Does saying no make you a bad person? Absolutely not – you have every right to set limits.
You aren't a bad person if:
- You say no to your daughter who wants you to replace the third phone she lost this year.
- You balk when your spouse asks for a free pass for a swingles weekend.
- You won’t clean your parents’ basement the one weekend you set aside for yourself.
Saying no can often be emotionally healthy. It reflects a personal boundary you draw between acceptable and unacceptable, as well as what you are willing to do, participate in, or be subjected to.
It also reflects how you are willing to spend your time, money, or energy. It even covers what you are comfortable discussing and how you expect to be spoken to.
There are two types of boundaries: universal and personal. Universal boundaries are laws and norms created by society. For instance, there are boundaries around the age of sexual consent, alcohol consumption, public intoxication and noise level. Society creates these boundaries and enforces them.
Personal boundaries are a reflection of your personal limits. They are individualized and can range from whether or not you allow others to eat off your plate to how and why you lend money. You don't have to justify or apologize for your boundaries. They are not silly or insignificant. They are based on your own feelings and are always important.
However, boundary violations come hand-in-hand with having boundaries.
A boundary violation, no matter the scope, can make you feel anxious, angry, insecure, unsafe, guilty, ashamed, pathetic, worthless, unheard, disregarded or assaulted.
Luckily, most people will respect your personal boundaries. For instance, you may not be a social hugger. Friends and family will understand and keep the gratuitous hugs to a minimum. However, others may ignore your recoil and go for the full body embrace and wet kiss.
You don't want to offend anyone however you feel grossed out and uncomfortable. In fact, you may feel nervous before the next party knowing an offender will be there. You may even tell yourself that it’s not a big deal.
It is a big deal. It's a violation when anyone pressures you to do anything you don’t want to do from hugging, to taking a sip of wine, to participating in a religious ritual, or yelling at you when you expressly state that you do not want to be spoken to in that way.
As an adult, you have a right to set limits and are also responsible for enforcing them. That's not always easy, especially for the nice person. The nice person wants to say yes and make people happy. However, we can't do this at the expense of our own well-being. This is especially true when it comes to the emotional bully or boundary encroacher who always pushes and tests the limits.
I'm not suggesting inflexibility. Certain circumstances may warrant a temporary boundary adjustment. For instance, suppose you like to take one personal day per month but an old college friend is coming through town and will only be available to get together on that day. It’s okay to select another day for yourself. However, if you find that something always comes up on your day off, you may want to stick to your plan. It's up to you - it's not up to anyone else to tell you to relax your boundary. You decide.
To make it simple, you aren't a bad person if you:
- Stand up for yourself, set boundaries, and say no
- Consider your own needs in a relationship and refuse to be pushed around
- Speak up
- Live by your own moral code
- Take time for yourself
You aren't a bad person when you protect your territory. Remember, No is a complete sentence, not a preamble to a negotiation.
Regardless of the boundary, whether it is big or small, it always feels the same when it is violated - awful. No matter how others feel about the boundaries you have set, whether or not they understand them or agree with them, you are not a bad person for wanting to defend your emotional, spiritual, and physical wellbeing.
You may wish you didn't have to, but it is up to you to enforce your own boundaries. And, you're not a bad person for doing so.
Check in next week to see healthy ways to defend your boundaries.