As the holidays approach, many people become anxious about spending time with family. With COVID, there is the added stress of gathering with more people than you might feel comfortable with, or perhaps you are concerned about new variants, or if everyone at the gathering is vaccinated.
It is so important to set healthy boundaries in our relationships with others, and in order to do so, saying ‘No’ sometimes is imperative. But, saying no is hard for us, since we do not want to disappoint people.
Here’s a handy list of “Nice ways to say no” from WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan):
Sounds nice, but I’m not available.
I am honoured that you asked me, but I can’t do it.
I’m sorry, but I can’t help you out at this time.
Unfortunately, it’s not a good time.
I am not available at the moment, maybe next time.
Unfortunately, this is not something I can do right now.
I really appreciate you asking me, but I can’t commit to that right now.
Sorry, but I can’t make it, maybe another time.
WRAP also mentions that it is also OK to say ‘NO’ not so nicely, when the occasion calls for it!
So, from this point onwards, you can set healthy boundaries with loved ones in your lives, by saying NO, in a nice way (or perhaps not so nicely). It’s important to stay true to ourselves and be clear and honest with others at the same time.
Do you find it hard to say NO?
You can view another one of my posts here, about saying no.
Not too long ago, my friend and I were out on a walk and she mentioned to me that she always listens to John Tesh (www.tesh.com), and heard him say that “if you want to maintain a healthy marriage, it really is the little things that count.”
This hit me, and I stopped in my tracks exclaiming, “isn’t that the truth!” Both my friend and I are on our second marriages to absolutely wonderful men. We both agreed that we’ve got it right the second time around and that we both found that in our respective marriages, there is a mutual give and take.
I know that I’m frequently doing “little things” for my husband like giving spontaneous hugs and kisses, offering encouraging words, picking up some favourite treat, or baking for him, cooking meals he’ll appreciate, and so on. But, my husband does the same for me, taking me out for dinner, offering to prepare and deliver cups of coffee or soda water (regularly), cleaning up around our home, buying me a favourite piece of jewellery or perfume, etc.
My friend said it is the same with her and her husband.
John Tesh says, “what really separates happy couples from the unhappy, is the 5 to 1 ratio. As long as there are five times more positive feelings and interactions than negative ones, the marriage is likely to be stable. That’s because we tend to remember the negative more so we need more positive experiences to outweigh the bad ones. If it was one for one, all we would remember are the bad times.
But (he continues) don’t think one large positive experience will make up for a bunch of bad ones. A big positive, like a weekend away, doesn’t have as much impact on the brain as frequent small good experiences like going to a favourite restaurant every Sunday.”
So, in your relationships, do your best to think of the small things to do for your partner. They really do add up to creating a loving and happy marriage.
If you’d asked me a week ago if I thought I was successful, I would have laughed out loud. Of course I’m not successful: I don’t have a career, a salary, a title. (My career was derailed years ago due to severe and persistent mental illness.) How could I even fathom the idea? Surely this is how most people measure success, isn’t it?
Then, I read Gloria Vanderbilt’s words at the age of 91, when writing to her son, in the book The Rainbow Comes and Goes by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt (pgs. 280-281):
“Of course what you must come to terms with, what we all must define, is what success means for each of us. Money, fame, praise from co-workers, career advancement? Are these your definitions of success? They are for many people. But I believe there are many kinds of success: happiness with one’s work, the feeling that you are making an important contribution, helping people in one way or another, creating something that speaks to you or to others, loving someone who loves you, creating honest relationships, giving of yourself to someone and getting something back.”
“It is very easy simply to define yourself by your job, your title, your salary, but these rarely give you long-term feelings of success and happiness.”
…”All these benchmarks by which people define success: money, power, fame, Instagram likes, followers on Twitter– they are meaningless. They aren’t real. Money can give you independence, but once you start chasing it, there will never be enough. No amount will make you feel whole or safe.”
Now, I do realize that Gloria came from a very privileged background and did not have to worry about having enough money. I certainly recognize that people require a basic income to survive and provide for themselves and their families. This is another topic altogether.
After reading Gloria’s words, I started redefining my idea of success:
I’m very happy with the volunteer work that I do: facilitating groups for women with mental illness and or addictions (like me) and helping them along their road to recovery.
I feel as though I’m making an important contribution through my facilitating and fundraising. As well as, mental health advocacy and writing this blog.
I am helping people, especially women and youth.
I love my husband, my daughters, family and friends and they love me in return.
I have created many honest relationships.
I give support and get it back tenfold.
By all of these definitions, now I actually feel successful. I’m grateful for all that I’ve accomplished. Thank you, Gloria!
How do you define success? I’d be interested in hearing your comments.
It is always so important to have healthy relationships where clear boundaries are set. Firstly, know yourself, your limits, your values and morals — these are the cornerstones to setting boundaries. Boundaries are also about self-esteem. Knowing when to say NO, or ENOUGH! Or even before that point… saying what you will or will not do.
This time of year can be very stressful with family gatherings, work functions and parties with friends. Often, the pressures are greater because we feel obliged to say yes to everything in order not to make waves. Whether it is saying yes to a party that we really do not want to go to, or saying yes to a family member just because you know there will “be hell to pay if you say NO”. But it is so important around this time of year and always, to set clear limits and boundaries in order to have happy and healthy relationships. If your boundaries are repeatedly not respected, then perhaps it is time to rid yourself of that relationship — or turn a close friendship into an acquaintance that you see only occasionally. If it is a family member you can distance yourself from that person and not commit to doing any favours for them, for example.
If possible, it is important to start setting boundaries early on in the relationship — whether it is raising children, a budding friendship or a blossoming romantic relationship. Remember, it is never too late to start implementing personal boundaries and to show some self-respect.
Not long ago, I had the very difficult task of setting clear boundaries with someone very dear to me. There was some really negative and abusive language used towards me and I just put my foot down and said I would not accept that kind of language or disrespect. If you want me to help you do X,Y,Z, then you will have to show me more appreciation, respect, and stop the abusive language. Very soon afterwards (and after some self-reflection on their part), it worked, and our relationship has been much more solid and mutually respectful ever since.
I remember someone saying to me once: you teach people how to treat you. That is why self-esteem is so important. Someone with high self-esteem will expect to be treated with respect and will set clear boundaries with everyone in their circle.
I have many examples in my life of how setting boundaries is paramount to developing healthy relationships. I will not share them with you, however, to protect the innocent! I will say, though: it is so important to do it as individuals and equally important to develop a united front as parents or partners. Do not be afraid to say no, or I will do this but not that. Or give specific time limits that you will be available for. Be clear and concise with your expectations and limitations. And stick to them. Do not waver. Be firm.
”Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others.” —Brené Brown
So if your relationships are not as happy or healthy as you would like them to be, start setting clear personal boundaries. You are worth it!