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Owning Your Worth By Setting Boundaries

February 23rd, 2017 by Rachel Graves

I got tons of feedback from last week’s blog post and podcast replay. It turns out, several of you felt you could relate to the burn out that led to many of my health challenges. I got lots of questions around ways to stop it before it becomes a problem and how to gain the support of others around you. The answer? Boundaries. Boundaries are HARD though right? Most of us aren’t very good at them. As women, a lot of that is learned and then constantly reinforced by society. We’re supposed to be sweet and accommodating, and of service right?

Healthy boundaries, or the lack thereof has a direct impact on our mindset.  And our mindset impacts the way we approach and show up in every area of our lives.  Think about it.  When was the last time you agreed to do something that you really didn't want to do?  Or when was the last time you let someone else and their problems or negativity completely drain you?  How did it make you feel?  Exhausted?  Resentful?  Fake?  Maybe you're a chronic over-committer. Maybe you live your life based on a list of “shoulds” or an imaginary checklist that has been handed to you by your culture, family, etc? Maybe you're a martyr to a fault.  Giving of yourself, and supporting others is great - as long as you take care of yourself first.  You can't be all things to all people, no matter how hard you try.  And, the more you commit to your own self care, the more you can show up for others in a positive, helpful and authentic way.  There's nothing to feel guilty or selfish about.  The healthier you are, the bigger the impact you can make.

If you haven’t gotten the chance to listen to the podcast (click here to listen) here is a quick refresh of the “wake up call” I was referring to.  See, I was a "yes person" for a long, long time.  I didn't want to disappoint anyone.  I thought I really could handle it all.  The problem was, that definition of "all" kept growing and growing and growing!  I was putting everyone else's needs before my own, and MAN was it starting to show!  The weight gain, the fatigue, the irritability.  Soon I developed chest pains that just wouldn't go away.  Fast forward a few months and I found myself in the ER at Beth Israel with a team of doctors testing me for a heart attack at 27!  Talk about a REALITY CHECK!  It turns out I wasn't having a heart attack (phew!).  I was having all the symptoms of a heart attack because I had been having continual chronic panic attacks for months due to stress and elevated cortisol levels (like off the charts elevated).  I knew I had to start taking care of ME.

The very first thing I did was sit down with all of the important people in my life and let them know that I had to set healthy boundaries from now on.  No discussion.  It wasn't open for debate.  I HAD to get healthy and I needed time and space to do that.  That meant strict boundaries around being online and offline at work.  It meant prioritizing and scheduling my workouts.  It meant getting my nutrition and sleep back on track.  It meant not being at EVERY girl's night out, happy hour or social event if my energy levels weren't up to par.  Basically, it meant getting comfortable with saying NO.  NO to other people, and YES to myself.  And you know what?  That's when the magic happened.  That's when everything turned around.  Not instantly!  But over time, with lots of practice - the weight came off, I was sleeping soundly, and I felt like ME again.  

Not only does saying yes when you really want or mean to say no drain you, it starts to create a really dangerous pattern – and not just for us.  Take playing the martyr for example - swooping in to save the day for someone else who needs to take responsibility themselves.  It robs the other person of their own autonomy by enabling destructive behavior and draining your energy in the process.  Jumping into others experiences and taking on their burdens can’t be an option anymore.  It’s hurting us all.  This was a recurring theme in my own life for years.  Now, I quote the amazing Lisa Nichols to my clients all the time - "Not everyone deserves a front row seat in your life." (<-- and I always add - including family) This is something I believe with every ounce of my being. See, your energy should be your most prized possession. You should guard it like the treasure it is. But do we?

We all have people and activities in our life that seem to suck us dry or leave us feeling “less than” or “too much”. Maybe they're blatantly rude. Or maybe they're just exhausting. There's a difference in someone who is toxic and someone who's just having an off day.  So how do we know if someone or something is toxic? Anyone that you consistently dread running into or spending time with is toxic. Anyone or anything that consistently makes you feel bad about yourself, makes you feel tired, or makes you feel uncomfortable in any way falls into this category.  Am I suggesting you quit your job because your boss is a jerk? Not necessarily.  Am I saying to completely cut ties with your mother in law if she has a habit of putting you down? Oh, your kids consistently make you tired? We better boot them too, right? Haha, no! We live in the real world, remember?  So how do we detox the negativity in order to set and enforce boundaries, and protect our own energy and sanity?  Bottom line - We teach people how to treat us. You can rest assured that what you allow WILL continue. That is one thing I know for certain. So boundaries are key! The best part is that YOUR boundaries and priorities are 100% up to you, and you don't owe ANYONE an explanation for the boundaries YOU choose to set.  Here are 4 steps to practice when starting to set and enforce boundaries in your own life.


Practice saying no to things without explaining yourself. That last part is key.  By saying no, you remove yourself from the toxic person and situation and will build a bit of distance that will help you say no the very next time should you choose. You are not obligated to accept every invitation from every acquaintance in your life. This applies to family gatherings as well. You are not obligated to grant every request that comes your way. You are not obligated to give everyone 24/7 access to your energy.  You are also not obligated to explain your "no". Try it!


Try dropping a draining activity from your schedule for a week or two and see how different you feel.  Lighter?  More present?  Happier?  Then maybe you drop that activity or relinquish that responsibility completely.  This isn’t laziness or being a slacker.  This is time management at it’s best.


Get vocal.  Key phrases I use to protect my energy are:

a. I’m all set.

b. No thank you.

c. I can’t do this with you right now, but I’ll call you back as soon as I’m able to make this a priority.

d. Unfortunately, this isn’t a priority for me at this time.  Here’s someone that may be better suited for that task.  Best of luck!

While some of these may read a bit snarky, it’s all in the delivery.  You aren’t blowing people off.  You’re respectfully declining something that isn’t a priority to you and saving your energy for things that are.  Simple as that. When you say yes when you mean no – you grow resentful.  Mindset and self-love guru, Liz Dialto says to “trust that people can handle your no.” Instead of feeling bad about declining requests or invitations, try to view it as an extension of honor and respect for that person as well as yourself. 


Ask for help.  Don’t struggle in silence. Be honest with those closest to you and ask for their support.  They will be thrilled to help you.  Ask your close friend to watch the kids for 30 minutes to an hour while you sneak in a workout.  Better yet, discuss self care with your boss and make sure that you can build it into your work day.  You’ll be a better and more productive employee for it.  Ask your partner to put the kids to bed so you can take a relaxing bath without interruption.  You’re always welcome to email me as well!  That’s what this community is for, right?

Now that you've learned to say "no" and set healthy boundaries, stay busy with people and activities that make you happy and build you up. Replace the negative with positive.   By setting proper boundaries with toxic people in your life, you'll be blown away at how much lighter, energized and focused you feel!  By setting and enforcing boundaries, you will be owning your own worth.  You’ll be freeing up your energy and your focus for the things, people and activities that make you feel alive and allow you to have an impact!


“No is a complete sentence.” –Anne Lamott



Was this helpful?  Which tip above can you start using today to set and enforce healthy boundaries?  Let me know!

If you're local to Connecticut and want to take your boundary setting one step further, check out EmpowHERed 2017!  This is an annual event I host at my gym in Bloomfield, and I'd love to have you join us!

Posted in the category Mindset.