Saying no, limiting your availability, and prioritizing your needs over those of others is selfish—and that’s okay. When you stretch yourself too thin, ignoring signs that you need to set up boundaries, you end up letting down the very people you most want to support.
“It’s always, always a little more uncomfortable in the moment to say ‘no,’ but you pay interest on saying ‘yes.’ And you pay a lot more discomfort later on,” says psychologist Andrea Bonior, PhD, on the latest episode of The Well+Good Podcast. When you say yes to things you can’t fully commit to, “you’re just buying basically some resentment on either of your parts.”
Dr. Bonior, licensed therapist and wellness coach Minaa B., and licensed counselor and certified therapist Kari Rusnak, LPC, discuss the importance of setting boundaries and why it shouldn’t make you feel guilty to put them in place, with host Ella Dove, the director of creative development at Well+Good. When you’re always saying yes to events and tasks you don’t want to do or can’t do, you’ll start to see the signs that you need boundaries show up.
3 signs you need boundaries in your relationships
1. You’re constantly flaking out on plans
If you’re always canceling plans, that’s a sign that you’re overbooked.
“Flaking is the first place where we start to see this erosion of boundaries really be evident because people say yes, when they mean no,” says Dr. Bonior. “Or they say yes as a placeholder and they figure, oh I’ll worry about it later.”
2. You’re always tired and burnt out
When you’re not setting adequate boundaries, you might find that you’re not getting enough sleep or that there’s too much on your schedule to allow time for rest.
“Your needs really matter and when we’re not focusing on ourselves we get really burnt out and that affects every area of our life,” says Rusnak. “And when we are focusing on ourselves, we find, ‘Oh, I’m feeling really great physically, I’m feeling great mentally. Everything’s going really well for me.’ So we deserve to be selfish and it’s okay to ask for your needs in order to feel safe, in order to feel comfortable. And in a relationship where you’re close with somebody, you’d hope that you would be able to ask for those things and that they would want to make you feel safe and comfortable, too.”
3. You’re feeling resentful and frustrated
“Do you find yourself resentful of a lot of people in your life? That might be that you’re not saying ‘no’ enough,” says Dr. Bonior “And you’re saying yes when you really need no. And then you’re ending up just frustrated.”
Learning to say no is the first step in fixing this problem.
“It seems as if the word no is this cruel thing it’s like a cuss word,” says Minaa. “We think that if we tell someone, no, that it’s the end of the world. It brings up anxiety, it brings up guilt. It brings up so many issues. Learning to say no is one fundamental part of erecting boundaries.”
Throughout the conversation, Minaa, Rusnak, and Dr. Bonior drive home that boundaries are necessities and that instilling them makes you a better child, parent, sibling, partner, and friend.
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