Why Boundaries Are About Saying Yes! — Lionesses of Africa

by Ashika Pillay

What happens when you hear the word boundary? Most people feel a sense of contraction. A feeling of resistance. We feel that a boundary means “no”. Because we wish to be liked, and to please others, setting boundaries can feel like we are pushing others away, and that we are being selfish. 

Take a look at some of the questions below and see if some resonate:

  • Do you struggle with a particular relationship, and have resentment towards an individual or individuals?

  • Do you procrastinate and have a mental chatter about getting stuff done, and are just not able to prioritize?

  • Are you not able to find time to achieve what’s important to you?

  • Is there a creep on your day and energy where you feel a sense of “blah” (a term coined by Adam Grant) and a sense of stuck-ness and stagnation?

While these questions may seem unrelated, there is a golden thread linking these questions. That thread is clarity. Clarity about your values and how you fiercely defend them! When you are unclear for yourself about what’s important to you, your mental and emotional boundaries become even more hazy for those around you. And this shows up in your thoughts, actions, and relationships.

So effective mental boundary management is not so much about saying no to others and is about saying yes to yourself. This starts with knowing what you want and need to flourish and thrive – your goals and aspirations for your best life possible. Betsy Jacobson said that “Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices.”

Here are some questions for reflection on how to gain mental clarity and setting boundaries. 

  • What I want is ……………? (write down your personal goals)

  • This is important to me because…. (this is the why – your purpose and possibly values too)

  • I will say yes to this by managing my time and energy in the following way….(this is the action that you will take e.g., scheduling exercise, waking up early to study etc.)

  • I will communicate this to those around me in the following way….(who do I need to support me, understand, have buy-in)

Now, for the messy “emotional” boundary setting. This is often the nucleus of mental anguish, fatigue, burnout, and relationship turmoil. If left unchecked, it can be destroy relationships and sap emotional energy. Chances are there have been many times you have found yourself re-hashing an issue or a conversation with or about someone in your head? Most times repeatedly involving imagining the worst. 

Now, check in with this question. 

Which value (something that you hold close to your heart), has been violated or compromised? 

Perhaps clarity on roles, or rules, or expectations? Most times resentment in a relationship is because an unsaid “line has been crossed” and this leaves one feeling exposed, exploited, unheard or somehow violated. Let’s explore some actions that we can take to create emotional clarity and space: 

Giving Voice 

It is often the unsaid rules, roles and expectations that leave us feeling resentful. Giving voice to this so that we feel seen and heard, can end relentless self-persecution.  What is the kindest way that you can communicate your values  – kind to you, and the other.

Inviting Respect 

One of the most profound quotes that resonated with me around this topic is that “a lack of boundaries invites a lack of respect”. To start, a lack of clarity about myself is a lack of respect for myself. When I am clear to me, I can be clear for me! 

It is then from this clarity that I can ring-fence my values, priorities, and goals. Let’s take a practical example. Someone invites you for a meal/event, and your initial intention is to have a family evening with loved ones. You struggle to say no. Your response could be “Thank you for your generosity, and I would love to. Just not tonight as we have a family dinner planned. Let’s make a plan for another time.” It’s not an excuse. It’s also not saying no. It’s saying yes to you and your family! 

Brene Brown says that “Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others” and Lydia Hall says that .”Healthy boundaries are not walls. They are the gates and fences that allow you to enjoy the beauty of your own garden. I would like to add that daring to set boundaries is about saying yes to me, it’s about staying true to myself and my values. It’s from that place of integrity (wholeness) that we can impact the world and change from defensiveness to protection, from confusion to clarity, resentment to love (for ourselves and others). 

So, defend fiercely and with infinite compassion, my friends. 

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