If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that our society needs to slow down. Slow down on some unneeded responsibilities and expectations we set for ourselves. It’s helped us see an opportunity to slow down on adding more to-dos when it’s already packed to the brim like a Golden Corral Thanksgiving buffet. We have been forced to learn how much social connections weigh on our happiness and how many of us haven’t been advocating for ourselves to do things we really want to do. Amidst all the uncertainty the pandemic has brought, this is the true Cinderella story.
The best way to learn the importance of setting boundaries is when we don’t have any. In this space, we react without a plan or any formal direction and say yes to others and no to ourselves because it seems to be the right thing to do. As it turns out, structure isn’t just for kids. As we grow through life, we don’t have anyone telling us what to do, so we end up hiring people to help us exercise self-advocacy and establish boundaries that either were never there in the first place or got lost in the shuffle of life.
Together, let’s unpack some tips on how to use boundaries and self-advocacy to reach new heights in your optimal potential.
Be the First Consumer to Buy Your Own Decision
Without personal buy-in, self-advocacy is simply a dream. Whether it’s deciding to lose weight, sign up for a race, go back to school, or even change career paths, we have to believe that we deserve to take the journey and possess the fortitude to see it through. We must say YES to both the future obstacles and future successes when we take the plunge. No journey worth taking comes without detours, orange cones, or closed roads. So, before we jump into the car with our Pandora playlists and road trip snacks on lock for days, we have to anticipate roadblocks ahead because changes outside of our control are the known constants. So, embrace it all – the good, the bad, the uncertain. Jump in and commit to buying this ideal that advocating for yourself is the first step to teaching people how to treat you – including yourself.
Protect Your Energy
Once we decide on the journey ahead, it’s essential to monitor our battery power as we travel onward. We will be faced with countless situations and people that drain our batteries quicker than a 2-hour Candy Crush marathon on your smartphone (if ya know, ya know). Energy vampires can quickly suck the optimism and drive out of the most determined spirits. Tune in to your internal battery and assess how certain things make you feel. If speaking to a certain person leaves you feeling negative – limit your exposure. If you feel angry or frustrated after watching the news or scrolling through social media – cut back and use my favorite feature to hide, block, or just downright delete that toxicity.
Your energy is sacred and shouldn’t be handed out like beads at Mardi Gras. Not everyone or everything will deserve your energy, so be choosy and a little selfish. No one can protect you better than you and sometimes, that means saying NO a little more often.
Learning how to say “NO” to others, allows us to say “YES” to ourselves
It’s safe to say we all desire to be desired. Whether that’s in a personal or professional sense, being a standout amongst those around us feels amazing. When anyone else could be chosen, they choose YOU! When your work team needs someone to put in more hours, they ask YOU because you’re the most dependable. When a friend wants to lose weight, they ask YOU for advice being that your Stronger U journey yielded mad results! When someone in your family is sick, they call YOU to help out because you never say no.
At the moment, it’s normal to want to say YES to all these things because these people feel you are the only solution to their problems. When, in fact, they’re knocking because you’ll always answer the door. Sometimes, answering others’ calls often leads to missing out on calls essential for your own happiness and overall wellbeing. This doesn’t mean you’ll leave a dear friend in a bind when they really need a helping hand. It’s simply saying YES to help yourself, just as much, if not more, than when you say YES to help others.
“NO” is a Complete Sentence
There is so much power in such a short word. Two letters can be the difference between giving yourself space to breathe during your lunch break or feeling overwhelmed, lacking work/life balance because your coworkers always skip their lunch and you’re really gunnin’ for that raise this year. It could get you time back to work out in the mornings two times a week if you just ask your partner to help with the morning routine, so it doesn’t all fall on your shoulders. It can give you the power to avoid the wine and ice cream after every workday, so you can say YES to finally addressing your stressors head-on.
Let’s do an activity together. Take out a piece of paper and make two columns: one column for things you do for other people and another column listing things you do for yourself. Take your time and don’t rush. Give yourself a few hours or days to complete the list and then dig into the facts. Evaluate which list has more content. Chances are that column 1 has a lot more love than column 2. If this is true for you, it’s time to slowly make deposits into your personal “bank” of self-worth. At first, the process will feel weird, perhaps a little selfish at first, and that’s exactly how it should feel because it’s foreign to you. Just like we know habits are best built nice and slowly, putting yourself closer to top of your priority list takes time, consistency, and patience. Start low and go slow.
Treat Yourself the Way You Treat Others
Now that we can visualize how we prioritize our needs against those around us, let’s take this one step further. When we begin advocating for ourselves, we gotta draw some boundaries that will help us learn what we will and won’t tolerate. First things first – Don’t you dare accept anything less from yourself than what you’d give to others. If anyone deserves your best, it’s you! Let’s say that one more time for the people in the back. If anyone deserves your best, it’s YOU! This starts with daily self-speak, the way you talk about yourself to others, and the energy you emit day in and day out. If you wouldn’t tell someone you respect that they’re weak because they can’t say no to cookies in the break room or that they will never get that promotion, then you have no business telling yourself that nonsense. That’s because what we believe to be true, IS true, in our minds. So, we must treat ourselves like we’re our own boss, our own mentor, and our own heroes. Why? Because there’s only one you in this world and you deserve to feel organic because that’s exactly what you are.
Let People Know What You Need and Give Them a Chance to Support You
As awesome as it would be to read people’s minds like Mel Gibson in “What Women Want”, the human mind just isn’t that cool. Although we all know this, many people act as though others should know what we want or don’t want and that just couldn’t be further from the truth. When establishing new relationships, whether that’s a friendship, relationship, professional affiliation, or even a mentorship, show up for yourself, as you’d want others to show up for you. Be clear with your boundaries and what you need from the partnership. If lines get crossed, address the conflict head-on and leave no room for interpretation on where you stand. Clear is kind – not only for you but those with whom you interact.
Start Creating Your Boundaries Today
Tips and tricks for advocating for yourself are great, but the real change happens when you start creating those boundaries. Look for places in your own life where you have been overextended and create some margin to get some of your time (and possibly some of your sanity) back. If you are looking for a way to do something just for yourself, maybe it’s time to sign up for a session with your Stronger U coach. Stronger U coaches are ready to help you achieve your goals while learning how to advocate for yourself and your needs in the process.