Current Events guest post Mental Health Self-help

When “No” is the Most Difficult Word You Know

​Imagine this: you’ve just built a brand new mansion right beside the ocean. The door is made of gold and the windows are stained glass. It’s three stories tall and designed with the most intricate details. It’s wide open to the public, there’s no fencing. Over the next few days, intruders start vandalizing the house. Their spray-painted handwriting is everywhere and the stained-glass windows are shattered.

The commonsense response would be that you should have put a gate around your mansion. One that was tall and locked with no openings. In this metaphor, you are the mansion. And when you lack boundaries, you leave yourself vulnerable to damage from others.

Maybe you have a fence of boundaries, but a few people have found the loose board to cut through. Maybe there are wide gaps in certain areas or maybe your fence is just for appearance. But it’s time to start building a strong fence.

When "No" is the Most Difficult Word You Know

When "No" is The Most Difficult Word You Know

What are these boundaries supposed to look like? To begin with, boundaries aren’t there to keep other people out, they’re there to keep you in. Boundaries look like saying no to your boss for working overtime, telling your friend you can’t listen to her vent today, telling your new dating interest to stop pressuring you into physical intimacy. Boundaries, in general, are a lot of saying “no”. However, without this ability to say “no”, you can never truly mean the answer “yes”.

My favorite quote about boundaries is “The only people who get mad when you create boundaries are the ones who benefited from you having none in the first place.”

Just because someone gets mad about you saying no, doesn’t mean you should have said yes. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of people pleasing, especially when you have grown up in an environment of trauma, abuse and shame. 

Maybe making other people happy has become a part of survival for you. “No” is the most difficult word you know, in fact it might not even be in your vocabulary. Take today to give up your lack of boundaries. Do this in as small of increments as you need. No, it won’t be easy, but it will be healthy and worth it and each boundary enforcement will get a little bit easier.

-Alicia Lambert