Say YES to NO...and other boundary setting ideas

by Sheila VanZile, Author

"NO" is a complete sentence.

Doesn’t require justification, doesn’t need explanation, it can simply be.

How many times in your life have you wanted to say a simple “no” to a request or a demand, and found yourself agreeing in spite of your resistance to accept, comply, or acquiesce?

How many times have you agreed to a course of action or life direction that is completely in conflict with your wants and desires?

And, if you’re like me, how many times were you, in retrospect, completely unaware that you even had conflicting wants or desires?

For me, this was a core issue in continuing to nurture a life of “shoulds”. Saying “no” just wasn’t an option if the “yes” followed the should path. I didn’t even try to negotiate a lesser sentence. And I say “sentence” because it is a bit like serving time in prison. Held hostage by the unintended decisions of our lives that have built themselves into a barred cell.

If you’re still saying “yes” when you know you should be saying “no” to the path your life is taking, perhaps it’s time to shift gears. Make a prison break, burn the boats, take a stand.

Scary to think about? It was for me! And until I started taking action, I was trapped, frozen in place.

Get Sheila's book, My Waterfall of Awakening.

Today, when I am asked to do something, I take time to not answer reflexively.

I try not to respond on autopilot, because inevitably when I do, I fall into old patterns of behavior. I let others shape my path. Today, I take the litmus test of “Do I WANT to respond yes?”, and if that answer is “No”, then that is my answer.

Mostly, I do try to be polite about it. “No, thank you, I have retired from board work and raising money for non-profits”. “No, thank you, I already have plans that day/lunchtime/evening”. “No, thank you, I do not want to split the eggplant appetizer with you". "No, thank you,......(insert your polite release from a should request here)”.

And, sometimes my “no” response is simply no response.

For someone like me that was completely schooled in polite, compliant social behavior and fully integrated into structured society, that one is truly the hardest to embrace. But sometimes I just let silence sit.

  • Will you experience anxiety when you stick your toe into the “No” waters? Absolutely!
  • Will you lose a few folks when you are true to your wants? Yes, you will.
  • Will you miss them? Probably not.

What’s waiting for you when you say “no”? The exact opposite of what you are now living when you continue to say “yes” to every should that is still in your life.

It’s time to pick the locks of your prison, open the door wide, punch the guard that is standing in your way, and stride out into the sunlight.

Get Sheila's book, My Waterfall of Awakening.

Say “YES” to "NO"!

I’ll be waiting to welcome you! (Just don't ask me to split the eggplant appetizer with's a texture thing.)

If living the “should” life betrays your good life, my book My Waterfall of Awakening can show you how to triumph! Check out the Guided Journal aspect of the book: thirty-eight (38) lessons are included to help you chart your journey.

And Now It's Time to Say "YES"!

Well, you knew this was coming, right? When you’ve learned the lesson that “NO” is a complete sentence, what will open up?

Well, YES, of course.

You’ve probably heard so many women talking about having the year of ME. Or intending to have the year of ME. I’ve not met many women who have actually done it, though. In my experience, before my mother died, that concept ended up being like going on a diet. The first few weeks (months) were full of commitment to being true to what I truly wanted to do. Practicing the art of saying “yes” to those opportunities that opened up in front of me. But when my life didn’t change much after those first few attempts at being true to what I really wanted in life, I went back to eating french fries. Or wallowing in self loathing. They are kind of in the same bucket in my life.

I finally found in my own life that saying “YES” had to start with a contemplative journey about how I wanted to feel, how that differed from how I felt in that moment, and judging the distance between those. By doing so, I was able to identify gaps and overloads that were standing in the way of my achieving a self that I loved beyond measure. A woman that was firmly committed to serving the highest good, which I came to understand was truly important to me. Someone who woke up grateful every day.

Get Sheila's book, My Waterfall of Awakening.

So, just like the learning of using “NO” effectively in your life, learning “YES” is equally important.

And, I think, sometimes it is vastly more difficult. Because “YES” opens up avenues that might scare those most important in your life. For example, I have a friend whose writing has become very intense, and as a result of that, her husband is very concerned for her well-being. She is saying “YES” to investigating and working through generational abuse and denied heritage. As a result she will not only write a kick-ass book, but will heal that for herself and future generations. Her “YES” is both for herself and for the highest good, and while she is heedful of the concerns of her family, she is fully embracing the journey.

I have another friend who, finally, after years of a tortured marriage, said “YES” to her independence. I told her when she made that decision that she would be surprised how much her life would open up and that people would step forward to embrace and love her. That her life would fill with people who would nurture her soul as a result of that decision. And they did. She still to this day expresses her amazement at the clear path between that decision to divorce and the robust, loving community that surrounds her today.

Get Sheila's book, My Waterfall of Awakening.

Saying “YES” starts with small steps, just like saying “NO”.

I would suggest if this resonates with you that you start a list of things you’ve declined to do in the past because you felt you couldn’t or shouldn’t say “YES”, not because you didn’t want to do them. And then list the life experiences that you truly want to say “YES” to. They will be big and small, easy and daunting, harmless and life-changing.

I said “YES” to forgiving and releasing my love-withholding mother, selling my business, to purchasing a home in France, to trusting a contractor thousands of miles across the sea to complete its renovations, to retirement, and to reshaping my friendships and relationships.

But in between those big “YES” decisions, there were probably thousands of individual thoughts that I said “YES” to that allowed those avenues to open up for me. And, thousands of “NO” decisions, as well.

Be bold, be brave, be true to yourself. Say “YES” to the person waiting inside of you that wants to be seen and honored. Ask your inner child what she wants, and heed her innocent reply carefully. It will be the most honest answer you will get in your life.

And don’t we always smile when we say “YES”? Would you like sprinkles on that chocolate ice cream? Would you like to walk a little further on the beach today? Would you like to walk out the door of your job/home/abusive relationship and never look back? Would you like to wake up every morning, stretch luxuriously, and simply recount everything for which you are grateful in the world?


Get Sheila's book, My Waterfall of Awakening.

If living the “should” life betrays your good life, my book My Waterfall of Awakening can show you how to triumph! Check out the Guided Journal aspect of the book: Thirty-eight (38) lessons are included to help you chart your journey. 

Sheila VanZile, author of My Waterfall of Awakening, How Loss Can Bring You Home to the Life You Want, is the oldest of two children born to a withholding, distant mother and alcoholic father. Instead of discovering and pursuing her own passions, which were deeply buried under a cloak of self-loathing, she landed in the corporate world overworking for over forty (40) years.

At sixty (60), she emerged from her mother’s death committed to deliberately reshaping her life. Sheila's hope is to deliver the message that it is never too late to live a life faithful to your true self.


What you don't know about Jim Crow

by Sally Hendrick

Two little girls in rural West Tennessee are best friends but only in secret. Separated by a cotton field, their lives couldn't be any more different. Sudie's and Mabie's friendship, beautiful yet tragic, leaves a mark for generations to come.

Sally takes you on a journey back in time to the early 1900's Jim Crow South, as she imagines what life was like for her grandmother, Sudie, weaving together memories from her own childhood and stories from her family, even the black women who raised her.

Coming someday soon. Please enjoy this chapter for now.

Read a chapter for free