I’m not making a PSA about the importance of abstinence from sex (although it is covered in the Yoga Sutras). No, this blog post is about setting boundaries. Nice girls say no to people who try to use and abuse them. They also say no to being taken for granted. Nice girls say no when it is in their best interests. And sometimes, nice girls say no just for fun!
Nice girls know that it’s okay to set boundaries, saying no to the numerous, idiotic and unwelcome requests that come our way. They set boundaries, so that they can take care of their own needs. Nice girls--kind and loving girls—know like any good parent that you must take care of yourself before you can be of help to anyone else. Put on your own air mask first—and then assist those around you.
If nice girls say no, then where did I get the very mistaken belief that it was wrong to say no—that I was supposed to say yes … ALWAYS?!?!? I’m sure part of the misconception originated with my Christian upbringing. The Bible talks a lot about love, service and sacrifice. Jesus left His believers the example of the ultimate sacrifice by laying down his life and going to the cross. There is nothing I can do in comparison to even come close to that.
Babysit your kid? Sure.
Bring a new mom dinner? Fine.
Donate money to a worthwhile cause? Okay.
But my desire to say yes goes much, much deeper. Due to my insecurities, I am constantly seeking love and approval from others. If I say no to someone, that person might not like me anymore. Then I won’t feel loved or accepted. That seemed like a big risk to take in my 20s and early 30s, so I forced myself to say yes many, many, many times when I really did not want to say yes. I faked it for a really, really long time… until I found myself in an unhappy marriage to an unhappy man. I, too, was unhappy. When we split, something inside me broke. I vowed never to care about someone else more than I cared for myself or put another’s needs above my own.
Honestly, I probably went too far and became a bit selfish in the years following my divorce. But I had given so much to so many people over so many years that the tank was empty. I needed some time to replenish the well. That’s when I began taking regular yoga classes, practicing meditation and enjoying the surrender of savasana. Yoga allowed me to reconnect with my spirituality, which in turn, motivated me to start giving to others once again.
Almost a decade later, I think I have come to a healthier place. I do as much as I can for others. I volunteer, I teach yoga, and I go visit my aging family members. But I have said no to many requests that have come my way, especially over the last two months as I have watched my godmother’s health decline. As much as I would like to help friends make professional connections or think about their futures, being there for my Annie took up all the physical, mental, emotional and time resources that I had available. Now that she is gone, I am grateful for every minute, every phone call, every visit that I spent with her.
In the past, I would have felt guilty about saying no even though I was going through my own stuff. I would have worried about the person’s response and if I was jeopardizing the relationship. I would have made my needs smaller, so the other person could get what she/he wanted. Now, I tell them what is going on, and that I can’t really be of much help at the present time. I am going to need quite a bit of time to grieve and heal from the loss of this extraordinary woman. It probably will be many months before I will be able to say yes to someone’s request—and I am perfectly okay with that.
Are you like me? Did you grow up thinking that nice girls always said yes? Is there a request that you want to turn down right now, but are afraid of the consequences if you do so?
Remember: it’s okay to care for yourself, to set boundaries to protect and nurture you.
Crystal Moore began her wellness quest in 2003 after being diagnosed with lupus. Her quest has led her to embrace yoga, faith, exercise, healthy eating, and relationships. Share her journey.