopefully in your eulogy we’ll get to celebrate what great boundaries you had. 😁
Ok, so a lifetime feels like a long time to maintain great boundaries. Isn’t it easier to just do it myself/ show up anyway/ grin and bear it/ take care of EVERYTHING myself/ suffer through?
It might seem like it at first. I mean, you get to avoid awkward and uncomfortable conversations. You also get to keep all your friends who are fine with maintaining the status quo. That’s two things. I can’t really think of any more, can you?
Let’s talk about what not being able to say “no” does to us long-term. See, when you chronically take on too much and do more than your body, psyche, and soul are comfortable with, it makes you sick.
Depression, heart disease, obesity, anxiety, diabetes, autoimmune issues, and addiction, (and more I didn’t mention) can ALL stem from chronic stress. In other words, from not protecting ourselves. These things don’t happen from one late night, or one extra project at work, or one hectic vacation. They slowly and quietly shift from molehills to mountains, before we even realize what’s happened. This happened to me. Personal anecdote coming right up:
One day about 5 years ago, I found myself in a life where I woke up at 4am every day to beat myself up at the gym for 2 hours (2 hours!), work with clients seven days a week at all hours, be emotionally available for all friends and family no matter what state of mind I was in myself, live with and cater to a verbally and emotionally abusive partner, all while trying to take care of myself too. I was sleep deprived, exhausted, depressed, and SICK. My adrenals went into complete fatigue which led to thyroid issues and a bunch of other physical and emotional problems. I’ve done a lot of boundary work since then and I’m much healthier now, but I am still recovering.
I have a couple takeaways from this experience.
1) My life didn’t become a disaster overnight. It was one decision at a time. Deciding to work out 3 days a week led to 5, then led to 7. Tolerating one asshole comment from the man I was seeing led to him saying worse and worse things. Putting my own feelings aside a couple times for a friend turned into her making it a habit of involving me in problems that only she could fix. You get the drift. I wasn’t vigilant and impeccable with my word from the beginning so the chronic stress grew silently until it was overwhelming.
2) The work to heal was slow too. Realizing I had shitty boundaries was only the first step. After that, it was a long process. I had to establish who I wanted to be and what I wanted from life. Then I had to make the new boundaries known - which meant saying “no” and “goodbye” a lot. There was a lonely space between the old life and the new life but I had to trust that I was doing the right thing. (Turns out letting old relationships go made tons of room for new, good-hearted, boundary-honoring, adventure-loving, jewelry-making (haha), love-projecting friends.) Once the emotional work was well underway, I had to face all the physical damage I’d done. Vitamins, sleep, easier workouts, more nourishing food, etc. are all part of my path to recovery -- and I’m still on the path. I’m not 100% but I know my physical limitations so much better than I used to.
My desire is that this story brings hope to anyone who is realizing they might have a boundary issue, OR anyone who realized that a long time ago but hasn’t felt ready to start the work. I want you to know that, yes, it is work but it is WELL worth it. I do not believe we are in this life to be miserable. I do believe our first job is to look out for ourselves. THEN we can heal the world from a nourished, rested, clear, safe place.