The Power To Say NO
Learn the power of saying NO – Saying no is something most of us wish we could say but don’t dare try. It’s hard, it pushes our buttons, like guilt and feeling inadequate. Is there a solution?
Saying no gets to the very core of who we are, how we measure ourselves by doing more, taking on more, doing it all. It’s hard to say no when you feel guilty that you should have more energy, make more out of your time, push yourself a little harder. If only you were faster, more efficient, then everything would just fall into place.
In other words, it’s not your schedule that’s crazy, it’s just that you’re somewhat defective, not good enough. not fast enough. Ouch. And this gets all the way down to the core of how you define and see yourself – either busy and competent, or not good enough. But you already do so much, and by saying yes to something that takes away from your time and energy, you are saying no to yourself.
I had my own “saying no” challenge this week. I’d been planning to visit friends a three hour drive away last weekend, taking along a friend recovering from knee surgery and couldn’t drive. But I was sick with stomach flu all week, and despite cutting back on work and resting as much as I could, I felt sick and weak by Friday – in no shape to drive or socialize for a weekend.
It took me almost passing out at work on Friday to realize that I was nuts to believe I could drive three hours, socialize, find the B&B where I had reserved a room, drive back, drop off my passenger, then drive home, unpack… and be well enough to get to work on Monday. Guilt, guilt, guilt. And shame, not to be able to pull me up by my bootstraps and do the superwoman thing. I ended up writing down the pros and cons on paper and this showed me clearly, black-on-white, what to decide and why. And so I finally mustered the courage to say NO, just a few hours before departure time.
But instead of feeling guilty and inadequate, I suddenly felt free. Absolutely freed from a commitment that couldn’t work. Because, simply said, I’m human, not a superpower. Hard to swallow, but so incredibly freeing. By saying no to something too demanding for the energy I had, I was also saying “yes” to myself: yes to caring for me, yes to my own priorities, yes to what I needed most this weekend: to rest and to get well enough to face a busy week.
Saying NO to what doesn’t work for you allows you to say YES to yourself. And that’s powerful. What about you? Think of a commitment you’ve made but that doesn’t work for you; maybe a demand or expectation that feels crazy to fulfill because it’s just too much… Deal with it. Gracefully, diplomatically – and truthfully. Say NO.
No one will step up and say no for you. After all, if you’re taking on an extra load on your plate or if you’re doing someone a favor, this takes that responsibility off someone else’s plate, so it benefits them. But you live the impact of not saying no: what’s the cost on you of saying yes to something for which you have no time, no energy or no interest? Is it realistic? Is it feasible given your workload and family responsibilities?
Epilogue to my decision: even cancelling just a few hours from departure, the B&B I had reserved didn’t charge me; the person riding with me found another ride; and half of the people couldn’t make it, anyhow. And I, worrying so much about letting down my friends, and feeling so much guilt. Not worth it.
Try a “say NO” challenge this week: focus on finding a way to say no truthfully but gracefully, without giving excuses, without guilt or shame, and take back your power to create a life that’s less busy, more fulfilling, with more space for what truly matters to you.
What do you want to “say NO” to, this week, and wish you could? If you need to, write down the pros and cons of doing something you don’t want to. What are you really saying no to, if you say yes to a demand? If you’re saying no to you, in order to say yes to a demand, it’s time to reconsider…