Sep 9

What Happens When You Start Exercising Your Right to Personal Boundaries?

Below offers some insight into the reactions you can expect from your colleagues when you start exercising your right to create, enforce and maintain your personal boundaries.  This is part two in a three-part series.

As women we are raised to be pleasers, to get along, to say yes, to be part of the solution not part of the problem. This approach, unedited, usually benefits everyone but us. When we finally decide enough is enough, and we are ready to say yes to the right things and no to the wrong things, it’s only natural to wonder how we’re going to be received.  Speaking from personal experience there are roughly three phases to the process: the storm, the retreat and the return.

Phase 1: The Storm

Like any storm you can see it coming and you usually have a pretty good idea of how bad it’s going to be.  So, you prepare.  Whether you are pushing back on your workload, making a case for fair pay for fair work, or letting a weekend work call go to voicemail (which will no doubt create interesting dynamics Monday morning), expect to meet some resistance.

Preparing mentally for the storm.  I’ve found the intensity of the storm is based on two variables:

1.  The amount of experience the other person has had with you enforcing boundaries.

2.  The emotional intelligence level of that person.

Unfortunately, these two factors are related to the other person, which means you don’t have a lot of control here. Bottom line, if the other person is accustomed to being allowed to behave however they please with you AND they are more of a command and control, my way or the highway kind of person, then mentally prepare for more of a level 4 hurricane.  Anything better will be a welcomed surprise.

I know… so far this sounds pretty bad.  Just stay with me, some good news is coming.

During the storm, stand firm in your power. This is absolutely critical.  If you back down now, it’s like giving a screaming child candy every time they freak out.  Remember, you have the right to establish and maintain your personal boundaries.  You are not asking for a favor, something extra or special treatment, you are simply saying it’s time for quid pro quo respect between two adults—regardless of positional power.

Once it is clear to the other party that you are committed to maintaining this boundary, the storm will begin to fade.  Then, you will move into the next phase of the process.

Phase 2: The Retreat

As the storm passes things will become quiet, in a strange way.  Your phone may ring a little less, you may not be included on a project that has your name written all over it, or you may see a decrease in communication other ways.  Expect this.  You’ve just established new standards for everyone to play by and your colleagues are going to take a step back to recalibrate.  If this is the first time, you’ve made it clear that there are new rules of engagement, then expect this retreat to last a little longer.

Even if you do remember to expect this response, it will still trigger fear.  So, you should also expect to hear from your ego shouting things like, “See what you’ve done! …Now no one is asking for anything! …You need to fix this fast! …And, blah, blah, blah.”

Quoting my own journal during such a time, “While part of me feels really proud of the steps I’ve taken to bring more balance into my life another part of me is saying… nice work… you’ve just committed professional suicide.”  This is a prime example of inner wisdom vs. a freaking-out ego.  Which voice do you think was louder?  Right.

I’ll tell you more about why I wrote that in my journal in the next blog.  Suffice it to say, of course, my fear was going to me speak to me.  I was stepping outside of my comfort zone in a big way.  And, when you step outside of your comfort zone your fear is going to get loud too.  Why? Because, most of us have allowed our fear to control far more than we realize for a really long time.  Once we decide to make new choices we have no tangible experiences, yet (operative word here… is “yet”) to remind ourselves why everything is going to ok.

So, when things start to hit a fever pitch for you, and they will, take a deep breath.  Trust the wisdom that guided your right actions of empowerment.  Stay true to the quiet, deeper inner knowing and soon enough you will have an experience to validate why you did what you did.

Another thing, it’s during these #ohshit #whathave.i.done moments that you should be calling on your support team (see the last blog post if you missed it).  These wise women that you trust will remind you that you are in fact not only sane, but brave.

The point is you must do whatever you need to do to calm your very real, very irrational fears.  Then, take another well-deserved breath and realize part of this quiet feels really, really good. This is what you wanted—the power (and time) to spend your energy on the things that matter most.  This is what the world needs from you.  Only you know what matters most to you.

This period of retreat, of quiet, is a gift back to you for all you have given to others.  This is some good karma!  Recognize it.  Honor it.  Use it!  Replenish your energy and feed your soul.  Whether you know it or not, you’re taking steps to align yourself with your true purpose in life.  Choose to believe it or not, I’m just saying what I’ve learned to be true.

Moving on.

Phase 3: The Return

Here’s the most important piece you’ve probably forgotten, but others have not.  You are awesome.  You are totally and completely awesome… awesome… awesome.  That’s how you found yourself starved of energy to begin with.

People with bright lights, creative power, passion, and drive stand out.  You stand out.  Others are naturally drawn to you.  They always have been and always will be.  You add value to everything you touch because you care deeply.  You’re a great resource and people are going to want to continue to tap into the unique gifts you have to offer the world.  But, they are your gifts to give; soul-level energy is not to be taken.  So, trust me, they will be back.

Still don’t believe me?  Let me put it this way.  99-percent of the time you make people’s lives easier, better, more full.  Even if that drops to 75-percent of the time, YOU MAKE PEOPLE’S LIVES EASIER, BETTER, MORE FULL!  That’s what they know to be true about you.  When they do return, your inner wisdom will have that “I told you so” moment with your fear and your ego.

So, give yourself a big hug; and, take great pride in paving the way for other women to also make clear their boundaries- to choose freely how they will and will not channel their unique gifts into the world.

Remember, it takes courage to consciously step into the unknown.  It takes a leader.  And, the world needs your powerful, feminine leadership.

If you feel like sharing, I’d love to hear about your courageous moments.  Visit or

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Sep 9

WARNING: Saying yes, when you mean no, is hazardous to your health

Below is a simple step-by-step process you can follow to uncover your real truths once you are ready to exercise your right to create, enforce and maintain your personal boundaries.  This is part one in a three-part series.

There’s been a lot written on the importance of saying no and specifics for how to say no, but before that information can be useful to us we must go back a step further.  We must uncover our personal motivators that make saying yes so easy and saying no so hard.  Once we’ve done this, then we can take the practical steps to creating healthy change.

So, let’s talk about the word no.  As much we intellectually understand the value and power of this word, it is still really hard for most of us to put it to good use.  Why? Seriously, why is it so freaking hard for us to say no?  This is a question I’ve asked myself, and my girlfriends, many times.  The conclusion I’ve come to is that saying no is so hard for us because it goes against the very core of our fundamental nature as women.  I also believe as a collective group we’ve allowed our good intentions to be exploited.  We ignore our inner wisdom, everything in our being that’s telling us to watch out, be careful, SAY NO for the immediate gratification that comes from saying yes (…and for all the reasons it’s scary to say no).  We tell ourselves we’re saying yes because we’re being good corporate citizens or because it was an honor to be asked to work on this project in the first place.  We tell ourselves it’s ok to say yes because it will put us in good graces with those who have the most influence on our ability to succeed.  We tell ourselves we say yes because others would do the same for us.  Sometimes these reasons make sense; often they do not.

What happens when we don’t learn to say no?  We lose energy.  We lose energy until there is none left to give.  Without clear boundaries, we give to the point of depletion.  When we realize we are doing this it’s time to ask why.  What drives us to give to the point of depletion?

Several years ago, I went through a very dark period.  I knew the way I was behaving, the choices I was making were damaging, but I couldn’t see a way out.  I felt like I was drowning in this thick, confusing fog.  I decided it was time to dig deep and find some clarity.  I found myself asking, “Why was I willing to sacrifice so much of myself?”

For me the why that came back was not easy to face.  You see my why is about self-worth.  I am a people-pleaser.  I feel safe and important when I feel needed and included.  As much as it pains to me to admit it, I was defining my self-worth, my satisfaction with my life through the acceptance and the approval I received from others.  With this belief system in place, saying no for me threatened how I defined my value in the world.

This was a most undesirable finding.  My reaction was… no, this can’t be true… fuck… seriously… no, really, this simply cannot be my truth.  Everything about this finding was repulsive and disgusting to me.  I am better than this, stronger than this I told myself.  Haven’t I proven that I have a tough skin, and that I don’t need the approval of others?  Haven’t I made it clear that I really don’t care what others think of me?

Thankfully, a kind, gentle knowing reminded me that deep down I knew the truth and the truth was I did care, I do care, and that’s ok… to a point.  The point that it becomes unacceptable is when behave in ways that are restrictive and depleting instead of expansive and energizing.  I had finally reached my breaking point and it was time for change.  It was time for recognizing, establishing and honoring my personal boundaries.

Below is the step-by-step process I went through to create healthy change.  Maybe it will speak to you too.

Step 1:  Pay attention to your inner guidance system.  Our bodies, our minds and/ or our feelings will let us know immediately when a personal boundary is being violated.  These red flags and signals of frustration are calling us to take appropriate action.

Step 2:  Define your boundaries.  Write out what is important to you.  Decide what behaviors are acceptable and what behaviors are intolerable.  This is a critical step because it brings real clarity, keeps you accountable and actually makes it easier to follow through on enforcing your new choices.  

Step 3:  Develop a plan.  This is the tactical phase.  Decide how you will enforce your boundaries.  (If you are looking for some specific guidance here, checkout Womenomics, chapter four, by Claire Shipman and Katty Kay.)

Step 4:  Gather reinforcements.  Enlist the support and guidance of two or three women you trust personally and professionally.  Allow this support system to help you stand strong.

Step 5:  Be brave and take action.  You know what’s important to you.  You know what you will and what you won’t accept.  You know how to respond.  And, you can take solace in the comfort of your support system.  Now, it is time to act.

Step 6 (optional, but highly recommended): Celebrate!  Sure, establishing and enforcing your boundaries is important, but it’s certainly not easy.  Take a moment to honor your courage.

Remember, when one of us stands strong in our rightful power, we all benefit.

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