There are times when all of us—even celebrities—need to set boundaries. In light of Shawn Mendes's recent announcement to postpone his tour to focus on his mental health, Ofosu and Leah talk about the challenges and importance of setting boundaries in their own lives. They also discuss how to recognize when you're not feeling right and share practical tips for how to say no politely to protect your mental well-being.
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OFOSU: Hey, what's up. I'm Ofosu Jones-Quartey, and
LEAH: I'm Leah Santa Cruz. We're the meditation coaches on the Balance app.
OFOSU: And this is our weekly show, Well Balanced. So Leah, I wanted to talk about this Instagram post I sent you earlier from Sean Mendez, the singer. He posted it last week and it's an explanation for why he canceled three weeks of concerts.
And I'm just, I'm just gonna read a bit of it here. It goes. He says, this breaks my heart to have to say this, but unfortunately, I'm gonna have to postpone the next three weeks of shows. Unfortunately, the toll of the road and the pressure has caught up with me and I've hit a breaking point. After speaking with my team and health professionals, I need to take some time to heal and take care of myself and my mental health first and foremost.
As soon as there are more updates, I promise you, I will let you know, love you guys, heart emoji. Yeah.
LEAH: It's a pretty brave thing. And I'm sure that that decision wasn't an easy decision to make you know, from a business perspective.
OFOSU: Yeah. I mean, at that level there's even more than just the money.
Your public image. And then that word legacy, like how people are gonna look at you from here on out, et cetera, all those things have to be taken into consideration.
LEAH: What I appreciate about him taking a stand for this is that despite what type of work he's doing, he's saying I'm setting a boundary and I'm sorry that I have to go back on a promise that I've made.
But I recognize that for the detriment of my health and my mental health to do so. And I think what it does is give other people permission to, to look at themselves and go, okay, what areas am I pushing myself beyond the boundary of what is healthy for me? Yeah. You know, because people are gonna ask us.
And they're gonna continue to ask and continue to ask until we say no. That's just kind of the nature of the world we live in, in a consumer society and the type of workforce that we are mostly surrounded by. And so, yeah, it's up to us to really gauge and take a pulse check and go, how am I doing?
And to recognize when we're not feeling right. And to say something about it. And sometimes it's at the risk of disappointing people.
OFOSU: It's such a huge piece, that piece right there at the risk of disappointing people. And then you add that to the other thing that you mentioned, the culture of, you know, for lack of a better word, you know, capitalistic push to always produce and be on and those two things combined make it really, really tough traditionally to say, no. My mother-in-law has this wonderful phrase. She says, you have to teach people how to treat you. [LEAH: Absolutely.] However it is, you are responding to what comes at you. You are teaching people whether or not it's acceptable to demand of you infinite production or to respect your boundaries. And their only way to be able to respect boundaries is to set them, but it can be really hard.
So I'm curious. Have you ever recently or just in your life, have you, have you found it easier, um, to set boundaries as you've grown into the layer that sits before us right now?
LEAH: Yeah, absolutely. I think I used to say yes to everything because I was excited about everything that was coming my way, the opportunities coming. It wasn't like these things, you know, I was begrudgingly going into them. It was like, oh yeah, I wanna be a part of that project. I wanna be a part of that project too.
And I would stretch myself way too thin. And I have learned this lesson the hard way over and over again, that when I do too much, it comes at the risk of my own anxious mind. it comes to the risk of my relationships and my energy levels and everything. Everything starts to suffer in my personal life.
So yeah, recently I think it was just last week. Actually, a woman reached out to me on Instagram, who I've met a few times and she was asking me if I wanted to be a part of this big wellness summit that she's putting together. And she invited me to come teach at it and have an opportunity to share there.
And I've done this a few times. I've said yes to these. I've noticed in the past that it was a lot more work on my end than I expected it to be. And, you know, there's marketing involved and whatnot. And I have really sat there engaged, like what is on my plate for the next few weeks. And can I actually manage adding another task like this to what I'm already, um, I'm already doing and I'm already committed to, and I realized like, it's not gonna, it's not gonna work out. And so I wrote her back actually. Oh, I have that message here. Hi. Lovely. Thanks so much for the offer. I'm leading a meditation teacher training in August and I'll be completely full in my schedule from now through then so I'll have to pass. But I do appreciate the offer and I hope it goes fantastic for you.
And, you know, I know she probably had a little bit of disappointment, but yeah, she appreciated that and she wrote back, thank you for your reply. I fully understand with a big heart. Uh, I'm really excited about it.
It's coming together beautifully. Thank you. Yeah. And so that was a nice way of backing out. I did it immediately too. I didn't make her wait and then feel annoyed by the fact that she had waited a long time for a reply. Like I was quick in my decision making. And, and because of that, she respected that and appreciated it.
In the past, I've recognized this too late. And sometimes I have said yes to things just like Sean Mendes did. And had to later on, back out of it, because I realized I was overwhelmed and that was much harder. And. That led to me disappointing friends. And people who I collaborated with on projects.
And I felt really bad and awful about it, but it was also a learning lesson for me to start gauging these earlier and earlier. And to really do that kind of hard deep look at myself and it's no easy way of doing it either. There's no easy way of backing out of something without disappointing somebody.
But you know, you hope that if you do it in this, in the best way possible, and you're humble and you admit that, you know I was excited and I took on more than I could chew. And I'm really worried about disappointing you, but I'm recognizing that like my mental health is not is not going to go well.
OFOSU: Yeah. It's gonna, it's gonna suffer if I take this on. Yeah. I had somebody reach out to me today and, um, a dear friend of mine hit me up out of the blue and was just talking about just some of my new music, et cetera. And she was saying that, you know, I really appreciate your vulnerability and this, this new kind of commitment, to being honest about just where you are in the present moment. And I felt super grateful that, you know, that part of me is being seen and being received. And it's taken a long time because I really enjoyed being the person that could say yes, and to everything I enjoyed being the hyper efficient or like the super doer.
I don't even know exactly what the, you know what I'm saying? And that used to be like my catchphrase, like my answer is always yes.
LEAH: You gotta put that one to bed.
OFOSU: Yeah. That one is not just to bed. That one is like, you know, cremated! It's over, but I mean, there's a certain thread of me that is willing to say yes for certain things more so than others.
For instance, I am a musician, not just the voice that you hear in your head when you are meditating with me, but I was sort of hiring myself out as a vocalist for multiple projects. And, you know, if somebody wanted a vocalist on this or that, like I was really taking on whatever came across my desk.
And a lot of it was financially driven. Like I needed the money et cetera. But then I just, I got to a point about a year ago where I was like, I'm not having, I'm not getting anything out of this except the money and the money's important, but I'm actually really unhappy actually just spending my time having to write and record and get critiqued and re rewrite and re record.
And it's like, I didn't wanna do this in the first place. So one of the things I started doing was I just started, um, pricing myself. At the highest rate, knowing that like, you probably can't afford this, but, um, this is my way of saying no, basically like my rate is this.
And, and I just wouldn't, it just wouldn't budge. Like Jay-Z has this song. My advice is just, don't be too nice just at the price and live your life. And so I started to live by that. I was like, you know what, this is my rate and that's it. And I knew that, you know, I was pricing myself out, but that was like dipping my toe into the water of saying no.
And then I realized that there's just like an easier way of doing that. It's just like, you know, honestly, you know, it, this just, I'm just not feeling this right now. And this is just not where I'm at and I'm just gonna have to pass, but it took a while. It's hard. It's hard to say no,
LEAH: That reminds me of, um, when I was working at Microsoft many years ago and it was a great job for many reasons. I'm so grateful that I did it. And I learned so much, I had wonderful people around me and there came a point when I realized that my heart wasn't in it. And the only reason why I was doing it was for the income, which was, you know, really good income and hard to walk away from.
And I think a lot of people find themselves in that position with these sort of golden handcuffs or, or like afraid to take a leap. But when you're doing something you don't have fulfillment out of, it's very draining. It's much more draining than doing another task that you actually are, your heart's in it.
It's like it gives something back to you beyond just the money. Like it gives you vitality. It gives you a purpose. It gives you a reason for waking up and excitement. And that nurtures us. And that's something that our soul needs. So. I think it's like going back to that. Is it a full body, yes? Or am I, am I cringing a little bit inside and feeling like, even just thinking about this thing makes me kind of slump over and go, Ugh. Like I have to grind through it and. I think once we create space by saying no to those things that are a, I really don't wanna do this.
This is like, you know, then we do create space for what I want to put my energy towards? Like, what would. Create a sense of purpose within me and vitality, where I can use my gifts and talents in a way that is meaningful to me and, and actually spend time doing that. But it's a scary leap. It really is.
OFOSU: It really is a scary leap. So you mentioned that in the past, you might have let things kind of build for a while or even said yes. And then eventually ended up having to say no for me. Sometimes I might just ghost you. This was also a part of my transition where I was just like, okay, I just, I don't know what to say.
I don't want to do this. So a lot of it comes through from the, from the music side where someone is sending me music and they're like, oh, I want you to wrap over this and I want you to lend your art to this, you know, et cetera. And it's a friend of mine or someone that I care about. And I'm like, oh man, I don't know how to say that.
I'm not feeling this at all. So a friend of mine reached out to me and sent me some beats, some music that he wanted me to lay some vocals on. And it really took me a while to tell him that. It's not something that I'm really into or going to be able to do. And basically what day is it? So like a week ago after months, I sent him a text just still kind of with this low key, stressing me out in the back of my head that I haven't just shut this down, cause I know that there's no way that I'm gonna be able to do this.
And I wrote, I sent him a text and it's a little like mealy mouthed and whack, but yeah, I did the best I could do. So I was like, you know, Hey, how are you? Long time. apologies for dropping the ball on the music. I've been juggling a lot. And at this moment, the beats that you sent me, they weren't really speaking to me a hundred percent. And these days I really need to feel the vibe immediately to really get into it in any case, I just wanted to reach out and let you know that.
And so I finally did say no, and I don't think it was the best way, but, um, it's like one of the last vestiges of my inability to shut things down. I think since I was in that little space, I've gotten a whole lot better about it.
LEAH: Yeah. And it's like, that position is interesting because you're having to give feedback to somebody where they could really take offense, because it's like they put their heart and soul or whatever, you know, this is their personal expression. So it's, it's hard to give people the feedback that, hey, it's not the right fit for me at this time, but that doesn't mean that it's not the right fit for somebody else.
So it's like, how do we go about giving feedback to people that, hey, this isn't the right fit for me at this time. And maybe even going so far as to say, here's what I liked about it. Here's something that could use improvement if it was to be a fit for me. And then another kind of that whole, how do we sandwich the feedback with something positive, something constructive and something positive again, to help feedback land better.
And I think that that's a good practice to get into. There's really an art to giving feedback and it takes practice for us and it's not easy to do, but, um, that's something that I've used also in walking away from a job, you know, there's are really big decisions to make or saying, oh, to something even more simple as like perhaps giving feedback within it that people can digest.
Sharing my appreciation and my gratitude, I think that's always a positive to appreciate people for reaching out to you and seeing you as a mentor, seeing you as somebody who they respect enough to get an opinion from, or appreciating them for the opportunity, because they look up to you in some way.
Yeah. You know, so you have to honor that.
OFOSU: Because that's never the whole story. And I think doing as many different kinds of thought experiments as you can to put yourself in the other person's shoes.
So you're not able to do this thing that you're being asked to do or you have to back out or you're the person who you have to deliver this news - what would be the most meaningful way for you to receive this news?
LEAH: For someone to acknowledge my feelings.
OFOSU: Exactly. Yes. I think we forget that we're all human and that we want our basic humanity to be acknowledged. We want to at least know that we've been seen or heard. And just like you said, like acknowledge that you care about the fact that you reached out at all and that you considered me for this or that you thought I was working with this.
LEAH: And that was a brave thing to do, to get, to even ask for feedback and to recognize, like you've been in that position before. So yeah, I think like, ultimately at the end of the day, when it comes to saying no to people, some of the things we could walk away from this conversation with - it's okay to think about yourself and your mental health first.
OFOSU: Mental health is wealth. We've seen it happen with people like Naomi Osaka. We've seen Adele take a break more and more. We've seen high profile people prioritize their mental health and we've seen a social shift in attitudes about it. The responses to Sean Mendez's pause were overwhelmingly positive.
I think Lady Gaga had to do this not too long ago. It wasn't necessarily mental health. It was like an injury or something like that, but people are generally more understanding. So I think there's a cultural shift that's happening also. All of that lends itself to the idea of another takeaway here that you don't have to apologize for prioritizing yourself.
You're an equal player in the game of life. and, and you don't have to say, sorry.
LEAH: Yeah, I think it empowers other people to look at their own selves, and you don't have to go into crazy detail about your mental health either. Like it's enough to say like, I need to take care of myself.
Um, and then you know if you can take on something new or be part of something new, really evaluate, do a quick assessment. Like what do I have on my plate? And can I take this on or is it going to bring me joy and fulfillment to do this something beyond just the money,
OFOSU: This afternoon the Monastic community from Plum Village, where I was just on retreat - they sent me a song and asked like, would you like to be a part of this? And I listened to it and it was immediately inspiring. And I immediately wrote 16 bars. It took me 30 minutes to do this and I wanted to do it. It wasn't even a matter of want.
It just came out of me. I was like, oh my God, I feel so connected to this. Let's make this happen. What's gonna happen next? I have no idea how I'm not even thinking about compensation, anything, but I'm just happy that I did it. And, that feeling of fulfillment is life enriching enough to have made it worthwhile.
And if that feeling isn't there for me, I'm probably just gonna say no. And that's N O and you don't have to have a reason to say it. My friend, Alyssa Massel, longtime friend, PR person, incredible person - she said to me one time when I was struggling with this, she said ‘no’ is a complete sentence.
LEAH: Yeah, that's a good one. I like that.
OFOSU: ‘No’ is a complete sentence. And you don't have to qualify it with anything at all.
LEAH: However, most of us aren't going to just say no. Although it is a complete sentence, it's also good to acknowledge people.
OFOSU: was so powerful for me because she realized that I was having such a hard time saying no to a number of things.
And she said, you know, you don't have to create an entire paragraph around it. No is a complete sentence. And sometimes that's true. Sometimes a simple no is enough.
LEAH: Ofosu, this has been a great conversation. I really enjoyed it. And actually I just thought of something. This place near me in Bali needs a substitute meditation teacher for a few weeks.
Can you, can you come do that? Starts tomorrow.
OFOSU: Um, you know what no.
I really appreciate you thinking of me and asking me to do it. And it's something that I'd love to visit at some point. I was just kidding anyways, but oh my gosh, Leah don't play with me like that, but yes. Okay. Yeah, but the answer is honestly, I'm on vacation. So the answer is no,
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OFOSU: So if you're out there and you wanna stay up to date with our show, subscribe or follow on your favorite podcast app, and don't forget to please rate and review us in that app, it helps us to grow and it helps to spread the word.
LEAH: And we'll be back next Monday with another conversation. Have a wonderful week.
OFOSU: really enjoyed this conversation with you, Leah. Thanks so much. And to you, our listener, our friend, take care. Remember to be kind to yourself and bye for now. Wow.
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