Mama Myths Series: Saying No is Bad
As you may have guessed from the title, this lie is about boundaries. Have you taken time lately to evaluate the boundaries you have in your life? Are there some that are outdated? Underdeveloped? Are there a few you have been meaning to set but are scared to do so? Or maybe you have boundaries in place but upset that others are not honoring them? Whatever the case may be, a consistent and in depth look at your boundaries (or a potential lack of) is essential for mental, emotional, and physical health.
So, what are boundaries and why are they important?
Boundaries are the parameters you set for yourself, others, and your environment. They help you navigate situations, experiences, and relationships with stability and ease. Boundaries are based on your values and priorities. Having boundaries creates a safe container for you to exist peacefully. Think of boundaries as fences around your sensitivities and values. You control the access, width, height, and closeness. An important aspect of boundaries is that they are not there to disconnect you, rather, they are there to connect you and bring you closer to self and others. They influence trust and respect by developing safety within each relationship.
FOR MORE ABOUT BOUNDARIES, CHECK OUT THIS PAST POST. Boundaries can look like; Saying no. Setting limits. Intervening on kid's behavior. Maintaining routine. Telling a child their behavior is inappropriate. Tolerating others feelings with compassion and empathy, but also not losing yourself or getting walked on. Taking time to recharge. Making choices for your body's actions (feeding, hugging, moving, relaxing, cooking, cleaning, pick up, put down, etc.) ....And so much more As you read through the list and start to reflect on other boundaries that are important to you, take note of how you feel and ask these questions to yourself to get a sense of your relationship to boundaries as a whole. How do I feel when I think about setting or maintaining boundaries? What comes up for me when I say No? Yes? As a young person, how did my parents and/or care givers set boundaries (or didn't they)? What have been my personal experiences with boundaries? Positive? Negative? What are my fears about boundaries? Do I feel I have good boundaries with myself? Others? Why? After you get a sense of your relationship with boundaries, it is then time to make shifts to strengthen your ability to set and maintain boundaries. When have I felt most confident in creating and asserting boundaries? What do I need to let go of in order to trust my needs and assert them/get them met? What strengths do I have that can help me set and maintain boundaries? What stance do I need to take or who do I need to be to set the boundaries I desire? After you have answered these, visualize yourself doing exactly what you want in regards to boundaries. Feel into your emotions and sensations. We tend to try to make boundaries after issues have already occurred when boundaries can actually be helpful in preventing issues vs trying to clean them up. Reflect on ages and stages of your children, your own needs, and the needs of your family as a whole (get your partner on board here) to intentionally set boundaries.
For example; you have a busy week coming up with lots of to-dos or an especially long or difficult event. Look at the week and prepare for when you can make sure you can eat, sleep, and connect with others on a meaningful level vs just surface. Add in a few spaces to intentionally relax (even just a few moments) and process that week, even if that means allowing your kiddo to be bored, or less than enthused about playing in their room, or breaking your vow of no screen time during the week.
Boundaries can be hard to maintain with our children especially, but they are just as important to have as they are teaching them that not only you have limits, but also that they get to have limits, too. Modeling effective boundaries, even if your kids push against them, sends a healthy message that they too are worthy of safety, love, and self care. We can be kind, compassionate, and respectful in expressing them and holding yourself accountable to maintaining them.
If you are wrestling with feeling unsure, mean, or coming down to hard on your kids with boundaries, it is okay to take an HONEST and realistic look at your behavior.
If you are yelling to assert your boundaries, that may be less effective in the long run as people, no matter what age, will shut down in response to aggression or respond with aggression as well, due to the incredibly intelligent and highly sensitive fight/flight/freeze system in the brain. You do not have to be loud in order to be heard.
Or maybe you under-assert your boundaries and appear confused or inconsistent (my own issue, by the way), which sets makes others unsure of where you stand. This is prime breeding ground for resentment and frustration as no one, maybe not even yourself, are clear where the line is.
Being clear, consistent, and confident will help you assert boundaries well. You do not need to react to their reaction of your boundaries, just follow through. Ex. Say, "mom needs some space or alone time. I am going to take 10 minutes to myself." Then, make sure your kids are in a safe place and follow through with your assertion. You do not have to yell or give in if they whine, cry, or provide the never ending list of reasons why you can't take a break. Gently guide them to their space and then follow through on taking your space. Don't give up if it doesn't work the first time. Remember: clear, consistent, and confident.
Boundaries are essential for connection and understanding. They are necessary so you can know where you start and someone else ends and will give you confidence and energy in the long run as you continue to practice. Always extend grace to yourself if you make a mistake and try again.
About the Writer
Danielle is a mother, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a writer, a woman's empowerment advocate, and dedicated soul seeker. Writing has been a natural form of expression that originates deep within each of her experiences. Her purpose is to provide validation, encouragement, and support for every mom through her blog, the Motherhood Empowered Facebook Group, and in the therapy room.