Setting appropriate boundaries can be tough. Expectations can often cause us to say yes when we really want to say no. I learned the importance of saying no on a recent family holiday to Morocco.

I went on the holiday with my husband, my two children and my parents. We went to Marrakesh in Morocco. If you are familiar with Marrakesh, you will know that it is famous for it’s (souks) markets, and the beautiful things sold there. When you go there, you’re expected to barter, because that’s what they do in the region.

The problem was that my mum is somebody who doesn’t like to barter. She likes to ask the price, be told the price, and pay the price if she thinks it is fair. If she doesn’t like the price, she’ll leave the item. But that doesn’t really work in Marrakesh.

Acquiring things you don’t need

My mum really wanted to get some Argan oil, which is great for your skin and hair. So we went to the market, we went to the first stall that was selling Argan oil. She went inside, and as soon as she went in, the man in the shop pounced on her and started talking to her about the oils and all of the other products he sold.

He had creams, he had spices, he had all these different things and I could tell that she was immediately feeling a bit overwhelmed. He had told her about buying some oil at quite a high price, and then was proceeding to tell her about other things he was selling.

I saw him packaging things up as if he was going to give them to her, and I said, “Mum, do you actually want the cream? Do you want those extras that he’s giving you, I thought you just wanted oil?” And she said, “Yeah, I really just want the oil. I do just want the oil.”

So I asked, “Why are you going to buy the rest of it?” She was feeling uncomfortable and the reason why she was going to buy overpriced oil, and some cream that she didn’t want was because she felt uncomfortable. She felt uncomfortable with saying, “No.” So instead of saying “no”, she was going to part with more money than she needed to, and buy something that she didn’t really need. Of course, I stepped in said, “No, no, no. We’re not buying at that price. She ended up buying it at half the price than she was going to purchase it at.

Improve boundaries

The whole situation got me thinking about boundaries. As women and as mums, we often feel uncomfortable about setting appropriate boundaries and saying no. People might come to you and ask you to do something, be involved with something or go somewhere. You may know that it is not really going to work for your timetable or your schedule. But, instead of saying no, you say yes.

The reason most people say yes is because they are more concerned with not making others feel bad or how they are going to be perceived than they are about making sure their schedule is given priority.

I want to encourage you to get intentional about what you say yes to. Don’t just say yes because you don’t want to say no and let the person down. Say yes if it’s genuinely something that you want to do or something that is going to move you towards your short and long-term goals. If that’s the case, then say yes.

But if you’re just saying yes because you don’t want to say no, then I urge you to say no so that you can free up your time to do the things that are important.

Opportunity cost

Every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else. If you’re saying yes all the time to the agenda of others, that means you’re saying no to something that you wanted to do for yourself, your family, your career or your business. There is always an opportunity cost. Really take some time to think about whether you are happy with what you are saying yes to right now.

Start setting boundaries. Start saying no.

It’s okay, you don’t have to please everybody. You don’t have to be the person that says yes all of the time. You can say no in a respectful way and in a way that allows you to maintain your relationships. But that is going to be the key spending the limited time that you have doing the things that are important.

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