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mom@shiloh

I envy people who......

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seem to be confident in setting boundaries.  

Me:  "Well, maybe I should just take on this one extra task. I could probably fit it in. Somewhere. Maybe I'm just being selfish and unwilling to serve."  

Other people: "No."  

Now, why can't I do that?  🙂

 

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😄
I think most of us who set firm boundaries have reached the breaking point, fell head first over it, and been electrocuted by the demands of others in a pit of servitude.  There was a time I took on EVERYTHING.  Now my motto is simply, "I'll show up."  When I do choose to take on something it's because I've carefully thought it out and weighed the demands that it makes on my family.  It's not just me. It's me taking away from the things I do with them and so they lose out, too.

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Ha. I have no problem saying no, but I still wonder if I'm being selfish in my unwillingness to serve. (But then I decide that it's okay if I am.)

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Oh, it takes so much practice. I used to take on way too much and finally reached the breaking point.

If it's hard for you to just say no, say "I'll check my calendar and get back with you." That buys you time and physical and emotional distance. Much easier to say no when the person's not in your face, tugging your heartstrings. If you're inclined to say yes, use the extra time to really think it through.

Sometimes it helps to ask myself if my DH would feel bad about saying no (I'm thinking especially about volunteering at church or school). Once in a while he does do extra things, but for the most part he has a full time job and simply can't take on more, and doesn't give a fig if someone thinks he should. Well, as a SAHM with kids who aren't school age yet, I have a full time job too, so why should I feel bad if I can't work more stuff into my schedule.

Finally, don't compare yourself with someone else, or let others compare you to someone else. They may have more free time, more passion for the work, or maybe their job or family is being neglected, or they're about to burn out. 

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It really does help if there is something that makes you say no that's concrete, like a scheduling conflict. I've had to say no to lots of things I wanted to say yes to when my kids were little--my DH works weird hours, and I would be asked to do things that didn't include childcare, or we'd say no to sport activities because the kids would've had games on different nights, and I couldn't be in two places at once. It was nice to have that training, though I have to say that I didn't find that time of life or bucking everything that others were doing to be much fun at the time. 

Maybe you can harness some of the downsides to saying yes and make them seem more concrete to you--writing yourself notes, or whatever it takes. At the same time, maybe you can make what you want to say yes to very real to yourself and tell yourself you're saving your personal investment for those things. It might even make you more likely to pursue those things and enjoy them! If you combine the ideas, you might be able to make a rubric for saying yes or no with criteria like, "Is this a one-time thing?" It might not capture all the nuances you'd like, but getting deal breaking or goal-meeting criteria in there could be really helpful.

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I think part of it is I grew up with a dad who literally said yes to everything and it severely impacted our time/relationship with him. Even into adulthood, he couldn’t fly out to see my family because he had to help an elderly lady take care of her CAT. So I’m pretty ruthless about prioritizing my family over the rest of the world. 

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1 hour ago, Pawz4me said:

It's a learned skill for most of us, I think.

Yes. Definitely a learned skill. I look back and wonder how and WHY I did all those things. My dh has been very helpful in pointing out when I'm trying to take on too much. 

I need a good balance of things to do or I get bored and in a rut, though. It's finding that perfect balance that can be tricky.

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Repeating the chorus - it is a learned skill!  I sucked at it for years until I couldn’t afford to suck anymore.  I literally had to start saying no, and have been saying no to most things ever since, with decreasing amounts of commentary justifying why.

I think my husband came out of the womb with this skill, but he is unusually impervious to social pressure.

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Sometimes I think I radiate a “No” vibe because I don’t get asked special requests very often. 

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Think of "no" as a kindness.

I have someone in my life who says "yes" when they should say "no".  I definitely pick up on the "oh why did I say yes?!??" vibe and also suffer the consequences if said person puts off the thing they agreed to do.

Also, the thing you say "no" to might be something meant for another.

Giving a truthful straight answer and giving space for others to serve is a kindness!!

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Our family has a habit of saying "yes" because they like to help.  Of the two who have learned to say "no" fairly easily, they are the two who are just hardwired differently.  They're very practical, more black and white.  I think it's easier for them to see how much they can handle.  Of the one who eventually learned to say "no," it's because she finally realized that her health couldn't keep up.

I must radiate a "no" vibe too though, because usually the only requests I get are ones I can quite easily do.  🙂 

 

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I have been having to say no more often lately because I am burnt out on volunteering.  It actually was pretty easy once I did it the first time.  However, I have to be careful not to just say no as a automatic reaction to being asked things.  Volunteers are important to keep things running in many activities, if everyone says no then there is no activity.  So, I have learned to weigh the pros and cons before giving a response, unless I already know that it is not something that works for me.

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I was hyper cautious since birth and it seems genetic somehow. However I have a toxic uncle and one of his sons is toxic too so I have lots of practice in childhood to “stand my ground”. 

As for feeling selfish, I have learned the hard way to see it as self preservation. If I am unhealthy or burn out, I can’t take care of my family and help others. Also a “No” means I don’t leave friends hanging and they could ask others for help. 

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It's a learned skill for me, too.

When asked to do something, I say I'll think about it.  Then I do think about it and make a decision.  This is an improvement over me agreeing on the spot.

I literally (not figuratively-literally, but LITERALLY) practiced that response out loud until it became natural for me to say.

 

 

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Agreed, it's a learned skill. I got tired of volunteering and then realizing that the time and money required had been understated. I also stopped when I realized people were happy I was available so they would overstate my ability - in a few areas where I should have stepped away and done something else where my ability and availability matched. That hurt because I felt like I'd been lied to about being "good" at something when in hindsight I really wasn't. 

At this point in my life, I have a mental boundary and physical boundary. I have long-term health issues that limit how much stress my body can handle before it literally shuts down. 

It's harder when kids are younger. At this point, I'm in grad school, so literally my free time is very limited, and ds is grown, so I don't need to volunteer for things for his benefit anymore. 

 

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I do think it is a learned skill. I learned from over-committing! 

Sometimes just sitting down and mentally laying out your priorities is helpful. 

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I also have a hard time saying no. And, when I do say no I have to give this really long explanation about why I am saying no. 

I envy people who say no and leave it at no. I always feel like I have to give a reason or I'm hurting their feelings.

Kelly

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Learned skill.  One year I decided to quit any volunteer gigs I had going and then to say no to anything else coming down the line.  I got a number of requests, but after a year, people stopped asking.  I’m rarely asked to do anything anymore.  When I’m asked, I think long and hard about doing whatever it is.  Mostly I say no.  Once in a while I say yes.  

It’s still uncomfortable to say no, but I get over it. 🙂

 

Edited by Garga
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For me, the "Aha!" moment occurred when I sat down and tried to make a schedule for everything I thought I "needed" to do.  As I tried to block time for all the tasks, I realized that there were just not enough hours in the day/week/month to do everything I thought I needed to do. Or, even if I could fit it all in, I would likely go insane.  Something had to give.  It was a wake up call. 

I still find myself wanting to walk away from a couple of volunteer things I've done for a long time.  I just have no interest in the "cause" anymore.  Mostly, I stay marginally involved because I like the people and helping out gives me a reason to hang out with them.  I'm still trying to figure out whether or how to cut loose of that tie.

I am pretty good at taking the time to examine new stuff that comes along.  I just say, "Give me a day (or a few days) to look at my calendar and think about how it might fit into my life."  Then, I do that.  I stick the new "thing" in my iCalendar and see what it looks like (including Repeat events for weeks/months ahead).  This allows me to see potential conflicts, or potentially stress filled days or overloads, and I decide whether it will work for me and my family. 

I also consider how the task/activity/chore fits into my personal mission.  There are certain areas that very meaningful to me, and others that I am not really invested in.  I am more likely to say yes to an activity that rings close to my heart (teaching a children's music class) than one that I recognize is important, but is not up my alley (coaching a kids' soccer team).  

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Well, I managed to slip and fall into something again, so let me add another tip: divide and conquer when you can't bow out gracefully. 😄

I took over a small task for an event this year, made some helpful suggestions for other parts that have worked for me in the past, and at the very end, the coordinator told me, "I feel very confident passing this event on to you next year.  Thank you." 😮 Not what I intended! 😄

Since I have about 300 days to think about it I'm going to rope in someone else so there's two of us doing this one person's job and we'll each take the tasks we're suited for.  (No worries, she had expressed interest in taking a more active role next year 😉 )

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I say no all the time.  lol.  Once I became less of a people pleaser, it was easy for me.  Everyone's reasons are different though.  

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I think people an introvert helps. I definitely don't volunteer for things that are out of my comfort zone. People don't ask me for stuff probably because I don't put myself out there much. And I have wondered if maybe I don't suffer from a bit of RBF. (Resting b!tch face) Many years ago when my kids were little there were a couple women in our neighborhood who kind of latched onto a couple of my friends, in a way that kind of took advantage of them by asking for a lot of invasive favors. My friends had a hard time saying no because they felt like they were being rude. I have sometimes wondered why those kind of people don't try to latch onto me. I mean, I am incredibly grateful. But like I said, I suspect a little bit of RBF probably helps. 😅

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Maybe you would like to try listing your to 2 to 6 priorities in life right now & what you're doing already for each, and only take requests that fill in a gap on that list. So, not that you don't appreciate this Opportunity To Be Helpful, but you're pouring your energy into Categories A and B right now, and that doesn't allow you to add this as well.

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I am 48 and I have evolved on this over many years.  I was very much raised in an environment where it was a female's role to just do everything to make everyone else happy.  I've probably flipped too far in the other direction.  LOL.  

Boundaries are healthy.  I still probably volunteer too much.  Although my attitude as a volunteer now is if you don't like how a volunteer does something, you are welcome to step up.  What I do for free out of the goodness of my heart to the best of my ability given my current time and circumstances is not subject to critique or criticism and you will not add to my task list without my permission.  I will circle around other volunteers taking heat as well.  

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I'm an ambivert that leans toward introversion and I come from a crazy family or origin dynamic, so part if it is personality and the other part was mental survival. Like most things, the more you do it the better you get at it.

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