What Setting Healthy Boundaries Looks Like (No Is A Complete Sentence Isn’t It)
Maybe it’s just me, but using the phrase, “No is a complete sentence” as a way of setting healthy boundaries doesn’t resonate.
When’s the last time someone invited you to something, and you felt good just saying, “No.” Like, I fully get the idea behind it. We don’t owe anyone an explanation when we want to say no to something and put ourselves first.
But the reality of being a woman in the society we live in makes that a bit unrealistic in application.
Typically the people we want to set boundaries with are the people we love – or the people who we want to like us, right?
Empowerment coach, Liz of Fem Home Ec, says it best in this TikTok. She says, “We set [boundaries] for people we want to keep in our lives, and we don’t do that by saying, “No is a complete sentence.”
Boundaries are there to help you stay aligned with what you want and don’t want to accept in your life. As Liz says, “boundaries are firm and compassionate.”
What setting boundaries looks like in action
I feel like boundaries are so much more helpful to see in action. And I will never forget this perfect and simple example of setting a boundary.
I was chatting with this guy on Hinge about a year ago, and it was during peak Covid, so we planned a Facetime chat mid-week.
On the day of, he messaged asking if we could push back the chat because of something that came up with family. The call would’ve been pushed to 9 pm, which was around when I normally went to bed. #grandma
Typically, in my previous relationship, I would’ve been like – “Sure! No problem!” because I really wanted to talk to him. But this was a brand new guy, and I didn’t want to do things the way I used to, because it hadn’t felt good in the past.
So instead, I was like, I’m not going to throw off my night routine because he couldn’t make the original time. “No worries at all. But can we actually chat tomorrow instead then?” Or something along those lines.
He responded with, “Whoa, okay.”
And then… proceeded never talked to me again. LOL
I was setting a small boundary – not to be difficult or to “play games” but simply because it didn’t feel good to adjust my entire routine to talk to someone who couldn’t make the original time we decided on together.
Here’s the thing – this happens all the time when we set boundaries. It goes one of two ways – people accept them or reject them. And whether they do or don’t isn’t personal.
I think the thing people don’t talk about enough with boundaries is how hard it is to be firm with them, especially in relationships, because of that risk.
It can mean risking friendships, risking the love of your life walking away from you, risking family members wanting nothing to do with you.
Boundaries are about choosing yourself, while still maintaining relationships with people. And so often, we choose to reject our own needs instead.
It’s always worth the risk when you choose yourself. And that doesn’t mean that you aren’t vulnerable, or that you don’t let your guard down. Boundaries are not walls – they are fence posts. You can choose to open the gate whenever you want, but it feels the best when you’re welcoming a guest – and not someone who is barging in whenever it wants.
But here’s the thing that has helped me in staying firm:
You are the one you wake up with every morning of your life. You are the only one who knows every heartbreak. You’re the only one you will sleep with every single night.
And when you let other people walk all over you, or you choose to put everyone else before you, you’re forgetting that you’re giving someone else a power that you hold.
So often, we feel like we have to choose between taking care of ourselves and taking care of the needs of others. And we can have both.
That’s the point of boundaries. To respect yourself, while maintaining healthy relationships.
Boundaries are risky. By setting and staying firm in them, you risk that the person on the receiving end won’t accept them. But, the reverse is that the person won’t respect you – and more importantly, you won’t respect yourself, because you don’t stay firm in your values.
The best relationships happen when neither person NEEDS the other. Each person is bringing their full selves to the table. Whether it’s romantic or otherwise, it’s such a beautiful thing when both people show up because they want to be there – and they give what they want to give.
You can’t be dependent on anyone else to take care of you or to know how to be perfect around you. You need to show them.
And when you give yourself this gift and show up the way you want to be, in a way that feels good, the relationship will feel so much better too.