If you’ve ever wondered how you can help everyone you care about without completely running yourself into the ground, Yasmine Cheyenne’s new book is here to help. The Sugar Jar is the wellness advocate’s first book, and it’s all about being real with yourself so you can be real with everyone else and bring some balance back into your life. Here, Cheyenne talks about the difference between a “should” and a “want,” what to actually do with that knowledge, and what a healthy boundary really is.
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WM: How are you doing lately?
Yasmine Cheyenne: I am grateful and also overwhelmed. We don't often think that we can have two—or a multitude of—emotions at the same time. I'm excited about a lot of things that are happening in my life and my career, but also, wow. It takes a lot of energy.
WM: Can you tell us about your new book, The Sugar Jar?
YC: The Sugar Jar is a metaphor that came to me genuinely out of overwhelm. I just had my second daughter, I came back from maternity leave, and I had jumped right in [with] business stuff. I was working my 9-to-5 at the time, [taking the kids to] play dates, [and doing] all the things. I was voice-noting someone, saying, “I feel like a jar of sugar, and people are just coming into my sugar jar, taking what they want, spilling it all over the place. There are just so many parts of me that I feel are being dispersed that there's no way I can keep up. I can't keep myself full.” The metaphor of the sugar jar is built on the premise that we can keep ourselves full when we put a lid on our jar, AKA boundaries.
We can also recognize that people will always want the sweet parts of us. They will want our energy, our time, our money, and our attention, but it's up to us to decide how much we have to give and whether we want to.
WM: What clues help you identify when to set a boundary?
YC: The first place to start is [paying attention to] the language that you're using, like, “I should do this,” or, “My mom really gets happy when I do this.” [That] is usually an indication that you're doing this because someone else wants you to do it versus you wanting to do it. “Should” is often a place where we should investigate. Do I actually want to be doing this? I might need a boundary.
We all want a friend that's like, “Whatever you need, I've got you.” But in real life, whatever you need isn't usually possible—not at the drop of a dime. … If we are honest with ourselves and say, “You know what, I don't have the space for this,” and we're honest with them, we give them the option to find someone else who can actually support them. [Then we can ask], “How else can I support you?”
WM: Can you describe the difference between flimsy, healthy, and rigid boundaries?
YC: No boundaries is usually when the lid on your jar is off—people are just coming in and out of your kitchen taking sugar. You don't know how much is going in or coming out. What that looks like in real life is usually being overwhelmed, drained, resentful, angry. There's this perception that people are taking from you versus recognizing that you're allowing people to take from you.
With healthy boundaries, you're usually sitting in the position of I own my power. I have full autonomy over myself. This isn't perfection. It's not [thinking], I always do the right things, say the right things, and say no. It's more from a place of awareness. … When we have healthy boundaries, we're more willing to advocate for ourselves, and we're more willing to do the tough thing, which is to be honest.
On the other side of the spectrum, we're talking about what I call barriers—no one can get in, no one can get out. No new friends, no new nothing. You may struggle with vulnerability and letting people in, but you most definitely don't struggle with saying, “You can kick rocks.” This usually happens when someone is hurt or something happens to make them feel like it's not safe to let people in. [They might think], I'd rather not have a boundary. I'd rather just keep everything and everyone at a distance. … When we have barriers, we're less likely to admit to ourselves how we feel. We're less likely to let people be there for us. We're more likely to be the strong friend, so we're less likely to get the support we need as humans, period.
WM: What exercises from your book can help people practice setting healthy boundaries?
YC: There are questions and checkpoints throughout the book to help you learn how to set boundaries in a healthy way. One of the exercises is a practice of writing what you can have while also having boundaries. You would say, “I can love those around me and still have boundaries.” That is a powerful one because a lot of us feel the shame or guilt associated with saying “no,” whether it be internal or projected from the people around us. So we're reaffirming to ourselves that just because I'm setting boundaries, it doesn't mean I'm mean. It doesn't mean that I'm selfish. It doesn't mean that I don't still love or care for these people. … Use boundaries to create a new story that says, “I don't have to give all of me away to be seen, loved, and cared for.”
WM: What do you hope people take away from this book?
YC: I know this healing work is not easy. It can take a lot of time and energy, and I just hope people walk away from reading this book feeling like, OK, I can at least take one small step toward what feels like growth or healing for me, and recognizing, Dang, I am not alone. So many people are going through similar things as me. Hopefully, that helps them release some of the heaviness and shame that may be keeping them from being honest with what they need.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
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