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Tag: boundaries

Overdoing Boundaries Via Cancel Culture

Technically the title of this writing could be two different topics – is two different topics. However, in the context of the conversation I had with my friend Kathy, it became merged into one situation. A situation wherein people communicate almost exclusively over social media (as opposed to face to face or through an actual phone conversation). This type of communication, if you can call it that, is the perfect set-up for misinformation and misunderstanding, which in today’s world now often leads to cancel culture. 

If you are not actually communicating in a voice to voice, face to face dialog, how exactly can you set an appropriate boundary? It may simply become “NO” for the sake of pride, anger, resentment, misunderstanding, stubbornness and judgment. But the generation that engages in today’s cancel culture doesn’t really appear to care about boundaries, appropriate or otherwise when it comes to social media. 

Let me start this off by saying like almost anything we do, there is the potential to overdo it and setting boundaries is no exception. When one sets a boundary, it should have one of two purposes: to protect oneself or to evolve and develop oneself. Cancel culture fits neither of these categories. 

I’m gonna be honest with you and say I actually had to look up the definition of “cancel culture” as I sat down to right this. I was hoping it meant if I cancel my social media accounts I’ve joined the cancel culture, but alas this is not what it means. 

Cancel culture, according to Wikipedia, is modern form of ostracism in which someone is thrust out of social or professional circles – either online on social media, in the real world, or both. Those who are subject to this ostracism are said to be “canceled.” For God’s sake, in what world do we “cancel” a human being?

So, where does that leave us? In my world it’s back to square 1: appropriate boundary-setting, which I will reiterate is to keep you safe or to help you achieve a goal; two very worthy concepts. If you experience someone doing something other than this, such as with cancel culture, I think you owe it to them to set them straight. Educate them because maybe they just don’t know any better. 

Why I Love to Say “No” and Set My Boundaries

When I was young, I sometimes felt like an observer in my home. I would watch the interaction between my older sister and my parents, often with a sense of unease. Some of the interactions were contentious, some loving and some downright codependent. Watching these family interactions, I sometimes felt confused and frustrated. I wanted us to be a happy family, every child’s fantasy. For me, happiness meant avoiding conflicts at all costs, and I eventually became very good at doing this and playing the diplomat. 

Looking back, I realized my family was not so different from others, except there were no boundaries in my home. For example, at thirteen, my parents let me decide where I could go, who I could go out with, and what time I could come home. I could set my curfew. What parent does that with a 13-year old? I believe my parents’ intention was for me to self-teach responsibility. 

I grew up with little to no guidance, boundaries, direction, or support. When I was fifteen, my mother and father went on a European vacation, leaving me home alone. While in Scotland, my mother suffered a heart attack and died in my father’s arms. I inadvertently assumed an adult role and similar responsibility at far too young an age. Any hope of parental guidance and support was all but gone. Never having been taught boundary-setting skills, it is unsurprising I didn’t fare much better with my daughter. Of course, like my parents, I did the best I knew how. 

There are many people out there who share a version of my story. Being a people pleaser is a common condition. I used to brag that I was the diplomat. But more than diplomacy, this lack of boundaries became a self-sabotaging pattern; what I call the people pleaser’s “knee-jerk” response. This response appeared in many of my relationships. I frequently felt like a doormat with family members, friends, and often the boss. I did not have any understanding of how to say “no” for fear of reprisal or not wanting to disappoint anyone. If I managed to say “no,” I felt so guilty, I would go long periods before I would repeat such a brazenly selfish act. 

Interestingly, the Universe has an ironic sense of humor. It seems that the more you avoid something, the more you are destined to bump up against it. When my life partner of ten years unexpectedly died, I confronted my most deep-rooted fears about my need to set appropriate boundaries. The grieving process is extremely energy-intensive. I had to learn how to confidently say “no” and not worry about what anyone else might say or, rather, my belief about what they might say. My survival depended on setting these boundaries. I do not say this lightly as there were many times during that first year of mourning that I did not want to live. Boundary-setting truly became a matter of survival for me. 

After a couple of years of practice, I became very good at confidently saying “no” and realized how empowered I felt taking this action. I felt so strongly that countless others of people pleasers needed to learn this practice instead of avoiding it. I worked over the next couple of years to compile my insights and marry them with my skill as a coach and NLP trainer into a system that I taught to others. I named it The TAILOR System(tm) – an acronym for the six-step system to boundary-setting. I use this system as the foundation in my book, Say “No” Without Guilt, Six Achievable Steps to Confidently Set and Communicate Boundaries. I continue to teach my workshop because saying “no” to others is truly about saying “yes” to yourself, the most important and empowering act of self-love.

Set Boundaries with the Boss and Keep Your Job

38592094 - boundaries stencil print on the grunge white brick wall

When I worked as the manager of investor relations at a high tech software company, one day the controller strolled into my office and during our conversation he began to discuss how the CEO and CFO were cooking the books. I stopped him and said I didn’t want to know any more because I wouldn’t lie if I were ever subpoenaed. He left and needless to say that company no longer exists. I knew in that moment I needed to find another job and shortly thereafter my dream job fell into my lap.

I set a clear boundary with the controller. He’d stepped over my ethical line and I knew this was just the beginning of bad things to come unless I took clear and confident action to change it.

A boundary is a line you set that states: “this is my limit. Step on it or over it at your own peril.” That can sound ominous though. Boundaries need to be communicated clearly and without negative emotions such as anger, fear or resentment. They don’t have to be aggressive or confrontational and in fact it’s much easier to set them if you keep that in mind.

A boundary not only keeps you from harm, it helps you to grow and evolve. If, for example, you want to keep your workday to fewer than 14 hours then you may have to set a boundary. But how do you do that with your boss and still feel like your job is safe?

Communicate your needs in a non-emotional and a here-are-the-facts manner. You need to get your emotion out first so it doesn’t come out during the conversation. I suggest practicing what you want to say before you have the conversation with your boss. Then your boundary may sound something like this:

“I know we are still in a personnel crunch so overtime seems like the norm. However, next week I’ll be working my regular hours again. I know this is tough so I’d like to brainstorm with you how we can solve this problem without me working 14 hour days and burning out.”

That statement serves several purposes:

  • It says you understand and acknowledge the current staffing situation.
  • It conveys your clear boundary with professionalism, confidence and no emotion.
  • It declares that you are offering to help solve the bigger problem (and nobody can argue with that).

Both parties come away feeling heard, acknowledged and understanding the clear boundary.

If you have a boss who isn’t a skilled leader, they might balk at this. Keep firm and keep your emotion out of it. A manipulative manager will “smell the fear” and instinctively try to get an emotional rise from you. Keep calm and acknowledge their response then reiterate your boundary (above) again. Use the same language. Most people have to hear your boundary 3 times before they actually hear and acknowledge it.

While a boundary is a limit it can often set you free to grow, be productive and happy.

Effective and non-emotional boundary setting can take a lot of practice. Keep at it!


Julie Hawkins is a women’s empowerment coach, psychic medium and author of the forthcoming book How to Say “No” Without Guilt: 5 Simple Steps to Eliminate Overwhelm, Reclaim Your Life and Have What You Want. For more information find her at