I love getting inspiration from Instagram. For example, @lisaoliveratherapy posted weeks ago about doing things for yourself rather than other people. Lisa is an MFT up in the Bay Area and provides excellent therapeutic tid bits on her feed. This just happened to be the same day I said no to someone about their services. Let me explain….
About six months ago I was looking for a house cleaner. My neighbor referred her house cleaner to me and shared that’s she’s been working with, Lupe, for some time. My neighbor, Cathy, brought her over to my house while I was recovering from surgery and honestly the house was an absolute pigsty. And that’s when I met Lupe.. She was so warm, kind, and didn’t speak very much english. We agreed that she would come twice a month and she would call me in regards to schedule and the cost of services.
It took a few weeks for Lupe to call but once she did she told me she would be there early Wednesday morning. Now, here’s an inside tip on me- I’m a night owl and when I’m in my creative season, I tend to stay up way past 3am. So, a housecleaner coming at 8:30 or 9am during the week is challenging for me. But, I wanted my house clean so I said ok.
The first visit Lupe was 15 minutes early. She arrived at 8:15am after a night I was up till almost 4am. The dog went crazy, I was jolted awake, and honestly I was a bit frustrated. I later found out that she likes to work early because she drives over the Mexico border Every.Single.Day to get to work. She’s also a grandmother of 5 children, takes care of an ailing (now passed) mother, and her own children who are grown, but not grown up. She has to get back to Mexico by 2pm in order to pick up her grandchildren from school. I no longer felt frustrated. I actually felt guilty due to my frustration with her early arrival and my lifestyle.
Unfortunately, the next few times Lupe didn’t show up or call. Or if she did call it was the day of or late the night before telling me she couldn’t make it. I completely understand that life comes up and for Lupe it was car problems, a dying mother, grandchildren, or being sick. I didn’t mind that she wasn’t able to show up week after week it was more of not knowing that made me anxious. It was hard to fall asleep because I was worried that she was going to show up even though I knew she wouldn’t.
Finally, Lupe called after weeks and weeks of no shows and told me she’s ready to come back to clean. I told her no. I told her thank you so much, but no. I told her I appreciated her dedication and for her services, but at this time it just didn’t work for me.. She apologized and we went on with our lives.
A few weeks later, she showed up at my door. I had just gotten back from a walk and was in the back room putting the laundry together. Pax was going nuts at the door and I knew it was her. She had been cleaning Cathy’s house and stopped by to apologize and ask if “I still need her.” I had a choice- I could say yes and just get over her erratic scheduling or I could say no and honor mine. I told her no, thank you. She apologized several times and I just explained in broken Spanish that my life is too unpredictable and I need more routine with cleaning.. I told her to stay well and she walked away.
I gently closed the door and tried to understand my emotions. I felt empathy and wanted to help. I felt satisfaction for doing what was best for me. I felt like an adult for taking control. I felt sadness and guilt.
Once I saw Lisa’s later that day I knew I made the right decision. Lisa writes on her graphic, “what works for them” then crosses it out and writes below it “what works for me”. It’s ok to say NO, it’s ok to say this doesn’t work for me! It’s OK TO NOT ACCOMMODATE ALL THE TIME FOR OTHER PEOPLE. Get more comfortable with saying no, because the satisfaction you’ll feel in regards to taking care of yourself is a better feeling than a clean house.
Setting boundaries is NOT easy. It takes YEARS of practice and experience. When I write “experience” I mean truly understanding yourself and being comfortable with disappointing other people because YOU know in your heart of hearts you’re doing what is best for you. I believe that when following through with our own needs we can actually give back to others even more authentically than just saying yes all the time.
Here are 6 tips that have helped me set boundaries:
Not responding YES right away - saying “Let me get back to you on that” so I can really think about if I want to attend that party or host that girls night.
Owning my decision. I use to be very wishy washy. Now, once I make it I TRAIN my mind to not look back. (Key word TRAIN… you gotta keep at it).
I make up my own rules. Ex: A client of my mine was invited to a bachelorette party in another country. She felt like she had to go and would have major #fomo if she didn’t. But, in all reality she had no desire to go. So, I suggested that she plan her own fun with the bride in a way that worked for her. She ended up visiting her friend in New York rather than traveling out of the country and they had a great time.
Write it down. Grab your memo pad in your phone and just start jotting the thoughts down on paper. Brene Brown calls this a resentment journal or a damn it! diary where she writes down her thoughts and feelings about her experiences.
Awareness. You’ll notice as you start writing things down the things that trigger you OR the feelings of frustration you feel when you say YES even when you didn’t want to.
Practice. The mind is a muscle- just like your biceps. You have to train your mind to start thinking and reacting in a certain way. So, practice. Practice saying, “oh that sounds fun but my plate is full right now”.