How many times have you wished you would have said no to something you agreed to do? For self-described “people-pleasers”, it can be agonizing when you’re asked to serve in some capacity or take on a new project. If you say no, feelings of guilt, shame and anxiety can plague your thoughts. It’s even more difficult in family situations with people who just sort of expect you to do what you’re asking. Setting boundaries in these situations are not just important, they can help keep you from feeling the way you do.
Learning to say no is important. Sure, there are times saying yes is a good thing. But if “yes” is your default answers without taking a moment to affect how this “yes” will affect you, then you may have trouble setting boundaries. In fact, these boundaries are crucial to maintain healhty relationships.
When we say yes to literally everything, we can find ourselves feeling stress, overwhelmed and burned out. For the most part, we want to be liked by others, but sometimes that need to be liked becomes more important than taking care of ourselves.
These three tips can help in the process of setting healthy boundaries.
1. Learn your limits
Without a clear sense of when it’s appropriate to say yes or no, we’ll agree to everything, or nothing at all. Begin leaning into what you know is right or wrong for you, and ask for God’s leading. When a problem arises, ignoring or arguing with God or our “inner voice” only makes things worse.
2. Learn to accept the reactions of others
We can’t control how people feel or how they’ll react to us no more than we can control the weather. When you set boundaries, especially with your family, emotions will bubble to the surface. Many times, they’ll be emotions of anger from the people you’re setting boundaries with.
It’s important to remember that setting boundaries can actually help improve these relationships. When you set a boundary, you’re telling yourself and the other person that you love them enough to put this safeguard in place to avoid anger and resentment. What I’ve found is that people will typically respect your boundaries, after they move past the initial feelings of being upset or disappointed.
3. Learn the importance of self-care
You can’t give to others if you have nothing left to give. You can’t be a good helper for others if you’re physically or mentally exhausted. Treat yourself with the same tolerance and compassion that you have for others. Find things that can help you feel relaxed and recharged. Consider scheduling some time each week and put it on your calendar as a way to hold yourself accountable.
Furthermore, it’s necessary to realize that in church or family situations, boundaries can be difficult to set because of the way you view those relationships. In church, you may feel guilt, that you’re letting God down for not doing everything that’s asked of you. And in your family, you may struggle with the belief that because you’re related by blood, you’re obligated to do everything your family asks of you. Neither of those things are true. Yes, of course, we’re each called to help others and give of ourselves, but not at the expense of losing yourself.
Remember, God gave us front doors so we could open them up to others. But he also gave us deadbolts on those doors, because sometimes we need to keep others out. It’s okay to put your foot down, especially when it’s uncomfortable.