“The first and most important thing is to know what your boundaries even are. I have so many clients that say, ‘I struggle to set boundaries’ or ‘I struggle when people intrude on my boundaries.’ So, I pose the question, what are your boundaries? And most people haven’t thought about that,” said Amy Yip, Transformation and Mental Fitness Coach.
There are rules for everything. And boundaries, for what you will and won’t accept, are a prerequisite for healthy relationships. Not only with other people, like your partner, parents, or friends. But with your job or business. In our culture, we’re rewarded for saying yes. And winning approval that way, feels like a warm blanket on a cold night. Really good. And we’re hard wired to want it. So, what happens when you’ve done too much yessing?
Well, is your schedule manageable? Right. Probably not. So, when we sign up for more, it can lead to burnout at best and exhaustion at worst. There’s only so much energetic time. Windows where you have the will, presence, and patience, to do all the things. So, how can we protect our space and preserve our values?
Say Goodbye to the ‘Shoulds’
Amy said, “I didn’t know who I really was and what mattered to me.” Her personal transformation, led her to quit corporate life at Google and become a coach. It began with saying ‘no’ to other people’s expectations.
She added, “I often use the analogy of an onion because deep down, at our core, we know our values. We know what matters and gets us excited. And then there are the layers of the onion, which I call the ‘shoulds.’ It’s everyone else telling us who we are and what ‘should’ matter.” Why yes, how can we resist other people’s shoulds?
And Figure Out, When do you Say Yes?
Amy has a framework to help ease this process. She explains, “Create a list with three columns. The first column is, ‘what I will allow’ or embrace. So, it’s what’s inside of your boundary. The next column is, what’s outside of that boundary so, ‘what will I not allow.’ And your boundaries can be anything.” Like when you’re given a big work project without lead time. Or doing someone else’s chores at home all the time. Amy added it can be letting others borrow things without asking. “There are many different types of boundaries. Begin with listing those first two categories out.” Some boundaries are clear, like deciding you’ll be in bed by 10:00 pm. But how do you handle ambiguity or exceptions?
When you Really Mean to Say No
Amy said, “Then there’s that middle ground. Which is, ‘what will I allow but not like’ and it’s noticing that gray area. Where are your boundaries? What things fall into the gray area? And being clear on, ‘how often will I let this happen?’ Because too often, things are in the gray area.”
Sigh, just the gray area can dominate our to-do lists. Amy advises not only to pay attention but set limits. She said, “Instead of thinking ‘okay fine, I’ll let this go this time’ be very clear. Like, ‘maybe I’ll do this once a month,’ the first step is defining what your boundaries are.”
And Embrace the Freedom of Saying it
Clarity changes everything. And from that place of knowing what feels aligned to you, it’s easier to self-advocate. Amy said, “The second thing that I have people work on, is going on a ‘no’ diet. We say yes to too much! Whenever we were saying yes to something, we’re saying no to something else.”
It’s easier to say what needs saying, even if it’s uncomfortable, when you can see the impact. To your mood, schedule, and mental health. She added, “And for so many Moms I know, it’s painful for them to say no. They just can’t utter the words. So, it becomes a practice of just saying ‘no, no, no, no!’ There are different types of no’s and you can even say no in a loving way.”
Consider Going on a No Diet
Do you feel comfortable pushing back on unreasonable requests? Or renegotiating? Whether it feels good to you, or not, may relate to norms within your family. Or culture. Amy said, “The ‘no diet’ includes telling the people that you love and care for, particularly those who will support you in this, that you are going on a no diet. And what that means. For example, say ‘my starting point for the next month is going to be no, anytime you ask me for something.’ You are going to start with no. Then you can always come back and change your mind.”
Amy explains it can be flexible. “Tell people, ‘And if you ever catch me saying yes right away call me out on it’ and guess what? Your friends and family love to call you out! So, they’ll say, ‘alright we’re in!’ But it’s about challenging yourself. Because the practice of saying no is important.”
And Find Your Happy
Amy’s path to self-discovery, included a stint of world travel and time for reflection. The whole process moved her away from ‘shoulds’ to living more authentically. She experienced what many research studies show. “It was during this journey that I really learned your mindset, not your circumstance, makes all the difference in your happiness and success.”
Many thanks to the talented Amy Yip!
Follow Amy’s great adventure on her website, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
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Amy is a Life Transformation and Mental Fitness coach who works with high-achieving, ambitious AAPI women to build their mental fitness, quiet the inner critic, and let go of all the ‘shoulds’ so they can be the author of their own life story. Because if you aren’t authoring your story, someone else is.
In January 2020, after 16+ years of building and leading global teams in organizations like Google, Clorox, and Booz Allen, Amy left the corporate world, sold everything, and took a 1-way flight to Ghana with her husband to volunteer at a breast cancer non-profit and travel the world. COVID shifted their plans; they got stuck in Ghana for 7 months.
One of her greatest learnings: Your mindset, NOT your circumstance, makes all the difference in your happiness and success.
Through this lens, she works with clients to find their voice and the courage to speak up, build self-confidence, navigate change, and discover what they REALLY want next in their life and career.
And now for the boring stuff: Amy is an ICF PCC, Certified Hudson Institute Coach, and a pioneer Mental Fitness Coach certified through Positive Intelligence. She holds a MBA from Anderson UCLA, and a BS in Computer Science, BA in Communications from University of Maryland.