Remember back to being a little girl and being taught how to say “no?” You might have been told not to say “no” when asked to pick up your toys or told to hug Aunt Gladys.
If you did say no, you might have been taught to soften it with “No, thank you,” or “No ma’am.” A flat out no was never allowed and so you learned to either go along and say yes, even when you wanted to say no, or you learned to soften your “no” with some sort of platitude.
But you’re an adult now. And you’ve probably heard it at least 1000 times: You must say “no” to demonstrate good self-care and good boundaries. You must use the word “no” and mean it without hesitation or guilt.
I remember years ago when Oprah first said, “No is a complete sentence.” And yes, that’s true, it is. But you have to know when to add it into the conversation. And I think that’s the hard part for so many women.
Let’s be real: Women have a lot on their plate.
There’s childcare. There’s elder care. There’s work responsibilities, community responsibilities, home responsibilities. And eventually you keep adding to this vortex of responsibility and stop? When is enough enough? At what point do you start saying no? How do you know when to say no?
Do you say no when you’re going out with your friends and you haven’t seen them in a long time? Do you say no to your child who wants you to go to the park. Do you say no to your partner who wants you to run by the pharmacy? Do you say no to your mom who wants you to go out to brunch? Do you say no to the committee at work who wants you to work on this really a terrific project at work that is going to add too much to your plate? I mean, you get it.
Do you say “no” to any of it?
Or do you buck up, take a deep breath, and dive right in trying to make all the moving parts happen? I mean, is it really possible to say, “No, I’m not going to go see my church friend? Or go to my kid’s game?”
Because this is what happens to women, as you know all too well. That’s why women get overloaded, feel like they’re failing, and feel inadequate.
Truth is, it is hard to say no. It can feel impossible and lead you to think you’re an even bigger failure because you can’t get everything done.
But I’m going to challenge you here: Failure doesn’t happen because we recognize our limits; failure happens when we ignore our limits and push through.
When you are saying yes to so many other things, you say no to yourself.
You can’t be all things to all people. It’s just not going to happen. And when you try to be all things to all people, ultimately, you’re failing someone. The person who takes the biggest hit is you.
Unfortunately, there are always going to have to be sacrifices. You just cannot do it all for everyone every time. But the person you cannot continue to sacrifice is you.
If it’s taking away from you and your needs are, then it’s time to say no.
Here are five different ways say “no” right now:
- I’m not able to commit to that right now.
- I appreciate the offer; that’s just not something I’m able to fit into my schedule.
- Gosh that sounds so wonderful. I wish I could participate, but it’s not where I can.
- I really want to be there in person with you right now, but I’m not able to.
- I’m not able to make that work.
To really make an impact and continue to find ways to say “no,” come up with your own script. Jot down several different ways you could say “no” to things that you anticipate might come your way.
Begin to practice saying no. Write it in an email; send it to someone who is supportive of your practice. Say it aloud in front of a mirror. Whatever you need to do in order to begin to say “yes” to you and “no” to all those other requests.
Saying “no” begins with first saying “yes” to you.
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