Learning How to Say No and Set Healthy Boundaries

By Ava Mucikyan

“Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves even when we risk disappointing others.” – Brené Brown

Are you Facebook and Instagram happy or are you genuinely and truly happy with your life? Do you know the difference? Take a look at your relationships with your husband or wife; boyfriend or girlfriend; children; family or friends. Do you find that you dedicate yourself fully to their happiness, while complaining that you never have time for yourself, yet somehow it becomes their fault?

These are classic examples of codependent behavior. Codependency is defined as a behavioral condition in a relationship where one person enables another, such as through an addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility or under-achievement. Among the core characteristics of codependency is an excessive reliance on other people for approval and a sense of identity.

Here are some hidden issues behind codependent behavior:

1. People pleasing / low self-esteem / need for validation

2. Fear of being rejected / alone

3. Inability to communicate your needs and set healthy boundaries

The majority of families in the generations prior to millennials lived in codependent relationships. The only difference is that before our current times, divorce was shamed so people would tolerate dysfunctional unions. Now they just move to the next union without fixing the dysfunction. Codependent people take on too much responsibility and that is not a healthy behavior. But how can being a naturally giving person be a bad thing, you might think? It is actually a major disservice to those with whom you have a relationship. It is such a codependent pattern to go along with whatever the other one wants.

As you know, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. If you resonated to the above statements, here is your wake-up call: you have a problem. The second step is to figure out what you want in any given situation. It seems quite simple, but most people have a difficult time figuring that out.

“Whatever you want,” was often my response pattern to almost every question. This is a very dangerous habit, because all of us have wants, and we need to learn how to access them, and, most importantly, communicate them.

Of course, we may often have a hard time knowing what we want. Generally, we grow up being conditioned by our parents, who get to decide what we eat and how much of it, or what we wear, and most of us have not been given much of a choice in anything. Then, you grow up, get married and start catering to the needs of your family. After my divorce, I personally had a difficult time answering the question, “What do you want for breakfast?” I had no idea how I liked my eggs, as I always prepared breakfast for others, and sort of ended up eating what’s available.

In 10 years of being in a committed relationship, I never made a meal for myself. It took me almost two years after separating to start getting to know myself. That was an extensive time of self-care, traveling, trying out new things, and reconnecting with the old me, old friends, revisiting places of childhood, spending time alone, meditating and reading self-help books.

The key out of codependency is creating a life you love and not giving up on yourself for anyone. Coexist, don’t co-depend; set healthy boundaries.