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Minisode 11 | December 17, 2020

Build Your Arsenal by Learning to Set Boundaries

In this minisode, we talk about how you can grow your brain and build an arsenal of skills by learning how to set boundaries.


Welcome to “That’s a Hard No” – the podcast about saying no (in all its forms) so you can become the authentic and empowered person that this world needs.

Quick disclosure: While Sarah is a Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, this podcast is in no way replacement for one-on-one therapy with a mental health professionalIf you are struggling with mental health issues, we welcome you on this journey, but also invite you to seek out professional help.

Looking for a therapist? Here’s a good place to start:

Key Takeaways

The concept of boundaries is not new, but the process of developing them continues to be challenging – which is a huge reason why we created this podcast. Personal limits and boundaries are tools necessary for surviving safely in the world. It’s been estimated that at least half of all the problems humans encounter in life are of their own making based on the way they think. Often those problems are related to boundary issues. Individuals with healthy appropriate boundaries are able to know, understand, and state their personal limits as well as their family limits.

Although human beings are born with virtually no boundaries, they have the ability to learn to set healthy limits, a process that should begin at a very early age. Children absorb information about boundaries from watching their care providers and role models just as they learn almost everything else in infancy. Think back to your childhood. Were you allowed, even encouraged to say the word no? Were you expected to say yes to whatever your parents, teachers, or care providers wanted you to do? If so, you may have found yourself agreeing to things you really didn’t want to do. Two of the shortest words in the English language are yes and no, and yet they’re often the ones that require the most thought before they’re said.

Remember, if setting boundaries is hard for you, you are not alone – again, the reason we created this podcast was because we recognize that this is an issue for many. We want to help create generational change by empowering you to start developing these skills and teaching your kids to do the same – it is never too late.

It’s important to note that boundary setting is, in fact, a skill-based task – meaning that in order to be successful at having boundaries, you must practice specific things to develop that skill. As mentioned above, human beings are born with virtually no boundaries. They have to learn through practice how to set boundaries.

This leads us to our next point, that learning new skills actually creates new connectors in your brain.

The process of learning is the key to slowing down brain aging. The more you know, the more your stretch your brain’s capacity for learning. So for those of you constantly listening not only to our podcast, but other personal and professional development podcasts, reading books, getting CEU’s, going to trainings, educating yourself in different ways, you are doing yourself and your brain a HUGE favor!

While human brain development is over by around the age of 25, our brains continue to change throughout our lives. Our brains’ ability to change is due to brain plasticity, also known as neuroplasticity. The word neuroplasticity describes how experiences reorganize neural pathways in our malleable brains. In layman’s terms,  this means that long-lasting functional changes in the brain occur when we learn new things! This is another reason why having a growth mindset is so important.

Neuroplasticity happens on a daily basis, but it is also something that we can encourage and stimulate.  In our interview with Jamal Collins, he talked about building an arsenal of skills – and in order to build that arsenal, you have to experiment and try new things. Learning a new skill can be hard at first, but as we talked about in previous episodes, it’s like a muscle, the more we practice, the stronger that skill becomes – because the neural pathways associated with that difficult task is strengthened with practice – and each time we do it, it becomes easier.

In our last minisode, Understanding Emotional Intelligence, we broke down the 5 elements and identified steps you can take to develop a deeper emotional intelligence. Those are skills that are added to your arsenal to better equipped you and your brain when going through challenges.

Creating and enforcing clear boundaries takes time and practice. Research shows that self-compassion and better boundaries lead to better self-esteem, more mental energy, more independence – and these things, in turn, lead to more overall life satisfaction. You have to build your arsenal or “toolbox” for boundary setting. Here are some strategies to practice and use to build your arsenal, so that you can more easily say no and set appropriate boundaries:

  1. Be clear about what you want – I specifically focus on assertiveness (when it comes to communication styles – there are 4 main styles: passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive. The heathiest and most effective form of communication of these 4 communication styles is assertive communication.
  2. Practice being assertive – Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
    • Take ownership – Use “I” statements. Here’s an “I Feel” form for you to practice with. Use it to practice using assertive and clear language that expresses how you feel and what you want.
    • Say “NO” – We’ve brought this up in previous episodes – “No” is a complete sentence. This is a reminder to practice saying no. You cannot make everyone happy all the time, that’s not your job. Your job is to make yourself happy. So, continue to practice saying no, do it clearly, without hesitation, or trying to justify your reasoning.
    • Voice your needs and desires confidently; Plan what you’re going to say: Know your wants and needs, and how you can express them – before entering a conversation. Come up with specific sentences and words you can use. If you need help with this, use our “No scoresheet.” On the bottom of the scoresheet, we list some ways to say no. This is just to get you started. Use it to build your own little toolbox of sayings that you can draw from regularly when faced with an interaction that needs a boundary.
  3. Safeguard your spaces
    • Schedule nonnegotiable alone time for self-care or family time
    • Set a cut-off time for answering emails or texts
    • Use the “out of office” responder (weekends, vacation, or when you’re focusing on a big project)
    • Temporarily delete certain social media apps (so you don’t end up caught mindlessly scrolling)
    • Use the Do Not Disturb feature on your phone or other devices
    • Don’t have unhealthy treats that create brain fog or derail you from a healthy lifestyle you’re working hard to maintain
  4. Seek SupportDesignate a cheerleader or an “accountabl-a-buddy.”Set yourself up for success by designating a trusted friend, family member, or significant other to be your boundary cheerleader or “accountabl-a-buddy.” Explain your intention to set better boundaries and your desire for a supportive buddy throughout the process. When you set a new boundary, let your person know, and practice the celebration – call them, text them, facetime, zoom…get creative!
  5. Practice giving yourself permission! – Fear, guilt, and self-doubt are big potential pitfalls. You have to consciously remind your brain that it’s okay to do what you are doing… literally saying to yourself, “It’s okay to say no,” “It’s okay to feel that way,” “It’s okay to change your mind.”

Remember, setting and sustaining boundaries is a skill. It takes courage, practice, and support. We’re so glad that you took the time to check out this minisode and we can’t wait to hear about how you’re becoming a boundary-builder. Get in touch and let us know about your boundary-setting successes!

Resources & Recommendations
Credits and Thanks