Boundaries: The Magic Words “Yes” and “No”


When I was in college, and throughout my twenties, the word “yes” was my magic word. I was young, full of energy, and madly desiring of a life in music. I said “yes” to everything.

“Yes” was the word that took me to a Vancouver, Miami, and Rome, “Yes” was the word that got me a well paid summer gig where I worked with union costumers,

“Yes” got me a lot of magic, and I was the “yes” girl for years.

But, there was a huge problem with the magic word, “yes”…

I was constantly over-committed and burned out.

Over time I started to realize that I could no longer function as the “yes” girl. I needed a new strategy.

The answer came to me in the form of a podcast that I have practically memorized. Rob Bell’s Robcast episode number 164, As Yourself.

I won’t go into the details of the episode. I also link to it with the disclaimer that it primarily discusses the Christian viewpoint and is heavily theological. There was a point in my life when I was very involved in the study of theology and philosophy, I’m in a different season now, but this particular podcast is one I come back to frequently. It changed my perception forever.

Unfortunately, in the arts, often we need to put ourselves in a position to say “no”. We need to be financially stable, and sometimes that means working a lot, working jobs you don’t enjoy, or simply burning the candle at both ends. However, there is a point when you cannot function like that anymore.

This is the point where you need to enforce some boundaries.

Boundaries means keeping the magic word “yes” and adding the magic word “no”.

“Boundaries” is something of a buzzword these days. There is a brilliant movement happening where people are becoming more aware of their energy in relationship to their health and authenticity.

Brene Brown, one of my favorite thought leaders, discusses this idea in her books. She even has a ring she uses to discern her boundaries. Every time someone asks her for something, she spins the ring on her finger and really thinks through the decision.

If you identify as female, Kate Northrup also discusses this from a hormonal perspective. In her research, she found that the female brain prioritizes things like connection and belonging. This is why those of us who identify female, often struggle with the “yes” factor.

Once I had this understanding of how I was wired, I decided to implement my boundaries. I quickly realized that saying “no” to certain things also meant saying “yes” to myself.

Here are a few other things to consider on your journey into boundaries:

  • Pay attention to your feelings, they are providing information.

  • You teach people how to treat you.

  • The music world is a big place. If you say “no”, more than likely someone else can say “yes”.

  • No is not a complete sentence. I disagree with the old adage. Humans are creatures build to wonder “why”. A short, succinct explanation is all you need when asserting boundaries.

  • It is far better to deal with a little discomfort in the beginning than to end up overworked, stressed, and resentful later. Always play the tape of your commitment to the end.

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