Saying no: a note on personal boundaries

I listen to a lot of great podcasts, most of which are about fitness, entrepreneurship or self care and empowerment. I listen to mostly female produced and focused podcasts and they really have become an important part of my daily routine. One thing that is often mentioned in these podcasts is how to navigate situations in both work and private settings which you don’t really fancy doing but feel an obligation to do nonetheless. Over the past year I’ve been paying closer attention to the things that I don’t want to do and then looking into firstly why I may not jump at the opportunity to do them and seccondly then which I’ve gritted my teeth and done anyway and which I’ve drawn the line on.

This is such a huge topic and definitely can’t be summed up in just one post but I think it’s something really important to chat about. First off, it’s worth noting that there are an amount of things, such as biology lessons at school for me, that are non-negotiable. Sometimes you’ve got to just get over it and do the thing anyway, it’s a means to an end and it’s important for our social and personal development to learn to compromise in this way. However, there comes a point where you’ve been pretty reasonable and politely attended all of your non-negotiables and you’re left with these lists of extra ‘grey-zone’ activities that you really don’t want to do but feel like you have to.

To cut to the chase this year I’ve been cutting out a lot of those activities in the grey zone. If it doesn’t make me excited or I won’t gain something from the experience (which can range from a nice cup of tea, learning a new skill, laughing in nice company or a holiday in Portugal) then I’m probably not going to do it. I’ve also stopped chasing, there comes a time where one sided friendships become draining and obligation filled, at that point…it’s time to exit stage 1 to the left. This all sounds pretty harsh probably, maybe it is a little, but I also unapologetically think that that’s absolutely okay.

Time is a really important factor in all of this. I’m busier than I’ve ever been before and that means prioritisation. I’m not busy because I’m laden with tasks which are 3 hours here or 5 hours there of things I wished I hadn’t said ‘sure, let me know when you’re going’ and rather said ‘sorry, that’s not quite my thing, but enjoy!’ Rather, I’m busy because I have lots of things going on which I all really enjoy and really contribute to me staying balanced, healthy and enjoying life.

Example 1: When someone asks you if you want to go Kayaking on Sunday morning because they’d love to share their passion with you, say; ‘Thanks so much for thinking of me, but how about we go for a coffee after instead where [I’m working/at the gym/painting pots] before hand. BAM, as if by magic, you’ve escaped the damp soggy knickers as a result of pootling around Crookes Valley Park lake at 9.30 on a Sunday morning and instead you’ve done something you want to do and are still making time to have that lovely catch up you both want. I’d call that a pretty good compromise.

Friendships are all about compromise and you probably will find yourself in that kayak at some point, but for goodness sake be wise and pick a day in June rather than October.

So we’ve hi-lighted the grey zone of stuff we don’t really want to do. And we’ve navigated one way of how we can deal with it. So now it’s about 2 different categories for me: work and personal. These are really different but both equally challenging in their own rights. In your personal life you usually (and hopefully) really care about the feelings of the people around you. Therefore, it’s about being as friendly, reasonable and kind as possible whilst also not always bending over backwards to make people happy and feeling comfortable to miss out on a social event every once in a while if that’s what you want to do. In a work setting it often comes down to money and favour. It kind of is as seedy as it sounds, work events, networking, lunch meetings etc. etc. are all things which can be great, incredibly rewarding, skill building and fun (…yes fun) but can also be a HUGE waste of time. Recognising which of these Google calendar invites to say yes to and which to navigate around is a skill. If it could be bottled I’m sure it would sell for a lot and it’s a tricky tightrope to walk, one that I definitely haven’t mastered yet, but at least I’ve seen the tightrope and one foot is on it!

Overall, the past year has been me sick of spending time, effort and money on things that I don’t really need to be spending my time, effort and money on. I think this is amplified as a student where you feel like you may have to spend a certain amount on someones birthday, when you don’t really have the money, or that you have to go on this night out because if you don’t ‘*everyone’ will think that your boring. Or, in a work enviroment as a freelancer, spending time travelling out of your way to meet somewhere that doesnt work with your time schedule to meet for a 1 hour coffee and then to drive back to wherever you were to finally be able to get some work done. There are thousands of examples and these are just 3 that might seem pretty trivial but I think the essence of what I’m trying to get accross can be applied to all of us in some way.

In a sentence, cut the bullshit, get rid of the grey and do only the things that bring you joy (as well as all of your non-negotiables and a sprinkle of a good deed for a friend every now again).

*who even is this ‘everyone’ we tell ourselves about? If the people around you respect and care for you then this evil or scary ‘everyone’ doesn’t really exist now does it? As for the people who don’t respect or care for you…well it doesn’t really matter how much you disappoint them from now on does it?

There’s a lot more to be said on saying ‘no’ and setting personal boundaries and I’d definitely like to delve in a little more soon but for now, thank you for taking the time to give my posts a read and go and reassess what you actually really want to do and achieve this week. ❤️

-Aimée

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