Learning to Say No
"If it is not a 'Hell Yes!', it is a no." Jen Hatmaker uses this line when she encourages women to go all in. She encourages women to live a life they love and enjoy. But learning to say no is difficult. As a people pleaser, I place my value in serving others and making them happy. I often end up overbooked, stressed and frustrated because saying no, or potentially disappointing someone seems worse than running myself too thin.
I thought that saying yes to everything was beneficial. I thought it made me look more caring, more generous and more dedicated. I thought it would help me get a head at work. I thought it would show my family that I was a strong family member that could be relied on. I thought it would show my friends that I was still the same me, even after getting married, starting a full-time job and having a child. I thought it would show my church that I was a super Christian - dedicated to God and extra spiritual. I thought that pleasing others and saying yes, would cover up my insecurities and my unhappiness with aspects of my life.
The truth was that saying yes to everything made me feel tired, uncared for, resentful and bitter. During the height of my people pleasing season, I would say yes to things out of obligation. I felt I should say yes. I felt that I would be replaced or looked over for saying no. It made me feel like less of an adult and more like a child for not being able to juggle a million commitments. I felt like a bad wife, mom, employee, friend, daughter, sister for not being fully energized, excited and committed to everything I said yes to.
I realized that for my health and my sanity, I needed to learn to say no. I also needed to not feel guilty when I said no. But, when and how do you learn to say no? What happens when you have to say yes? And how do you let go of guilt when you say no?
Learning when to say no:
The first step in learning to say no and not feel guilty about it, is learning when to say no. While I adore Jen's quote, I also realize that there are things in life that I have to say yes to - like when my boss asks me to do a task that is apart of my job description, I need to say yes. Or when dinner is done, and a pile of dirty dishes lays in the sink. Or when my husband needs my help around the house. There are things in life that just need a yes. I think there is a line between doing what needs to be done and abusing your "yes."
The first step in learning when to say no, was to identify my feelings toward what was being asked of me. Did it feel like manipulation? Did I feel pressured to say yes, in fear of disappointing someone? Did I feel like I should say yes? Was I already dreading the event or thing I was about to say yes to? If I answered yes to any of those questions, I paused before responding. I would ask myself what would it cost me to to say yes to the request and was I willing to pay that cost.
Sometimes the cost of saying yes is actual monetary value, other times it is your time, many times it is your emotional state. These are all things to consider when deciding if you want to say yes or no to a commitment.
Learning how to say no:
Learning how to say no is just as important and learning when to say no. I was asked to host a table at an event recently. I would need to pay a fee for the table, and recruit a handful of women to attend with me. I would need to be at the event several hours prior to the event to set up and would need to clean up our table after the event. It would have been detrimental to my friendship with the person who asked, if I had blown up on them. I needed to say no in a way that was honoring.
Instead of saying "Absolutely not, I could care less about the event, I do not want to spend my time, money or energy in doing that. Thanks, but bye," I responded with a sincere thank you but that I would not be able to commit to the requirements. I told her I appreciated her thinking of me, but that I was saying no.
Learning to say no, in a definite way, that is not open to questions or misinterpretation allows you to end the conversation. Be aware that some people do not take no for an answer, and may try to manipulate you or persuade you to say yes. When I see this happening, it reconfirms that my no should remain a no. I also use accountability partners for big no's that I feel I might cave on. Remember that you are allowed to say no and that you do not need a reason to say no.
Letting go of the guilt that comes with saying no:
No. It is a complete sentence. Remember that when you say no, you do not need to justify or explain your no. I did not make the switch over night. After realizing that I had over-committed myself, I did not immediately start saying no to commitments. I had to start small. I had to realize that the world did not end when I said no.
I had to learn to let go of the guilt I put on myself for saying no. I had to realize that I was not responsible for other people's happiness. Letting go of the expectation I placed on myself to meet everyone's wants allowed me to start saying no freely. This also allowed me to start saying yes to the things I truly wanted to be apart of. I was able to try new things, be fully present at family events, give of my time generously and take time to rest well.
I know it can be overwhelming and daunting to start saying no and to start taking control of your schedule, but you deserve to live a life that you love. You deserve to live out your dreams without the should've/could've/would've playing on repeat.
I am giving you permission to say no and to say yes freely and with full conviction that you are acting on your own best interests. Your sanity is not worth gambling away by being a people pleasure. I hope that this provided some helpful tools for you as you craft your future and pursue it guilt free!