Saying No, Healthy Boundaries

“Hey, so I was wondering, since you are so good at it, we would really appreciate your help with something. Can you?”


“Your the only one we can trust with this, we have no one else, if you don’t it won’t happen…”


“Think about the people who will be negitively affected by this, you are really being selfish by refusing to help, don’t you care about them?”

Ummm, yes. And the next thing you know you have one more task added to your already full plate. One more stress, one more thing to schedule, one more drain on your already limited resources. But, you just couldn’t say no.

How often have you found yourself in a situation like the one above? You know that you cannot handle anything else in your life, but someone makes it impossible for you to say no to them. The conversation may not happen like that, in fact it may be entirely internal. The person asking may just be mentioning casually that they need some help with some task, and you begin to feel like if you don’t do it, no one will. Or in my case you feel like if I don’t do it, someone else will do it wrong. How do you weigh the needs of others against the needs of yourself, your family, and your health? There is no one good formula, but there are some tips I can give you for making sure that your small personal circle is taking priority.

  1. Will helping with this take me away from or infringe on a previous commitment? In any way?
  2. Will your offering to take on this new task take mental effort that you are already using for your other commitments?
  3. Do you have excess time or mental capacity to do this new thing to the best of your ability?
  4. And finally and MOST IMPORTANTLY does this new thing take away from the time that you need to have set aside to build yourself and your family up?

If you cannot honestly say that you can do this new task without sacrificing another part of your life, then go for it. If after asking these questions you feel like this new task is so important that you need to give up a previous comitment to make room for it, then do it. The only previous commitment you should never give up is your free time. Everyone needs time to relax and rechange, and you should never feel guilty for taking it.

P.S. So I started writing this post quite a few weeks ago, when I was watching friends and family members run themselves ragged trying to be all things to all people. I hadn’t quite finished when I took on a new substituting job, but told myself that I would complete it on my next day off.

Fast forward 5 weeks of giving too much to a job that should not have been mine, and I realize that the reason this subject was on my heart was that I needed to listen to the advice myself in the coming days and weeks.

Ahhh hindsight.

I sat down with all of the people involved today and told them that I needed to put my family and my mental health first and that I was sorry, I knew my leaving would cause a huge mess, but that I had to be done. And do you know what? They understood, and respected my decision, and offered me another long term position that didn’t require the extra time and mental strain.

So I guess my post script lesson, is take your own advice sometimes.

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