It’s Ok To Set Boundaries | Take Care of Yourself – Doula Series Ep. 7

By: Care Messer Birth Doula, Doulas, Education March 7, 2019


What are your boundaries around saying no to things you don’t want to do? Do you say yes because you feel selfish or guilty if you DON’T say yes?? Are you afraid to say no because of what everyone else will think about you? WHY do we do that?? We do that because we have been conditioned from a very young age that our feelings don’t matter as much as everyone around us. When we say yes out of obligation, we are not giving the other person our full attention and love because we are resentful or angry about saying yes. When we say “maybe” to things – are we really trying to say “no”? What would it feel like to have your “no” respected and not questioned? In this video, you are going to learn that a yes should always be a “HELL YES”, a “maybe” is really a “no” and a “no” means you are just not available for that right now. “No” is not a rejection – it is the highest form of self-care. With practice – this will change your life!

Video Transcript:

– So today we’re going to talk about boundaries, knowing what your boundaries are, knowing what you’re okay with, knowing how to set boundaries and how to practice setting boundaries. Once you have a really solid, clear formula for how to do it, and you feel confident in doing it, it’s going to help change all of your relationships in the world, especially going to change the relationship you have with the parents that you’re bringing in. Sometimes we need to model the behavior for the families we work with in how they can say yes or no to certain things, whether it be to family members, care providers, hospital environment, birthing environment, whatever, but we have to be confident in our skills around boundaries and not take offense when people say no to us, and teach people not to take offense when we say no to them. It’s so simple and it’s going to change everything, So let’s get into it. No means no, no is a complete sentence. It doesn’t need a clarifier, you don’t need to give a reason for your no, you don’t owe anyone an explanation for your no. There’s softer ways to say it, and we’ll get into that in a minute, but I want to give you an idea of three responses. No, maybe, and a yes. And I want that yes to be a hell yes. Because when we have a hell yes, we’re all in. We come in, loving, ready to help, do whatever we want. When it’s maybe, it’s a, I don’t really want to, but I feel like I have to, or it’s a guilting, okay, I will because I need to, but our insides are saying no, we want to keep going to the no, but we don’t know how to say no and take care of ourselves. So we’re going to figure out what a no is, and what a hell yes is. I want you to picture maybe as a no, because a maybe is I really don’t want to, I’m really not feeling it. I actually want to say no, but there’s that word I can use in between, from no to yes, that feels a little better than just saying no to you. I get it, we all say it. We say it all the time. So let’s find out why we don’t say no. We are built-in people pleasers. When we say yes, we conform to the environment, we’re accepted by our peers, our families, people we work with, all of that. But when we say no or maybe, we come across as a witch, other words, that people might call us, or non-conforming, or bucking the system, or just plain rude, but we haven’t learned to take care of ourselves and say no to things because that’s not accepted, but it needs to be accepted. In order for us to have a full bucket and use really good self-care, we have to be okay with saying no to things that don’t serve us, and also don’t serve the person that we’re trying to serve. If we find a no, and we don’t hear it as a negative, but we actually hear it as a positive. Like I’m saying no to you, because right now I’m not into it. And if I go there to help you, or babysit your kids, or put off my life to do whatever you need me to do, there’s going to be an icky thick energy in the room, that’s not a hell yes. But if you know that my no means no for a reason, when I say yes, you know I’m all in and I’m excited to be there, and I’m excited to help you and I’m going to do whatever it takes to make it the best possible. You don’t want me there if I’m a meh, and I don’t want you in my life if you’re a meh, I want you a yes or a no, and when I can trust your no, I can super trust your yes, and then we’re clear. So when I say that no is a complete sentence, it sounds pretty harsh to say no, no, no, no. Rude, it is, it sounds rude. But there are ways to say no without a wiggle room in the background for someone to talk you into a yes. I’m sorry, I can’t help you with that today. That’s not going to work for me this week. I just can’t make it, that’s it. What would it feel like to actually say no to somebody and have them go, cool, I’ll catch you next week. What would that feel like? When do we ever get that in our lives? We don’t. Instead we get talked into it, guilted into it or nagged about it, or made to feel bad because we put ourselves first in a situation where somebody else really needed us. But if we are able to be there for them in that moment, it’s okay to say no, it’s okay to say no. So let me give you a little example, if you really wanted to kiss somebody and they were a hell yes, it’s going to be mutually beneficial for everybody involved. If they were a meh, gross. How is that going to work for the two of you? Yuck, nobody wants to do that. It’s not going to be beneficial for anybody. But they said yes, so I guess we’ll do it, uncomfortable. So I’m going to bring Tanisha in in a minute to help me demonstrate body language, asking for consent, hearing a no and respecting it. How many of us have been assaulted by somebody with a hug? They come in and we’re, we give them a hug, but we weren’t in the mood for a hug, we didn’t feel like a hug, or we didn’t like them, or possibly didn’t even know them well. But they’re huggers, so they just come on in. And I will tell you that I am a hugger. And I’ve been completely guilty of that, and sometimes have to catch myself. When we are asking for consent, we’re respecting the other person’s right to say no or yes to what we’re offering. When we’re asking for consent, we’re giving the other person the opportunity to say yes or no to what we’re offering. So one of the first questions you need to ask yourself is, do I look to someone’s body language whether or not they’re going to be receiving this hug or not? Do I ask for permission, or do I just go into? Most of us just go in, if we’re caretakers and we don’t even think about asking, especially if we know the person. But we don’t even know what their day was like, so maybe taking a little second to ask them might be a little more respectful. But then the next part is, what if they say no to us? Is that rejection? What’s it going to make us feel like if they say no? We need to switch in our brains what no means when we hear it. No just means that this person is taking care of themselves by setting a boundary because right then, they are a no. Doesn’t mean they don’t like us, don’t want us, or maybe it does. But that’s not our responsibility. Our responsibility is to hear it and respect it, which is one of the problems we have in this country. We don’t know how to say no, and we aren’t used to people respecting our no, so we go with it. What are we teaching our kids when we do that? And remember, no means no, maybe means no. And yes means hell yes. Those are really important things to know, when you hear maybe, that’s not a hell yes. So there’s a yes and a no, that’s it, there’s no maybe. It’s okay for someone to set a boundary with us, and it’s okay for us to set a boundary with someone else. If they don’t respect that, they don’t respect that, then we move on to someone who will respect it. So this is my friend Tanisha. We’re going to demonstrate not an assault hug, but a hug where you asked for consent, watch body language, and then listen to the response. Tanisha, can I give you a hug?

– Certainly.

– So now I’m going to look at body language. I’m going to ask for a hug with myself having a neutral body language instead of going in for one. I’m going to keep my hands to my side and keep a neutral face. I don’t want her to feel like I expect her to hug me back. Because she may be a no, so I don’t want to make her feel more uncomfortable than she might already be feeling, so neutral body language. Tanisha, do you need a hug?

– No.

– Okay, thanks for letting me know. Instead of, Tanisha, you need a hug. Super awkward because then she may feel like she needs to drop her hands and give me a hug. So we’re not going to do that. We’re going to ask, respect her no, with a thanks for letting me know, or thanks for taking care of yourself, or thanks for setting that boundary for me. Whatever, some of it feels really awkward to say, because we’re not used to saying it, but it’s respected her saying no. What does it feel like when someone respects your no?

– It feels good but at the same time it’s–

– Yeah, just say no to somebody.

– Yeah.

– Right, because we’re so used to caretaking each other but not taking care of ourselves, it’s not good. So in Doula 101, we practicing no and hearing no, and we also practice our response so that we’re not taking the no personally. Remember that no is a complete sentence, you don’t need to qualify it with but maybe later, or but, but, no is a complete sentence and it’s totally okay to say that. So, Tanisha, do you want a hug?

– No.

– Thanks for letting me know.

– Tanisha, do you want a hug?

– No.

– Thanks for setting that boundary. Tanisha can I give you a hug?

– No, thank you.

– Thanks for letting me know. No harm, no foul, all good. So, Tanisha, when we did this in 101, and we’ve actually practiced in different circles and stuff like that, how did you feel the first time we practiced it?

– Super uncomfortable, I’m not one who puts a lot of boundaries. So for me I just felt like I was passing out little disappointing nods to people, it was very like–

– And I think everybody in the room felt like that.

– Yeah.

– Because we’re so not used to saying no. Since we were all doing it, and we’re in a group together, and we practice it with each other, now what?

– Now I find that I had no boundaries and I’ve had more boundaries. And in turn, I respect other people’s boundaries a lot more.

– Just in everyday life.

– Yeah, every day.

– including doula staff.

– Yeah, it transcends doula, and so it’s massage in everyday life, yeah.

– So in everyday life, people ask us things all the time that we can’t do, because we’re too booked out, we’re scheduled, we have appointments and stuff like that. I know me having a handicapped daughter, sometimes I am so swamped, and it hits me just like that and I need help. The last thing I want is for Tanisha to put off her whole life and reschedule her whole life to bail my butt out because I failed to plan. So for instance, I would call her and say, “Oh my gosh, Tanisha, I have three deadlines tomorrow “and I have to film this video, “can you come watch Fim for me?”

– No.

– She doesn’t have to tell me why, I trust her no, because if she’s a no, she’s not a hell yes. I want someone to say hell yes to my kid, right? So I’m going to say thank you, thank you for letting me know. I got to find somebody. Awesome, we still love each other, we still respect each other. What would you ask me?

– Okay, I have 12 dozen cupcakes and I have to get them by Saturday.

– Of course you do.

– I was hoping like maybe you could do like half of them since you’re really good at baking and then like I won’t be so overwhelmed?

– Yeah, so she won’t be so overwhelmed. She’s asking the nice way, right? And normally, I would be like, “Sure, no problem, I’ll figure it out.” And in my brain, I’m like, “God, I don’t have time for that.” It is kinda for both of us to say, I wish I could help you out but no, not this week.

– Oh, thank you for taking care of yourself.

– She’s gonna find somebody else because she has 12 dozen cupcakes. Why would you do that for the bake sale, that she has to take care of. We still love each other, we still respect each other. Because we have that understanding, it’s so much easier than just saying no to people who don’t get that understanding. So we got to teach them how to treat us, and we need to respect each other. And that’s how our boundaries can work when there’s murky waters. It is okay to be clear, and that way you know when the person says no, they really have a good reason behind it, you can just trust it. So from the time we were really young, we’ve been physically conditioned to have no physical boundaries with people, and say yes when we really wanted to say no. This is what holds us back in our lives from doing self-care and really setting clear boundaries with people, family members, work members, in the birth world, etc. Let me give you an example. When we were little, we were taught stranger danger. They’re a stranger, they’re a stranger, they’re stranger, stay away from strangers, right? Okay, we have clear boundaries on strangers. But if that stranger wasn’t a stranger to our parents, or our cousin, and we were asked to hug them, or push to hug them, or forced to hug them when we were like, we don’t want to, they’re a stranger, I don’t know them, and an old person, they’re drooling. I don’t know, whatever reason, they smell funny. We were pushed into doing it over and over and over. And we did it, because this is how you’re going to conform to the world. This is how you’re going to be accepted. You have to have grandma so and so, you have to hug uncle so and so, you have to hug your teacher. But what if we had the option of not, but we didn’t have the option of not. So from a very young age, we’ve been conditioned to not say no, especially with our physical bodies. And that’s gotten us into a lot of trouble. And I think we can all relate to that in many different ways. So because we’ve had no boundaries for ourselves, we often don’t offer boundaries for anybody else. Let me give you a hug as an example, we go in for a hug, whether or not they want one or not, we expect people to hug us back. And sometimes we hold too long, and sometimes we violated their space, and they didn’t want to be touched. Some people don’t like to be hugged. And for people like me who touch, touch, touch and love that it makes somebody else feel really uncomfortable. But if we just assume that that’s what we do when we go to a family reunion, that’s what we do when we walk into a doula circle, that’s what we do when we XYZ, we aren’t even giving anyone the opportunity to consent or say no to not being touched. So we need to figure out what our boundaries are around that. So go back in your own life, how many times was a hug just taken from you? From a man, made you feel really uncomfortable. From a woman that made you feel really uncomfortable. Flip it in your mind, how could that make somebody else feel if I bombard them with my body, and it may feel like, but that’s how I want them to know they’re welcome, and then I love them, awesome. There’s ways to ask for that. The first rule about any hug is whoever starts to let go first, that’s when the hug ends. If you’re holding and holding and holding and you’re thinking this is really awkward, and you start to let go, the other person should also start to let go, or if it’s a new hug, just be simple with it, hug, appreciation and be done. So go back into your life, when in your life has it not been okay for somebody to touch you, and they’ve touched you? How has that made you feel? Angry, violated, sad, dismissed, not heard? Those are the things we’re going to start to shift today in this video. And things you’re going to need to start practicing. It’s going to bring up some uncomfortable feelings, awesome. That means you’re starting to grow, I’m okay with that. I get uncomfortable all the time. And I get really uncomfortable, and it’s okay, feel your feelings and walk through this. So hugging and touching is something that can translate into something that’s even better when we start to teach our children, and the people around us how to treat us, in general. So I’m going to give you a little example with permission from one of my friends when I was at her house. Her five year old came in, and he had made her a sandwich, a treat, and we were painting and we were busy. And he said, “Hey, mom, made you blah, blah, blah.” I don’t remember what it was. And she goes, “Well, thanks, kiddo, I appreciate that.” And he goes, “Well, are you going to eat it?” And she said, “No, I’m a no right now.” And he went, “All right, “thanks for taking care of yourself, mom.” And walked out of the room. And I think my jaw literally dropped on the floor. I looked at her and I said, what did he just say? And she was so proud of herself. And she said, “Yeah, isn’t that great?” A five-year-old he just spent time making his mama sandwich she said no politely, and he was totally okay with it, felt zero rejection, felt respected, felt heard, just she was a no at that point. And he didn’t take any offense at it, because that’s what had been modeled for him. It was phenomenal. And a big shift took place in my own house. So in your personal life, where do you feel like your boundaries are crossed? Where do you feel obligated to help when you just don’t want to help? When do you rearrange your whole life to save someone else for their emergency because they left something to the last minute and you put all of your stuff on hold and get behind in your own life when you’ve pre-planned and done a great job to save them, to help them, and why do you do it? We do it with our friends, our family, coworkers, relatives, what are we doing it with? And why are we letting those boundaries be crossed? So let’s look at the bigger picture, there are two main reasons why we don’t enforce our boundaries. One our feelings don’t count, and two, everyone else’s needs and feelings are more important than our own. But your feelings are as important as everybody else’s. My feelings are important as everybody else’s, we are worthy to say no because we have to take care of ourselves. If we are touched out, if we are too tired, if we have too many things on our plate, it’s totally okay to say no to somebody. When we are a hell yes, we’re all in. When we’re a no, we’re taking care of ourselves, and that’s okay to do. We preach self-care, but are you really doing it? I will tell you one thing with me if I say yes, it is a yes, head to toe. I don’t even use the word maybe, I’m a yes or no. And when I’m like that, you can trust that my yes is a hell yes. And when I say no, it is not a reflection of you that I’m rejecting you, I don’t like you, it’s that I have to take care of myself right now. So it’s a no. Next week, I may be a hell yes, I may be ready, I may have everything organized so that I can be a yes. And then you’ll know it’s a full yes. It’s the same in the doula community. When I ask somebody something, and they say no, I’m all cool, we’re good. If they say yes, I know they’re all in. If I hear their no, and I trust their no, I know I can trust their yes, that is so important. And next week when we talk about this with our families, it’s important that they know that too. The first step in really setting your own boundaries is listening to how you treat other people’s boundaries. When someone says they can’t do it, do you guilt them into it? Do you pressure them into it? Do you think they hate you? Do you automatically assume the worst? How are you treating other people’s boundaries? That’s the first tweak, when you hear no, say cool, instead of pressuring them, guilting them, right? Super simple. If you can tweak that and figure that out and they start feeling respected and heard, it’s going to be easier for when you say no to them for them to feel like it’s not a rejection of them, and for them to say okay for you, and you’ll feel respected in heard. And what’s it going to feel like to be respected and heard with a no? Super uncomfortable, and then it feels awesome. So again, when you hear a no, it’s not the person rejecting you, flip it to hear they’re taking care of themselves. I’m going to give them that time, so that when they say yes to me, it’s going to be a hell yes. Use the four agreements again and don’t take offense. If they say no, they’re taking care of themselves. When you say no, you’re taking care of yourself, and that’s okay. So when you’re looking at boundaries, creating your own, look in your life where you may be violating or crossing somebody else’s boundaries. Are you holding that hand too long? Are you hugging too long? Are you touching their hair? Are you feeling with their close? And remember when it comes to physical touch, whether it be a hug or a handshake, when someone starts to pull back, that’s when you drop that. They’re withdrawing their consent, something to think about? So remember the points of this video, start finding your no so that you can be a hell yes. That way you’re going to be really good and really clear with your families during interviews and also when deciding whether or not to work with them as well as what boundaries may be crossed if they ask you to do things you’re not comfortable with. And remember that no is a complete sentence. Watch someone’s body language and don’t be offended when they say no. Listen for maybes and take them as no, super simple. And stay tuned for the next video where we show you how to translate this into the birth room and also how to work with your parents.

About the author:
Care is the founder of the Birth Education Center, San Diego HypnoBirthing and Cuddle Sanctuary San Diego. She is a Birth Educator, Hypnotherapist, Birth and Postpartum Doula, INNATE Care Provider, Erotic Blueprint Coach and also professional Cuddler. She specializes in connection work between people and increasing self boundaries for a more balanced life together.