What I’ve Learned By Saying “It’s Okay” When It Actually Wasn’t; Some Recent Lessons on Creating Healthy Boundaries

Famous and common sayings that I have been giving a second thought to as of late is “it is okay”, “you are good” or “it is all good.''

I hear these words so often come out of my own mouth, and out of the mouth of friends, family, loved ones and at times when I say them and hear them, my inner voice is completely in conflict. 

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the words and the potential meaning behind these sayings. I have actually always been a lover of communication. 

If we are left feeling depleted, or that our confidence is taking a hit, or that we are being made to feel like we are “less than” - is making it as though it is “okay” to spare someone else’s feelings or maybe to show that you can let things “roll-off” your shoulders what we should do? Is this really how we should be approaching these situations? What was it that was keeping me and possibly others that used these phrases instead of voicing the truth?

This could be my personal observation or maybe just my own situations, but I found after a lot of self-study (also known as one of Patajanli’s Niyamas as Svadhyaya) that I used these phrases almost as a way of stating the situation was no big deal, or that my feelings or emotions weren’t hurt, or maybe that I was strong or maybe zen enough to just “let it go”. 

Yes, there are instances and circumstances where this is the case, and I use these words sincerely. However, there are other times when I found myself using them totally incorrectly and for all the wrong reasons. 

For the purposes of wanting to change, and recognize this unhealthy habit I have noticed in myself, I am coming clean and creating accountability for myself. I am committing that I will not be using these phrases anymore unless they are in line with what I am feeling from a mental, physical and emotional state. Instead, I recognize that the best things I can do for myself, and for others, is to live my life in alignment.  

Listen, it is common to want to avoid conflict, and of course, none of us want to find ourselves being the creator of conflict or drama, and maybe this is why we can often find ourselves in circumstances where we are biting our tongue and really hurting on the inside. 

Don’t we owe it to ourselves to at least try and find an effective way to communicate on behalf of ourselves so that we can continuously show up for ourselves and build trust with ourselves over and over and over? 

Let me give you an example to help put some of this into perspective. Recently, through a series of conversations and interactions, I went on a job interview for a job that I would describe as appearing to be exactly in-line with where I envisioned myself moving towards. I was so excited, and I was determined to give the interview process my very best. 

After making it through to the second round of interviews I showed up on a very rainy, humid, and dreary summer afternoon, wearing a dress and heels that I second-guessed about a half a dozen times. I was nervous, this new potential job wasn’t the same corporate lifestyle type jobs I had in the past. 

In my normal fashion of being 15 minutes early, I arrived to find the person I was interviewing with was running late. Given that it was a rainy day in Boston, and it seems like half the city forgets how to drive in the rain, I understood. 

After waiting for about 20 minutes, the person I was scheduled to spend time with showed up. At first glance at me, I could see there was a disappointment and I didn’t know why.  I waited for it, and she stated: “I was hoping we could go outside for a walk but I see that you are in heels and a dress”. My heart and hopes sank. 

Almost immediately, I heard myself saying “Oh, no it’s ok!  I’m a yoga instructor and a runner, I have a change of clothes and a pair of sneakers in my car - let me change and we can go right on that walk!”. I reassured a few times with a “it is totally fine, no big deal, I can change!” Know what I was really thinking: “It’s raining, and so humid out, will I be able to focus and give this interview my best, walking through the woods?”

Wanting to let go of expectations, and having a willingness and flexibility for being able to roll with it, I quickly changed and went walking in the woods in the rain. After talking to a few friends about this circumstance and how it left me feeling,  (one of them made me promise I would blog about it) I knew that I was confusing my eagerness with wanting to delight and please someone else to the point that I was willing to discredit the work that I had done to show up, on time (actually early), dressed appropriately, and bring it with regards to the life and work experience I could use to rock this job! 

I fully take accountability that I wasn’t asked to change my outfit, and I could have spoken up, but instead, I jumped at the request to go on a walk and dumped my heels and dress for a change of clothes that I dug out of the truck of my car. 

By the end of the walk and the interview, I left feeling rather unsure. My spidey senses were on high alert, I could feel it. On the drive home I recounted the events and realized that I wasn’t sure that this was the right place for me. In my quickness to want to remedy the disappointment of not being able to go on a walk, I left feeling as though some of my self-respect was given away. It is hard to get that back once it is given, especially early on in forming relationships. 

It wasn’t the job for me, and where I landed, of course, is always is exactly where I need to be. 

My point though isn’t about the job or even the walk, rather, this idea that I continued over and over to find myself in situations where I was shying away from voicing (in a constructive way) where my mind was and what I was feeling, especially when I knew that my thoughts and feelings were not in line with the person, situation or circumstance I was being presented with. 

As beings that can feel and think, it seems that our first instinct is to want to delight and make happy the people around us. I’m not saying that this isn’t possible, not at all. What I am suggesting is, wouldn’t it be so much better if you were able to make yourself happy and at the same time delight and make happy those around you too? 

When we are able to communicate on our own behalf what our needs are, without a feeling of guilt, or shyness that we  needs and wants, we create and hold the boundary of our own self-respect. When we show others, we have a respect levels for ourself and we tow the line by setting the example of what it looks like on our behalf, then others can clearly see where the boundaries are. 

Setting these boundaries is possible, it requires your inner strength and commitment to yourself. 

It seems to be a theme for me this year - as the saying goes - the lesson continues to show-up until we learn it. 

After a few similar situations like the one above, I recognized that I needed to find an effective way for myself to get my inner voice to come out. 

I made a commitment to myself that my responses moving forward would be given after I was sure mindfulness was brought to it, ensuring that the decision I was making was in-line for me, while still leaving room for compromises I was willing to make. 

This did not come easy for me. The fear and anxiety it evoked in me knowing that I could potentially really upset others by not doing what they wanted or asked of me, and using the word that sometimes makes me cringe: “NO”

The truth is, there have been instances where it did really upset people in my life and their reaction was to stop communication or react outwardly when my actions didn’t coincide with what they had expected. 

However, there was a distinct difference I began to feel within myself when I said no, or made the decision that what was being asked of me wasn’t the right fit or in-line with my happiness. I felt more self-respect and a sense of pride in making myself the priority. 

My lesson these last few months became more and more clear each time I communicated this, which allowed me to make clear decisions and having realized this, began embracing the reality that I can pick and choose where my time was spent, with who it was spent, and how it was spent. 

I began to realize that I didn’t have to explain my reasoning for my decisions to anyone, other than myself. I also began to understand that the more I did this for myself, the more the opportunities that did come to me were the right fit and the people that came into my life or that were part of my life, and that honored where I was and respected it, they were the ones that I gave my time to. 

My job isn’t to make everyone around me happy, or to keep everyone that is part of my life in it. They can decide, based on me showing them who I am. 

Our time is limited and while we are here, we owe it to ourselves to find a way to become intimately connected with ourselves, then when we approach the world, we can do so with our inner compass as the guide, and communicate that inner compass to others so that they can understand who we are. 

It is through this process of choosing and using the valuable words of both yes and no, that we can come to understand what is the best fit for us, without any expectation that the opinions or desires of others needs weight heavily in that decision. 

Sure maybe sometimes it will require taking off the heels and a dress to walk in the rain in order to  find out how far we are willing to go. But I think about it this way, if you are willing to walk in the rain to figure out what you don’t want, imagine how bright and sunny it will feel when you find the people, jobs, and circumstance that you do want.