It is possible that it is a Canadian insider joke, but we apologize a lot. Quite often “I’m sorry” is the first thing you will hear out of our mouths. Politeness aside, it is often habit rather than emotion because frankly, apologizing to the cat when moving it off the keyboard is just silly.

There is a bigger issue here and one I became aware of when listening to good people trying to say no to a request of their time or talents. It often comes out with an apology. “I am so sorry but I just can’t, I have x, y and z to do.” They feel the need to explain they have a life and then apologize for having one.

I see this often in my role as a Coordinator of Volunteers for a local non-profit. If I am short volunteers then I begin making phone calls or speaking to volunteers in the building. That’s my job. As individuals, it is our job to set boundaries on our time among other things.

Boundary setting is a form of self love

Many of us – especially women and not just Canadians! believe nice and endlessly giving of ourselves is how we show we care and we are good people. It ties in with giving is better than receiving, at least that’s what many of us think.

Giving more is not necessarily good. It certainly isn’t if you must scramble to arrange other parts of your life, often impacting others lives as well.

As a former over giver, I was pretty entrenched in the give til it hurts model. Usually what and who was hurt, was me.

Saying yes to others often meant I was saying no to me and in the ripple effect, my family too. I would apologize to others if I put them out, had to ask them to re-arrange their schedules or if I had to say no. I didn’t know that the lack of boundaries affected every area of my life. I had to learn  about what was negotiable and what was not.

Having a life and all of its pieces – work, family, friends, community and self, takes time and effort. If all of your effort is out there, then the person most sorry is ultimately you.

Knowing how to set boundaries and how to communicate them is important to you and your physical, mental and spiritual health. You don’t have to be sorry for having a life, you just need to make sure you have one. Setting boundaries is the way to do that.

The next time someone asks you for more of your time, consider to whom or what you are saying no. If you say yes and it is with a clear mind, not being acted upon by the nice girl or guy syndrome, then enjoy yourself. If you are saying no, do it with the self-assurance of your right to do so. Insert a smile where the sorry would go and kindly say – no.

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