On Boundaries

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To protect my energy it's ok to change my mind. 
To protect my energy it's ok to cancel a commitment. 
To protect my energy it's okay to take a day off. 
To protect my energy it's okay to not answer that call. 
To protect my energy it's okay to not share myself. 
To protect my energy it's okay to do nothing. 
To protect my energy it's okay to be alone. 
To protect my energy it's okay to speak up. 
To protect my energy it's okay to move on. 
To protect my energy it's okay to let go. 
To protect my energy it's okay to change. 
To protect my energy it's okay to say no.


Boundaries have been my biggest work in the past year. People pleasing is in my blood. It's a mixture of my sweet parents who will do absolutely anything for anyone who needs it and being raised in the Midwest where politeness reigns above all. The word "no" was not a word that was in my vocabulary up until my thirties. For years, I often looked at my calendar only to find that it was packed with so many obligations and "get to know you" coffee dates that there was almost no space for ‘me’ on it.

I think in some ways my unconditional yes started as a survival mechanism as a kid. If I was always accommodating, always helpful, always available then people would like me... Right? Wanting too much or being too much myself might rub people the wrong way. (Spoiler alert: It does and it's amazing.) So I stopped doing that. I did what I was asked, showed up when I was needed and was who I thought people needed me to be. Screw my own needs and expectations.

I think in some ways my unconditional yes started as a survival mechanism as a kid. If I was always accommodating, always helpful, always available then people would like me... Right? Wanting too much or being too much myself might rub people the wrong way. (Spoiler alert: It does and it's awesome.) So I stopped doing that. I did what I was asked, showed up when I was needed and was who I thought people needed me to be. Screw my own needs and expectations.

I met Jess, the founder of the Folk Rebellion movement, soon after I turned 30, and I was floored by how she spoke about her boundaries, her schedule, her email inbox. She was the boss, and she was in control of what she could be. Lucky for me, she's become one of my best friends and someone that I look up to like a sister. One of her secrets was saying no.

In my mind saying no to things you didn't want to do was a revolutionary, rebellious act. And the idea of using ‘no’ was terrifying. Today, I use the word "no" quite a bit, mostly from a loving, confident space. It took time and baby steps and practice. And has been so worth it. As Danielle LaPorte says: Open, gentle heart. Big fucking fence. This isn’t “wrong.” This is loving. For yourself, to others, for the world. 

Along the way, I’ve asked just about everyone I admire about their own boundaries and how they manage their time. Here's some of what I've learned:

1. You don't have to explain yourself. I am the queen of explaining exactly why I can't teach that yoga class or make it your kid's second birthday party. I think it goes back to that middle school people-pleasing syndrome. I've since found that my close friends and family deserve an explanation, but I don't need to explain myself constantly. It's freeing. It's liberating. It even feels a bit rebellious.

2. A "no" makes way for a bigger, better yes. I had my first taste of this when I was dating in my twenties. I'd often say yes to dinner or a coffee or whatever because I didn't want to make some dude feel bad. But while I was out to dinner listening to Mr. Boring talk about the stock market or his workout I was missing out on meeting someone really interesting or, better yet, an evening out at a dive bar with my girlfriends. This applies everywhere. Say no to what doesn't light you up so there's room for that job, opportunity, person, or ice cream that will. (This does require trust but get to building that muscle because it's important.)

3. Teach people how to love you. My husband, my family, my close friends, even my dog all know this: I may love the shit outta you, but I must be alone for a little bit each day. I'm more of an introvert than an extrovert, and even though that party sounds really cool so does my pajamas and Stranger Things 2, so tell me all about it tomorrow over coffee.

4. You are not for everyone. And vice versa. Man, I'd love to wrap little middle school me in a bear hug and tell her she was perfect in all of her awkward glory and to keep at it. At 34, I own who I am. I laugh really big with my mouth wide open and one eye closed. I would likely pick an evening in with girlfriends over some Hollywood bash. (Okay, there’s nothing ‘likely’ about it. I would totally pick the evening in.) The more truth-telling and more vulnerability, the better. And guess what? Not everybody's down with that. But it sure weeds out the ones that aren't for me and shows me the gems that are on my path.

The word "no" has opened up far more doors than those skim milk, heavily diluted "yeses" ever did. Start saying no and start living from your real deal self.

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Lovingly Know Your Hell No

I was 21 years old when I was given my “dream job” at a prestigious travel magazine.

I’d been interning at the magazine for several months, living in D.C. and trying to adjust to the bustling, always “busy, busy, busy” energy of living in our political center. I wasn’t adjusting very well. I missed riding my bike around my old campus in Iowa City, taking creative writing classes at the Writers’ Workshop, and spending hours journaling in local cafes and my favorite park off Washington Street. Life in Iowa was slow, mostly blissful, and the way I lived felt creative and fulfilling.

So when I wandered into the editor-in-chief’s office for a random meeting he'd scheduled, I had no idea what to expect. He was a big, burly man who carried himself with a lot of confidence, and though I truly respected him, I also feared him. Frankly, he absolutely scared the shit out of me. The minute he offered me the job I knew it was a "no" but instead I heard a resounding "yes" escaping my lips. I felt the effects physically—a pit in my stomach, sweaty palms, and a tidal wave of anxiety. My body said no but my mind argued.

“Four years in journalism school and you want to turn down National Geographic?”

Not happening.

So I took the job, moved all of my belongings from Iowa City to Washington, D.C., and, to be honest, I learned a lot. I learned what I love and what I don’t. I fell madly in love with yoga, blogs, and traveling during this time. All things that have well served me since.


Saying “yes” when I really wanted to say “no” (or even shout it from the rooftops) is something I’ve done countless times. I’ve said "yes" when I felt "no"—to relationships, jobs, and even sometimes coffee dates.

At the turn of the new year my Instagram feed was full of intentions, affirmations, and saying a big, resounding YES to every adventure. But you know what my gut reaction was? NO. A big, fat no. That "no" was going to be my word this year and that I was going learn to love this word... Hard.

I’m approximately 37 days into 2016 and I’ve said "no" to a lot of things so far.

I’ve said no to Facebook and deleted my account. Why? I always felt utterly drained five minutes into it and couldn’t remember why I opened my computer in the first place.


I’ve said no to alcohol because at 32 hangovers hurt and I’m getting up to some really big, fulfilling shit this year.

I said no to teaching extra yoga classes to focus on coaching, writing, and digging into my own home practice.

I’ve said no to a few evenings with friends because I’ve just really needed to be at home and to feel grounded. And man, Netflix is so good lately.

How is saying "no" (something considered negative) actually self-love (something positive)? Well, when you say no to busyness, mindless scrolling, and complaining, what are you saying yes to?

No gets such a bad connotation, but in order to truly know what lights us up and our non-negotiables, we must, must, must (!) know what we don’t want. We can even feel our "yes" or "no" physically. Many people feel this energetically or often in their gut. Life coach Martha Beck refers to this as “shackles on, shackles off” and encourages people to move toward what feels like freedom. What feels shackle-free.


What we nurture through self-care and healthy boundaries is what grows, and honestly, saying "no" is healthy for you. According to research from the University of California in San Francisco, the more difficulty that you have saying no, the more likely you are to experience burnout, stress, and even depression. So say "no" with gusto.

Honor your boundaries and existing commitments and understand that it’s an offering of self-care.