The Power of “No”

I’ve had so many conversations about this topic lately that I really want to give it more attention.

Tell me if this sounds familiar…

You really want to do X – maybe that’s start a business, take a class on something you’re interested in, spend more time taking care of yourself, etc. You feel like you can’t pursue that because you already said you’ll do A, B, and C – things like driving carpool, volunteering at your kid’s school, hosting a holiday party, taking on extra tasks at work, etc. (For the sake of this exercise, we’ll say that you agreed to volunteer at your child’s school.)

At first it was fun, but now you’d really like to stop volunteering at the school. You don’t really enjoy it anymore, you have other things you’d rather do, but committed so now you feel stuck. Enter Guilt and Shame. 

You feel like you can’t tell the secretary that you’re not going to volunteer anymore because they might think you’re a bad mom, they might say you’re selfish, they might treat your child differently, and so on.  So you keep on doing this thing you dislike, and eventually you start to resent it because you don’t want to let someone down or have them judge you. 

Fast forward three years and you still haven’t started that business. You’ve taken on more obligations and feel totally overwhelmed. You health starts slipping because, as we all know, the first thing to go when our plate is too full is our own well-being.

You think about the “what ifs” and all the progress you could have made toward your dreams, if you’d only said “no” or simply asked them to find someone else. Next, you start beating yourself up for continuing this commitment you’ve now come to dread. You still fee like you can’t take your time back, so you still keep going, now with a negative attitude and resentment. 

Is anyone winning in this scenario?

Stop Putting Yourself Last

As women, we are taught to put absolutely every other fucking person on the planet before ourselves. Our societal programming tells us to make sure everything and everyone else is taken care of before we give ourselves any love or attention. THIS MUST STOP!

Bottom line: you can’t show up as your most awesome and helpful self when you’ve spent all your energy on other people and obligations. Before you can have anything to share with others, you have to make sure your tank of energy and happiness is full . It’s simple math – you can’t give what you don’t have.

We’ve been taught that our primary value is in caring for others. We’re told to put our dreams aside to give others the chance to fulfill theirs. Whether that’s our husbands, children, or family members, we’re programmed to put everyone else’s happiness before our own.

Why do we believe everyone else gets to pursue their best lives and we’re just here to support them? What about your dreams? What about the life you want to live? What about all those gifts you have to share with the world? Just so you know, the world NEEDS you to share them!

We feel obligated to say “yes” when someone asks for our help, even if it will negatively impact our own happiness and well-being. It’s time to stop!

The Breaking Point

This is something so many of us women struggle with. We don’t want to let someone down or disappoint them. We don’t want to be seen as selfish. We genuinely want to be helpful, but don’t know when to say “no”. We overload ourselves and are then too afraid to tell someone that we can’t take on anything else. We feel like we can’t back out of something we committed to before realizing our limits.  Eventually we hit the breaking point.

I learned this lesson the hard way. Long story short, I stayed in an emotionally and mentally abusive relationship for nearly six years. For SIX FUCKING YEARS I allowed someone to beat me down, make me feel like shit, and turn my self-worth into shame!  When it ended, I swore it would never happen again. Full fucking stop.

I told myself, “Never again! Never again will I let someone treat me that way. Never again will I compromise my happiness and well-being for someone else’s. It’s my fucking life and I get to choose!” I’ve kept that promise, uncompromisingly, for more than a decade now.

Sometimes that looks like saying “no” to requests for help, opportunities that aren’t aligned with my dreams, and even social activities with people I love because I need time to recharge. And I refuse to feel bad about giving myself what I need before agreeing to help others.

The Beauty of Boundaries

Guess what? I’ve never regretted a “no”. It’s not always easy to do, but you get more comfortable with it over time. Here’s the other thing, most people are really understanding when you have to decline, or even change your mind after the fact. It’s always strange to me when I decline and people say, “I wish I could say just say no to things like you do!” Surprise, you can! There’s nothing special about my choice to say “no”. We all have the option.

A friend of mine wrote this great article recently that talks about having just one insane moment of courage and what amazing things can come from that! It’s true, I’ve done it. Over and over again. From leaving jobs that I no longer enjoy to telling a friend I can’t help them because I have too much on my plate. 

Let me be clear, there are ways to do this tactfully and with love. It doesn’t need to be a giant “fuck you”. It takes time to start reclaiming your power and energy, but you can do it respectful and kind ways!

An Offer to Help

If you want help setting better boundaries, I’d love to chat with you. I know how difficult it can be to set boundaries and have those conversations.

I’m offering to provide some strategies and pep-talks to help you feel confident about the “no”s you need to say and taking your power back. <3

If that sounds like something that would be helpful for you, simply schedule a complimentary call here.

Your Turn

What dreams are waiting for you on the other side of “no”? Think about it. How would your life change if you said “no” to everything that wasn’t aligned with your best life? What if you started giving up obligations that don’t actually serve you well? What would be possible with that freedom?