Saying “no’ and knowing your boundaries

If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re an ambitious, overachiever that loves helping others. You’re also probably (slightly) too much of a people pleaser for your own good. Ehem, guilty! 

Despite logically knowing I shouldn’t be saying “yes” all the time, I end up doing it more often than not. I also have thoughts about using such narrowly constricting words like “should” and “shouldn’t” but I’ll write about them in another article. The point of this article is to discuss saying “no” to things and knowing our boundaries at work and in life to take control of our waking hours to make sure we’re living the life we designed for ourselves and not living life on default based on someone else’s agenda.  

The thing about me is I like working. Aside from paid work, I’m involved in numerous volunteer groups. I also tend to hang out with folks similar to me – very active and motivated. We each always have our own projects brewing and it’s wonderful. It’s inspiring to see a friend hustling trying to get her project off the ground. It’s like being in a gym and seeing someone lift more weights with great form — it makes me want to push and give my best too. 

I love helping my friends succeed, obviously. I’m also approachable and love connecting people so oftentimes offer to introduce someone to so-and-so. I do it out of fun. It’s natural for me. I also like over delivering. If I say I’m going to help someone, I will do it the best I can. I don’t like doing things half-baked. That’s great as you build up your reputation as being reliable and someone who can deliver. Sometimes, however, it can get to a point where it’s overwhelming. Or sometimes, I even feel guilty if I can’t help someone out. 

Sound familiar?

We’re so good at helping and adding value that we forget to put ourselves first or second at times for that matter. And that feeling of guilt then detracts from our productivity. Think about it, if you’re spending energy feeling guilty then that’s ultimately taking away from your energy to channel that into actual productive work.

Oh no, I hope she didn’t think I didn’t want to help. 

Was my tone too harsh?

Did I come off as cold?

I’m not saying go out there and be selfish and start taking from people. I’m a huge believer in delivering value to your communities, coworkers, clients, and friends as much as possible. What I’m saying is that it’s good to check-in with ourselves from time to time to make sure we’re not doing it at the expense of our own life. Think about the airplane oxygen mask analogy. We’re always instructed to put our own masks on first before helping others. Same goes in life. 

It’s too easy to get caught up in these hamster wheel games of always having to look good and impress. Yes, there’s our natural desire to help but there’s also the fear of looking bad if we don’t. But a lot of the time, our worries and guilt aren’t even an issue. 

Saying “no” is a lot better for everyone if you’re at or overcapacity because the quality of your work might diminish if you take on too many things. At the end of the day, it’s YOUR life and you should feel good about it. Not stressed, burnt out, and guilty. 

How do you say “no” in your life? Comment below! Remember raising your voice helps others raise theirs. 

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