Elton John has been singing for years that “sorry” seems to be the hardest word, but I think I disagree with him. In my experience, the hardest word to say is “no.” I was raised as a people pleaser – and that’s not a bad thing. I like to think that what I’m doing is benefiting other people. It is extremely difficult for me when I feel that someone is upset with me and I have spent a lot of time doing things so that I wouldn’t find myself in that position. I have spent much of my life saying “yes” to everything. And then I had children. My life changed in an instant and suddenly I wasn’t putting myself first anymore – I was living my life and putting them first. The words “no” and “yes” immediately took on a much bigger meaning.
Saying “no” is HARD. For someone like me, saying “yes” has always come much more easily since I felt that I was fulfilling a need. And perhaps I was! That said, I’m not sure that saying “yes” was always the healthiest response for me or for the person to whom I was saying “yes.” Don’t misunderstand me, there are times to say “yes” wholeheartedly! There are times that you want to say “yes” and times where saying “yes” is the gracious response. However, saying “yes” to almost everything ends up depriving you of precious energy and – if you find yourself constantly saying it to the same people – it is likely enabling someone else.
Learning how to say “no” is learning how to balance your life. If you are a parent or a spouse/partner, you have an obligation to those people – and yourself – first. It is your duty to find the energy to help fulfill and empower them in a healthy way. That takes a LOT of energy. And since you can’t give away what you don’t have, it is extremely important to find some way of keeping yourself healthy and energized – even if it means stealing 20 minutes with a book and reading on the floor of the bathroom. I spent many days doing that when my kids were young, after my husband got home. Kiss my husband, kiss my children, hand them over to dad, make a beeline for the bathroom to read. It is not always easy to find the time to give back to yourself, but it is the only way to maintain the energy for those closest to you.
After you’ve taken care of your immediate family and yourself, consider what other people may need or are asking for. The people who love you (friends, parents, siblings, extended family, etc.) should be able to understand your challenges and obstacles – and if they can’t, you may want to consider how healthy they are for your life. Is someone in need of a ride to a doctor’s appointment? If your schedule sees fit, that may be something you’d want to consider saying “yes” to. Is someone asking you to babysit for their child on the fly for the fourth time that month so that they can go get their hair done? Do you almost always say “yes” when they ask? In a situation like this, you may feel like you’re helping by saying “yes,” but the pattern is telling your friend that a) you’re a pushover b) your time isn’t valuable and c) whether you are happy about it or not, you’re always going to end up saying “yes.” They’ve created the dynamic, but you’re maintaining it. Whether you had planned to rearrange your closet or go to meet the queen, your time is worth something. Maybe it is time to stick up for yourself and stop enabling by finding the courage to say “no.” This is their issue, not yours.
Saying “no” takes determination and it is never easy – but it does get easier. As a people pleaser, I still feel guilty when I say “no” – and maybe that’s not a bad thing. I like to take care of people. I want to make the world a happier place! But maybe saying “yes” all the time isn’t the way to do that. Maybe saying “no” to the things that we find to be unhealthy or energy sucking is actually the right way. Maybe it is time to stop making excuses for other people, and say “yes” when you truly mean yes and “no” when you truly mean no. Maybe it is time to empower yourself and be an example for other people. Set those boundaries, find your strength and know that you are worth it.
Need an outward reminder? Pick up a “Nope” bracelet to keep yourself grounded.