24th October, 2023

The Real Reason Other People’s Boundaries Make Us Cross

With Rachel Morris

Dr Rachel Morris

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On this episode

When someone else sets boundaries, do you feel able to do the same, or do you resent their ability to say no? Often, our anger towards others’ boundaries comes from our own unmet needs and desires, and what presents itself as resentment is actually envy.

Guilt, shame, and fear often prevent us from expressing our own needs, which just compounds those negative emotions. Without shifting our mindset, we can end up adopting a victim mindset and feeling even more trapped.

In this quick dip episode, Rachel describes how we can identify our underlying needs, find ways to express them, and take small, practical steps towards getting what we want, even if it feels unattainable.

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Reasons to listen

  • To learn how to navigate boundaries and handle feelings of resentment when others say no to you.
  • To understand the difference between anger and envy, and how envy can reveal what you truly want.
  • For strategies to identify your own needs, expressing them to others, and finding ways to meet them.

Episode highlights




What is your underlying need?


What happens when we make ourselves the victim


Questions to ask yourself


What is stopping you from meeting your needs?


If you could wave a magic wand


Expressing your needs to others

Episode transcript

[00:00:00] Rachel: Have you ever felt really hands-off with someone when they’ve given you a no, and all that goes through your mind as well. I don’t get to say no, how come you do? And then we end up saying that someone is flaky or they’re acting a little bit entitled, or we even call them a snowflake. And we end up almost feeling bullied by somebody else’s boundaries. And we start to tell ourselves all these stories that it’s just not fair. I don’t get to do that. Why do they? It’s just because I’m the boss. If only I had that luxury of being able to say no, or set some boundaries,

[00:00:36] And I was talking at a conference the other week, and I had this question from the floor. And the question was Why is it that I can’t say no to others, yet I have to put up with other people saying no to me all the time. How does that work? And I’ve been thinking about this and I’ve realized that I can get really upset with other people’s boundaries, and in the past, I think I’ve thought that the reason I’ve been upset and angry by it is that they have been unreasonable, that other person has done something that is unreasonable and caused me to be angry. I thought that I felt upset because that person was wrong, or angry because that was my needs and they are treading all over it and just being unfair and unreasonable. And we all know that when we don’t get what we want, we become angry and then we can end up getting really insulting, and even if we don’t say it out loud with things to ourselves They say flaky or there’s such a snowflake or why can’t they cope? And we may go into guilt mode then and feel like, well, I’ve got to just leave everything now I’ve got to rescue everybody else because that person has set their boundaries up, and it can make us feel incredibly frustrated.

[00:01:43] This is a You Are Not a Frog quick dip, a tiny taster of the kinds of things we talk about on our full podcast episodes. I’ve chosen today’s topic to give you a helpful boost in the time it takes to have a cup of tea, so you can return to whatever else you’re up to feeling, energized, and inspired. For more tools, tips, and intoo.Hts to help you thrive at work, don’t forget to subscribe to You Are Not a Frog wherever you get your podcasts.

[00:02:12] Rachel: Now I was listening to a talk by Brene Brown recently. And she said something that stopped me in my tracks. And in fact, when I looked at her book, the Atlas of the Heart, which I would highly recommend to everybody, in the book she says that when she first heard this, it stopped her in her tracks too.

[00:02:29] Because in Atlas of the heart. Brene Brown talks about all the different emotions that we feel. And she groups them into different classes of emotion. Now when somebody sets boundaries with me, one of the foremost emotions. I feel is resentment. And Brene Brown talks about resentment. She says, it’s an old friend she’s known resentment and bitterness all her life. But recently she found out that resentment, rather than belonging to the anger category of emotions, actually belongs to the envy category affirmations.

[00:03:05] Now that brings it into an whole other ballpark. Because the emotion of envy is incredibly different from one of anger. Anger is when someone has traipsed on our boundaries when our needs aren’t being met. But envy. Is when somebody else has something that we want. It doesn’t mean that somebody else has done something to us. It means that we have an emotion that we want what they want. And side note, they described jealousy as the emotion you feel when you’re in a threesome and someone else has something from someone else that you want and you’re pushed out because of that.

[00:03:40] Now envy can make us feel hostile. It can make us feel angry and irritated, but it has a very different route. And what envy can do is show us what we wish we had. So when I’m envious, when someone says no to me, I’m envious that I can’t say no to them. When someone puts up a boundary and says, I’m sorry. I can’t do that particular thing you’ve asked me to do I feel envious because I feel that I can’t say no to that particular thing as well.

[00:04:13] So then the problem is not all about them. It’s actually all about me. And Brene Brown puts it so well in the book. She says she had thought processes a bit like this. I’m not mad ’cause you’re resting. I’m mad because I’m so bones hide and I wants arrest. But unlike you, I’m going to pretend that I don’t need to. Or I’m not furious that you’re okay with something that’s really good and imperfect. I’m furious because I wants to be okay with something that’s really good and in perfect. And this line: your lack of work is not making me resentful. My lack of rest is making me resentful.

[00:04:48] You see if we take our anger about someone else’s boundaries, and we realize that anger is coming from resentment, we start to look at ourselves and we can start say What is this showing me about what I need? What do I wish I was able to do? And what happens, it then points to a need that I have. And a need that I need to meet. Not other people. And it points to something that rather than someone else doing for me, I need to do for myself.

[00:05:23] Now there will be many, many situations where people listening to this podcast are the boss, and the buck does stop with them, and they are going to have to do something. If someone else says no. And they feel that they don’t have any choice. Side note, we always have a choice, but you have probably decided that the consequences of not doing it. And not something that you want to live with, or you feel professionally that you can do.

[00:05:47] But I would just ask you when you do feel resentful that other people can set boundaries and not you, what is that underlying need? And even if in that situation, you have to go ahead and do that, what is there that’s the next best thing? What else do you, could you do to meet that need that you’ve got?

[00:06:05] You see, I don’t think we’re very good at recognizing our needs, particularly, not as healthcare professionals. We’re so used to expecting other people’s needs to come first, to meeting other people’s needs, that sometimes we’ve actually forgotten what it is that we need in the first place. But envy can show us what we wish we had, and recognizing when we’re feeling envious is a great way of showing us what we really want. And if we can’t recognize envy, then maybe we can start to recognize resentment and resentment that points towards envy.

[00:06:43] ‘ Cause I don’t know about you, but all my life, I felt quite resentful about quite a few things. About the fact that I was stuck at home. A lot of the time with the kids and I can go and travel. I was resentful about the fact that I had to bear the brunt of the childcare, when actually, instead of asking for what I needed, I played the victim and actually didn’t do anything about it myself.

[00:07:04] And I wonder if any of you have had any of these phrases go through your head ever. Things like Well, I don’t get to say no. Or Well, I don’t get to take time off work. I can’t just leave on time. I don’t get to shut down my laptop at six o’clock and forget about my emails for the rest of the evening.

[00:07:27] So by recognizing resentfulness as envy rather than anger because we’ve been wrongs against, we can start to turn our questions from What have they done to me? To what is it that I’m not asking for? The question says from what is that person doing wrong? What do they need to do? To what I need to ask for, for myself? To what do I need, but I’m afraid to ask for?

[00:07:55] So when you recognize this, here’s a couple of questions that might help. Firstly ask What is it that I am envious about? Is it I am envious that they can set a boundary? Is it that I’m envious that they can say no? Is it that I’m envious that they could bring that thing up with me that they’re able to have that conversation whereas I’m not? Am I envious that they don’t feel the need to rescue everybody? That they don’t feel the need to take on all this responsibility? Once I can pinpoint that, then I can start to see what the underlying need is for me.

[00:08:30] And you can ask yourself, Well, what actually is that need? Is it for food, rest connection, those basic wellbeing factors? Is it that I want someone to look out for me rather than me looking out for everybody else? Is it that I need to lend to negotiate better? Maybe it’s that I want better working conditions. I want a fair workload for myself.

[00:08:54] Once you’ve recognized what need there is, you could go deeper and think to yourself, Actually, what is stopping me from meeting this need? And here we can go as deep as you want, but I think we’ll end up back with our old friend shame. Is it that I can never admit weakness? Is it that I can never admit that I’m not coping or I feel ashamed that I’m not coping because I think I should always be able to tip it all because doctor is always there and never has any needs? Is it that I feel ashamed saying no. And causing someone else an inconvenience? Or that I feel guilty. And I’m worried that people will think I’m dumping on them and not taking my own share of responsibility? Is it that I’m frightened, anxious about what might happen if I don’t step up and ignore all of my needs? So there’s old friends or fear of shame and guilt raised the ugly head, and are often behind us not being able to ask for what we need, and not being able to meet our own needs.

[00:10:01] Now I know that we’re all working in a very complex, very stressed, very difficult system, and sometimes we just look at the bare facts and think It’s actually going to be very, very difficult to meet our needs. And if you’re in a situation where there’s just not enough resources, not enough people, not enough time, so you feel that you have no option, I’d like you to ask yourself this question. If I could wave a magic wand, this would all be fixed. What would be happening?

[00:10:26] And this is a really helpful coaching question, because what it does, it just removes all those barriers that we have, all those things that get in the way like, Well, I could never afford that, or I haven’t got enough time or there’s no people. You know, if you had all the money in the world, All the time in the world. Enough stuff, what would be happening?

[00:10:44] And you will come out with some very unrealistic things that will never happen. But I have noticed that when I’ve asked myself this question, there was some things I said, well, if I wasted magic on this would be happening that actually I could make happen now with just a little bit of ingenuity and resourcefulness on my part.

[00:11:03] You know, for example, if I could wave a magic wand, I would have a magic housekeeper who would be doing all the housework, doing all the cooking, meeting all of our needs and cooking amazingly delicious food. Now. I can’t afford that. I don’t even know where to start looking. But I could start upping the hours that my cleaner works, and I could start ordering more food boxes so there are some really nice food, just there, ready for me to eat. So what ways can you get as close as you can, to that magic idea where your wand has been waved and you’ve got everything that you need? What could you put in place now that would really help?

[00:11:40] And then finally, I would ask you, how can you express that need and ask for that need to be met? Many of us worry about looking weak or upsetting people if we even express our needs, but there are ways to do this. Just saying, you know, I have this need. I am feeding like this, in a non accusational way. Not because you’ve done this, I’m feeling like this, but phrasing it as, this is how I’m feeling right now, this is what I think I need, and if you want, so you can even say, you know, and I’ve got these stories in my head. It’s telling me that I shouldn’t do this, that I should always do this. And I guarantee that people will start to listen to you, they will start to notice and you know, what? They’ll come up with some suggestions.

[00:12:24] The other day, somebody dropped out from something they had committed to doing, through no fault of their own, through some family illness. I automatically assumed it was something that I had to say and I had to cover. And I was starting to feel quite resentful about it and a little bit hard done by, and I was really going into victim mode.

[00:12:46] Um, luckily I managed to speak to someone about it. And they just said, Well, that’s ridiculous, we’ll get that person to do it. And I’ll ask somebody else who I thought we could possibly ask, because that was unreasonable and it was not a big deal. But for some reason, stories of guilt, stories of, Well, I ought to, um, the buck stops with me, were going round my head and it stopped me from asking for what I need.

[00:13:09] So just because you can’t see a solution to an issue, it doesn’t mean you can’t express what you need, because oftentimes other people can say solution. And they may well volunteer to help out in places where you would never have expected them to do that. We often assume that someone else can’t do something or it’s going to put someone out, but unless we ask and let’s express what we need, we’re never going to know.

[00:13:35] So next time somebody sets the boundary or says no to you or sets some limits on their time or their attention, instead of thinking it’s something that they’ve done wrong to you that they need to change, start looking at it. Start recognizing that feeling you get is resentment, which points towards an unmet need. Something that you’re envious of. Start to delve a little bit deeper. Think What is that need that I’m not expressing? How can I identify that need? What’s stopping me expressing it? And what could I do now to try and meet that need, even if it’s not in the most, a hundred percent ideal way, what is the next best thing?

[00:14:16] Now, please start expressing your needs, setting your own boundaries. Because the more you can set your own boundaries. And express your needs. The less resentful you’ll be when other people do it to you.