One of things I used to struggle with was overcommitting myself. Saying I could make cupcakes for a bake-sale, volunteer at an event, work late, drive for a field trip…the list goes on. My philosophy was that I had to have a damn good reason for saying no to something. My default was always “yes!” and I rationalized this by telling myself I was being a positive person. It only took me 20 years to burn out completely.
A while back I was at a friend’s house for dinner. She works full time, she had company from out of town, she made us a beautiful meal and she was leaving on a trip the next afternoon. The problem was she had also committed herself to do a 10k fun run the next morning with her coworkers. I watched her struggle with her decision to cancel. The guilt, the shame, the “I always bail on things” self-talk. I asked her if she actually wanted to do the run and her answer was an immediate and definitive “no.” Well then, there you have it.
Why do we do this to ourselves? Why can’t we just say no without all the self-torture? Is it the cult of busy? The way we were raised as women? Why do we say yes when we are either unsure or we want to say no? Is it fear of judgment, rejection, being fucking lame or that we don’t have an excuse that we deem worthy? The key word there is “worthy”. For whatever reason, we tend not to view our time and energy as worthy of protection and we don’t prioritize our needs over others’ (and beat the shit out of ourselves when we do).
A few years ago I had another friend who invited me to participate in the “cold shower challenge.” This wasn’t for charity or to raise awareness for anything it was just a thing people were doing every morning for a week. My reaction was one of why the ever-loving-fuck would I do that? Hell, NO! After recovering from all the expletives I threw at her, she told me that she admired the fact that I could just say “no” like that. I was left wondering why on earth she felt she couldn’t say no to participating in an activity that I viewed as cruel and unusual early morning punishment. It just hadn’t occurred to her that she could say no, that she didn’t have to do it just because she was asked to.
When we are asked to give our time or energy to something, we are being asked, not told. We owe it to ourselves to think about it for a minute before committing to something that will not only drain us, but keep us from doing something we actually want to do. Saying no isn’t always easy but we can start by saying, “let me think about it” or “I have to check my calendar” instead of an immediate yes.
And here’s the trick: if you give yourself the time to think about it you’ll know within 45 seconds if this is something you actually want to do and guess what? You don’t even have to have a good reason to say no.
PS. Having technical difficulties getting comments to show but I am getting them. Thank you! I’m working on resolving this. Liana