Boundaries and the Power of “NO” (or Go Ahead, Be the Bitch) by @artistsedge

by Debra Russell | Featured Contributor


The thought terrifies, doesn’t it?  What if they don’t like me?  What if they think I’m a bitch?  I’m a NICE PERSON!  I don’t want to be a bitch.

Or if we’re being really honest with ourselves, I don’t want people to think of me as a bitch.

Even when the answer really is “No.”  We don’t say it – we accommodate, avoid and twist ourselves up into a pretzel.

Here’s the thing.  You cannot survive as a business owner if you won’t say “NO.”  You cannot thrive as a woman if you won’t say “NO.”

So, if the ability to say, “No” is a critical surthrival skill, how do you learn and develop that skill?  How do you know when to say, “No,” let alone how to say it.


I remember watching my Mom, back in the ’70’s, discover her “No.”  She’d had another of her meltdowns, where she had said “Yes, Yes, YES,” until she couldn’t stand it anymore and then exploded with her “No.”  I remember her running crying to her bedroom.

But this time, she did something different.  She went to an Assertiveness Training course.  And when she completed the course, things changed.  She began to say “No.”  She began to ask for help and ask for what she needed from us and from my Father.

And then she even began to give herself what she wanted and fight for what she wanted, when necessary.  And it wasn’t easy.  And it wasn’t comfortable.  But I think it’s why my parent’s marriage survived (62+ years) and they still love each other truly, madly, deeply.  I think it’s also contributed to why me and my siblings are so incredibly close.  And I know it’s made a huge difference in how I handle “No” myself.

Because relationships without boundaries are not, cannot be truly intimate.  If your relationship doesn’t have boundaries, you are not safe.  And if you are not safe, you won’t allow yourself to be truly intimate.

It’s counter-intuitive, I know.  It seems boundaries are about separation and intimacy is about closeness.  So, let me see if I can explain this seeming paradox.  When you are in a relationship without boundaries, you are also without choice.  You can’t say, “Now, I am available for us to be together.”  Because you’re not allowed to say, “Now, I am NOT available.”

And so, you will keep part of yourself closed off, because you are not safe to choose when you are and are not available.  You will instinctively and likely unconsciously choose to keep part of yourself always unavailable.

It is only when you allow yourself to choose, that you will also allow yourself to be fully available, vulnerable, open.