I’d been looking forward to working with my friend Anthony for months, and I finally had a project we could collaborate on. A few days after we sent him the proposal, he replied saying he had to pass to focus on his own projects.
A few minutes later, he texted me to apologize. I could hear the trepidation in every word he typed, because I have felt that same fear... that saying no would hurt a person and hurt our relationship.
I replied as fast as I could.
I’m so so impressed with your boundaries and I support them!!!!!
It felt important to me to make sure that he knew I loved him and his boundaries, that his no was respected and so was our relationship. I sent him the kind of affirmation I still crave, the validation that it’s okay not to say yes to everything.
For years, if you asked me what was important to me, I’d have given the same answers as most people:
My work — the stuff that gives me purpose and helps pay me bills.
But if you’d looked at my calendar, you’d have a hard time believing me. I spent a lot of my time in reaction mode, giving away big and small bits of my time until there was nothing left for what was important to me.
I justified it by saying I was being “nice.” It was nice to say yes to everything, wasn’t it? It was nice of me to have lunch with people I didn’t really like, or taking on extra projects I didn’t have time for.
It was nice, but it wasn’t kind. Not to myself. Not to my friends, family and colleagues, and not to the people who were on the receiving end of a “yes” that should have been a “no.”
That’s the acronym my friend Dr. Anna Roth and I coined for moments when I find myself slipping back into those same patterns. It stands for “I Am Still Learning Boundaries,” and it’s a reminder that...I ’m still learning, just like most of us are, that boundaries are a form of kindness in our relationships. What’s kinder than being clear about the expectations someone can have of you than reserving yes for the things that matter most?
We all want our boundaries to be respected, and many of us fear that a boundary will break a relationship. If we don’t reply to that email, if we don’t follow that person back, if we don’t go to that wedding even though we can’t afford it... will we still be loved, appreciated, valued?
I’ve found that recognizing, respecting and appreciating the boundaries of others when I see them, giving out verbal or virtual high-fives to let the people I care about know that I see them, has helped me be clearer and firmer about my own boundaries.
So if nobody has told you lately... I love your boundaries.
Our Still Kickin School is filled with e-courses designed to help awesome people (you) get through tough things (boo), including an e-course about how to set and maintain healthy boundaries. Our e-courses open and close at various times, and we are adding new courses along the way. Visit our school here to check out our current offerings!