Boundaries and the Power of “NO” (or Go Ahead, Be the Bitch) by @artistsedge

by Debra Russell | Featured Contributor

The thought terrifies, doesn’t it?  What if they don’t like me?  What if they think I’m a bitch?  I’m a NICE PERSON!  I don’t want to be a bitch.

Or if we’re being really honest with ourselves, I don’t want people to think of me as a bitch.

Even when the answer really is “No.”  We don’t say it – we accommodate, avoid and twist ourselves up into a pretzel.

Here’s the thing.  You cannot survive as a business owner if you won’t say “NO.”  You cannot thrive as a woman if you won’t say “NO.”

So, if the ability to say, “No” is a critical surthrival skill, how do you learn and develop that skill?  How do you know when to say, “No,” let alone how to say it.


I remember watching my Mom, back in the ’70’s, discover her “No.”  She’d had another of her meltdowns, where she had said “Yes, Yes, YES,” until she couldn’t stand it anymore and then exploded with her “No.”  I remember her running crying to her bedroom.

But this time, she did something different.  She went to an Assertiveness Training course.  And when she completed the course, things changed.  She began to say “No.”  She began to ask for help and ask for what she needed from us and from my Father.

And then she even began to give herself what she wanted and fight for what she wanted, when necessary.  And it wasn’t easy.  And it wasn’t comfortable.  But I think it’s why my parent’s marriage survived (62+ years) and they still love each other truly, madly, deeply.  I think it’s also contributed to why me and my siblings are so incredibly close.  And I know it’s made a huge difference in how I handle “No” myself.

Because relationships without boundaries are not, cannot be truly intimate.  If your relationship doesn’t have boundaries, you are not safe.  And if you are not safe, you won’t allow yourself to be truly intimate.

It’s counter-intuitive, I know.  It seems boundaries are about separation and intimacy is about closeness.  So, let me see if I can explain this seeming paradox.  When you are in a relationship without boundaries, you are also without choice.  You can’t say, “Now, I am available for us to be together.”  Because you’re not allowed to say, “Now, I am NOT available.”

And so, you will keep part of yourself closed off, because you are not safe to choose when you are and are not available.  You will instinctively and likely unconsciously choose to keep part of yourself always unavailable.

It is only when you allow yourself to choose, that you will also allow yourself to be fully available, vulnerable, open.

Boundaries as a Semipermeable Membrane

Here’s how I think about it.  Our cells are surrounded by semipermeable membranes.  Which means that some things are allowed to move in and out freely, like water.  And other things are never allowed in.  Some things are allowed in with permission, like insulin gives glucose permission to enter our cells.  And some things aren’t allowed in, but when they connect with the cell membrane, the insides of the cell change in response, like neurotransmitters.

So, how am I equating that to our lives and our relationships?

  • Always allowed – love, gratitude, generosity.
  • Never allowed – hate or violence either physical, verbal or emotional.
  • Allowed in with Permission – friendship, connection, intimacy, physical touching and obligation.
  • Not allowed in, but allowed to impact and perhaps create change – feedback (but that’s the subject of a future article)

If you think of boundaries as either open or closed, black or white, you limit severely your ability to relate and connect.  But if you remember that you choose what comes in, what doesn’t and how you allow things to affect you, then you have power and can allow a much deeper intimacy.  And this power will help you to choose for yourself when to say “Yes,” and when to say “No.”

How to Say, “No” (to be elaborated in next month’s post!)

  • Know Your Yes

  • Take Your Time

  • Never Justify or Explain Your No – Unless You’re Open to Negotiate


Debra RussellDebra Russell, Certified Business Coach, founder of Artist’s EDGE, Certified Master Results Coach and Master NLP and Hypnosis Practitioner, uses her business knowledge and ability to facilitate change and growth to help small business owners create a prosperous and sustainable living doing what you love.

Debra specializes in small business and the Arts and Entertainment Industry and has delivered several innovative programs for entertainment industry trade conferences, Universities and Colleges and private organizations across the United States and in Europe and Australia.

As a fan and follower of, Debra is thrilled to offer women business owners her expertise in the day to day management of your small business and support in overcoming the challenges to success we all face as independent entrepreneurs.

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2 Replies to “Boundaries and the Power of “NO” (or Go Ahead, Be the Bitch) by @artistsedge”

  1. Amanda Hoffmann

    The ability to say “No” is a word many find difficult. Which is surprising, given that, after the words mum and dad, “no” is a close third. We seem to loose that intuitive wisdom and common sense that we were born with as we age.
    I enjoyed your article and will certainly look forward to your next instalment.

    1. Debra Russell[ Post Author ]

      It’s so true, Amanda! And, it is the first thing our parents train us out of. Because a child who says no is inconvenient (to say the least). As adults we must recover our ability to choose.

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