Why write about boundaries during Women’s Week? While allowing for the fact that every woman is different, women often find it difficult to set boundaries putting their children, partner, other family members and even friends first. Women can feel guilty and selfish if they make themselves a priority and say ‘no’. However, if you are continually giving you can also end up feeling resentful. You might be genuinely happy to pick your friend’s children from school, or help your cousin move house or take late night phone calls from a relative in distress – but if you find yourself feeling unhappy about these types of situations, or if you are doing them repeatedly at the expense of having your own time and space, then maybe it is time to reassess your boundaries. An important clue when your boundaries are being violated is a physical reaction such as a feeling in your tummy, or sweating or tightness in the chest.

Boundaries can be about things like personal space and belongings, requests for help, family and social obligations, culture and religion. They can also be different for the different people in your life and they can change over time. Some of us have grown up in families where is wasn’t okay to say no or in cultures that have certain expectations of women.

Interestingly, having good boundaries can actually improve your relationships and self esteem. It can be empowering to acknowledge what is right for you and what isn’t – by respecting yourself you show others you are worthy of respect. It is important to acknowledge that you have a right to say no without feeling guilty and that your wants and needs are as important as other people’s. This can be very difficult for some women to take on board.

Being more assertive, putting yourself first and learning to say no can be daunting at first and like learning any new skill it can take practice. Family members and friends might not like the change in you or being told no. Remember that boundaries are there to help everyone know where they stand. This is one of the many topics covered in the My Life My Dreams program