Own Your Power By Setting Boundaries

Sheila Murphy
April 6, 2023

In the 1999 Tarzan movie, Professor Porter is excited about Tarzan’s discovery and exclaims, "A man with no language, no human behavior.” Jane quickly points out that “and no respect for personal boundaries.”

Like many of us, Jane understands that not owning your power and having boundaries can lead to burnout, frustration, and lack of engagement. However, it is not always easy to set those boundaries in the real world.

Boundary setting is critical at work because if you do not set appropriate boundaries, you will set the expectations that you are always available.

Here are 3 tips to help you own your power by establishing limits.

Adjust Your Mindset

Many of us believe that by establishing boundaries, we are setting up barriers to our success—that if we say no now, we are stating no forever and our career will go down the toilet.

Is it better to say no to an assignment with an add-on that you would love to work together in the future or take on additional work and do a half-assed job or toil so much that you put your health at risk? And the truth is that setting boundaries can help your career. By setting boundaries, we own our worth and state how we work best.

Setting boundaries can be especially difficult for “people pleasers,” but remember, if you are taking on more than you can chew, you most likely will please no one.

Identify the “Price” of Saying Yes or No

You need to understand the actual price of saying yes or no. What will this do to your health, family life, and work product?

And also, take the time to understand the need for the ask. I am not saying to say yes—but understand. There are times (and this does not mean most times) where you may need to say yes.

You may want to ask yourself:

  • Am I the only person who can do this?
  • Will this "yes" move me closer to achieving my top priorities and longer-term goals?
  • If I don’t do this, will it matter in a week, a month, or a year from now?

If you are a person whose default is yes, you may want to check with someone else (who is good at setting boundaries) to help you evaluate whether this is where you bend.  

If you do bend, you should explain your usual boundaries and are making an exception in this case. It is best to describe why you made an exception.

Own Your Power and Say No

Know that you have the power to set boundaries and make sure to do it effectively. Explain why the answer is no and give alternatives (suggest other people or offer to supervise the assignment).

I have spoken to many managers who are thrilled when someone finally says no and sets boundaries. Do not assume that yours will react badly. If they do, evaluate their reactions and, if appropriate, compromise to something that meets both of your needs.

Even if you are unsuccessful, they will begin to understand your boundaries and work on a better way to collaborate. After all, Tarzan and Jane got along better once he understood her boundaries.


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