As I talk to clients and others I realize how many children and adults, but especially females, have trouble saying no. While being compassionate and kind are important, respecting yourself is at least as essential. You must know where your boundaries are, where they need to be and how to honor yourself by communicating these boundaries to others.
You have a right and a responsibility to care for yourself, which is why flight attendants instruct you to put on your own mask before assisting your children or those around you. Yet too frequently, you have assisted or done for others until you felt used and exhausted. If you did finally say no or asked for assistance, it’s probable that you also felt guilty doing so. This takes a toll on your physical and emotional health.
Most children are not explicitly taught how to assert their needs in a respectful and self-assured manner. Girls, especially, have been taught to be “nice” and to not make waves so it is problematic for most women to learn how to express their own needs in a healthy manner. Males are not immune from this difficulty.
In the absence of instruction or modeling, people stifle their voice and find themselves exhausted and resentful until their frustration builds to a deafening roar, and they angrily express themselves.
Breathe into your diaphragm. Soften your throat. Speak your needs respectfully and assertively, without aggression. Speak concisely, calmly and with strength.
Resist FEAR – False Evidence Appearing Real. Fear tactics are used to repeatedly alarm you and make you think that you are endangered even when you are not. In the world of Fight, Flight or Freeze, your cognitive (thinking) processes are minimized, making it more difficult for you to discern your truth and maintain your personal goals of confidence, unity, peace and wellness. In fact, you will find yourself repeating the fear-based thoughts even in the absence of the original stressor, potentially disarming you.
Practice mindfulness. Challenge your fear-based thoughts (whether they come from within, or were inserted by others). Use your breath to break the fight/flight/freeze biophysical process, and reboot your body, your emotions and your thoughts back to wellness. Minimize overwhelm by identifying one thing to put your efforts toward – donate, volunteer, etc. Remember who you really are to keep your focus on peaceful coexistence and unity.
I loved the scene in Dirty Dancing: This is my dance space. This is your dance space. I don’t go into yours; you don’t go into mine. You gotta hold the frame.
Some people need a larger physical space than others. It’s important to know what yours is. If needed, start by identifying the boundary of your body. You can outline yourself in the sand or on large paper. Then begin to identify where your comfort boundary is. It may vary with the different people in your life: children, romantic partner, friend, co-worker, boss, etc.
Now that you know where your body is and where your boundary needs to be, use your physical frame to confidently express your needs: Elongate your posture in a relaxed manner, breathe gently but fully, and keep your eyes forward.
Ground yourself for strength: Stand or sit with your feet firmly on the ground. Allow that earthy power to rise up through your feet spreading confidence throughout.
Depending on your personal needs, identify how much personal space you require and place an imaginary barrier at this location. Some people visualize a bubble, a white or pink light, a force field or a firewall. Use the image that works for you. Place an intention (expectation) that no negative words or moods will permeate this selected barrier. See it as a permeable membrane. You select what gets through – towards you and from you. This way you can still send love and compassion outwardly, while guarding yourself from negative words and feelings. This technique is especially helpful for those who feel others’ emotions intensely (empaths).
As you encounter the challenging aspects of life you may leave parts of yourself behind. This can also impact your sense of self and your confidence. Spiritual teacher Caroline Myss calls the process of pulling these pieces back, soul retrieval. One strategy is to imagine these pieces floating like star lights. You need not recognize the situations that they represent; with intention invite them back to join you once again. Then breathe in the fullness that is you.
Caring for another should not mean that you stop caring for yourself. Are you wary of hurting another’s feelings or worry that you will disappoint your partner, friend or co-worker? Remember that sometimes the loving response is “No”.
You have likely identified a large circle of people that you care about and for, but repeatedly fail to put yourself in that circle. It’s time that you include yourself in this group of important people! You have every right to be there. Don’t feel guilty for giving yourself the same care that you offer to others without hesitation.
As you incorporate these components of boundary development, your self-confidence will increase and your ability to speak your truth will be enhanced. Take care of your being, your thoughts and your emotions and be the role model for self-care to your friends, family members and children.
Though these techniques are for everyone, if you are in an abusive or dangerous situation please seek professional assistance.