The Freedom of Saying No

So the year is underway. How’s it going? Are you focusing your time and energy on that which is most important to you now? 

There are so many things and people that pull on us or distract us, but if we have taken the time to decide what we want to be our focus, we’ll be better able to navigate the many decisions we’ll be faced with every day. 

“No” is a complete sentence. 

I learned this from a dear friend and am so grateful.  Historically, I have had a pretty hard time saying no to things – mostly requests from other people.  The angst I would go through to just say no to something that I knew I didn’t want to do, or couldn’t do, was nuts.  

I would wrap myself up in knots and come up with all the reasons I couldn’t do something – excuses or reality; it didn’t matter.  What I finally realized was that people really just wanted an answer and didn’t need all my explanations or guilt about it.  They weren’t feeling the charge around it that I was.  

So I started saying no more and without the drama and explanations. 

Few things have given me more of a sense of liberation. 

I became aware that by claiming no as an option, I was not only valuing myself and my time more, but I was also able to say yes more consciously and cleanly. 

As women, many of us have been brought up to be nice, accommodating, helpful, and polite. We learned these lessons well. We are dutiful and responsible. But sometimes we end up wrapping our identity, ego and sense of competence into being very helpful, maybe even indispensable, which can make saying no even harder. 

We have conditioned people that they can ask and depend on us to say yes. And this can make saying no even harder. 

Deborah Treisman expressed this so well in her New Yorker article, "Kristen Roupenian on the Self-Deceptions of Dating"
“…many women, especially young women, move through the world: not making people angry, taking responsibility for other people’s emotions, working extremely hard to keep everyone around them happy. It’s reflexive and self-protective, and it’s also exhausting, and if you do it long enough you stop consciously noticing all the individual moments when you’re making that choice.” 

Saying yes means we are feeling clear and should make us feel good, not burdened. I think we’d end up learning that we garner respect, not for always saying yes, but for honoring our limits and boundaries. 

When people trust that we will take care of ourselves, they are freer to make requests and know that we will only say yes when we can. 

Of course sometimes we blow it and say yes when we shouldn’t have. But that’s okay. The good news is that we still have options, as I write about here. 

I have come to realize that where we say yes and where we say no ends up defining who we are.  

Where do you need to say no more? 
What or who do you have the hardest time saying no to?

Now go have some fun practicing saying no.