• A friend runs a resume writing business. A potential client contacts her, sends her emails asking questions, essentially trying to get her coaching services for free. Said client then asks if he can have access to her past resumes she’s written for free. NO.
• Another friend is a therapist. A client asks for sliding scale because she’s a single mom who has very limited income but a great need for support. My friend agrees to a discounted price only to then find out this mom makes nearly 6-figures and gets additional financial support from her family and ex. NO.
• Another friend arrives on time at a cafe for a date with a man she’s met on OkCupid. After 10 minutes she texts to ask his ETA. After 30 minutes she leaves having not heard back. The next day he texts her, semi-apologizes without fully taking responsibility, and asks if she’d meet up with him another day. NO.
What’s similar in all of these instances is that each of my friends initially felt bad-guilty-nervous for setting a boundary and saying NO.
It’s like the very act of setting a boundary triggers a deep survival code that says: If you want to be loved, approved of, and supported – you have to give people whatever they want… or else you won’t survive!
If you find yourself feeling like a mean, demanding, heart-less person who “should” give people whatever they want and not speak up for yourself, I want you to know:
Having clear boundaries that honor you, respect the other, and reflect the need for mutually beneficial exchange – does not make you a mean person. It makes you a person who values yourself and has integrity. It makes you someone who cares enough to be a stand for win-win exchanges, not ones that establish you as a rescuer who supports others in being entitled, victims, &/or takers.
I know this is not the message most of us grew up with. I know that your parents did not say “Hey, I want to you be true to yourself and if I’m asking you do so something that doesn’t feel right to you, or if I overstep my authority, I want you to speak up and I will gladly hear you and work with you to find a win-win solution that honors us both.” I know that nearly every bit of survival training you inherited hinges on being “nice.”
But guess what? Childhood is over. You don’t need to live your daily life trying to survive it – you already did. Let yourself cross the “I survived childhood” finish line and step into a place of authority in your life that is based on valuing yourself, not being nice
You can be both, of course – nice (I prefer kind) and valuing of yourself. But as approaches they’re not the same.
Being nice is about being polite, hiding what’s true for you, and being who (you believe) others want you to be so they’ll approve of you and you’ll get what you want (safety, love, money, approval, friendship, etc.) Think: Good girl/boy.
Valuing yourself is about approving of yourself, honoring what’s true for you, valuing your time, energy, gifts, and emotional-mental-physical-spiritual well-being, and communicating to others what you’re available for in a way that respects you and them. It’s being more interested in being honest and creating win-win scenarios than “getting what you want” because you know your needs are met when you honor yourself and live your integrity.
What does valuing yourself actually look like in daily life?
I remember when I was first learning about self-love. It sounded good but accessing it felt very foreign to me. The only way I could tap into it was to think of someone I loved, feel my love for them, and then turn the love I felt back towards myself.
Valuing yourself can feel equally mysterious. We’re used to thinking of ourselves as more or less than others – not in terms of our inherent value and worth. But that’s exactly what we need to start doing: appreciating our unique energy, skill, perspective, wisdom, beauty, depth, offering, intelligence, and creativity. Seeing the positive effect this has on the world around us. And then behaving in a way that reflects this growing sense of self-value. How? My suggestion is to try what I did with self love:
Think of someone you know who lives their self-value in a graceful and empowering way… and practice emulating this in your life.
You may see they are… Clear with their time and energy. Direct with their communications. Honoring of their skill set. Firm yet graceful in creating win-win exchanges with those seeking their services or time. Consistent with self-care. Discerning about who they spend time with. Low drama. In integrity with finances. Operating from a sense of purpose and committed to their path. Trusting of their inner knowing. Confident enough to express their unique views. Accepting of their needs and unapologetic about prioritizing them. Surrounded by people who are similarly self-honoring.
Sounds like a bunch of very good feeling qualities to have operating in your life, doesn’t it?
So I ask you: Are you ready to let go of “being nice to survive” and start operating from self-value?
I thought so. Me too.