Women tend to take care of others’ needs before their own. In our research, we have found that 70% prioritize others’ needs, 49% over apologize, and only 17% are good at saying no.

In BOLD Leadership, women identify what they need to be BOLD, defined as: Believing in myself, Owning and stepping out of my comfort zone, Leading with presence and Daring to share what I want and need. One of the most challenging areas for women, especially today, is Daring to share needs. 

In BOLD sessions we consistently hear, “What are my needs? I have no idea! My answer is always the same: “You know exactly what you need. Take a deep breath, tell me where you’re stuck or frustrated, and focus on what you need most.” 

They always know, and it’s almost always very doable. We often hear frustrations such as “I’m double-booked, never have time for lunch, haven’t exercised, am responsible for all meal preparation, my boss thinks I’m available 24/7.” When they slow down, they know where they’re stuck and realize exactly what they need: to block time for lunch, to stop accepting all meetings, to get on a yoga mat, to renegotiate availability with their boss, to set a plan for meal prep, etc.

To set boundaries it’s critical to:

  1. Ask yourself: What’s difficult, frustrating or where am I stuck? Slow down, breathe, check in. 
  2. Next ask: What-Do-I-Want? When you think you don’t know, remember you do. Don’t be afraid to admit it.
  3. Pick one: Identify one small, mighty action that would make a difference. Talk to a friend or colleague if necessary. 

The issue with boundaries is not slowing down to clarify the issue and the need in the first place. This is rooted in not prioritizing ourselves as we do everyone and everything else. Once you realize where you’re stuck and what you need, identifying and taking action is often easier than you think. When you take care of yourself, you can then share your best self with others.

Gisele Garcia Shelley, Executive Coach, PCC, Nyack, New York www.theglenbrookgroup.com