Just Say No!
For those of you who grew up in the days of John Hughes films and parachute pants, when Bon Jovi was king, bigger was better when it came to your hair, and everyone was wondering 'Who shot JR?', you likely remember the 'ingenious' anti –drug campaign (the brain child of First Lady Nancy Reagan), that encouraged the youth of the day to 'Just Say No' to drugs.
'Just saying no', was going to solve the drug problem. How clever, simple and effective right? In theory maybe, except...that's not exactly what happened. In fact, it turned out that although the campaign raised awareness of drug use among youth, there has never been any proof that it had any significant influence on the numbers.
News flash, Nancy! It ain't that EASY to 'Just Say No'! If it were, we'd be doing it all the time....and we all know that's NOT happening!
In fact, saying yes to things we don't really want to do, is an epidemic. You KNOW it's true! But why? Why do we feel the need to constantly say yes when we really want to say no? Well Nancy, saying no is scary and anxiety producing, and really, who wants to go there'?
When we say no, we fear that it will cause confrontation and conflict, we fear rejection and alienation, we fear that we are being uncaring, but most of all, we fear that we will be seen as... selfish. GASP! "I don't want to appear selfish! Selfish is bad, everyone knows THAT? "
But Nancy, are you living your life for yourself or for everyone else? Saying no does NOT mean you're a bad person, it does NOT mean you're unlovable. What it means is, you have made yourself and your own well being a priority. There is nothing wrong with that! Without your health and well being, you aren't much help to anyone else anyhow. You don't need to be a self sacrificing martyr to prove your worth!
"But isn't it saintly and virtuous to live our lives in service to others?" you say.
Well Nancy, actually, I believe that doing things for others is essential to our happiness and the health of the world in general. I'm not suggesting that we all go around flipping everyone the bird every time they ask us for a favour or commitment. I'm not saying we should not care for the people we love. What I am saying is this......Constantly being a 'yes person' eventually turns us into angry, sick, crazy individuals. And I mean that in the kindest way. Saying yes all the time, when we really want to say no, makes us resentful, and we end up internalizing all of those nasty emotions which can eventually make us very sick...both physically and emotionally. This is not just my opinion Nancy, but fact. In that state, we are of no use to anyone! I know that part from experience. :)
So one way or another, for both our own, and the greater good, we have to give up the Mother Theresa shtick. Yes Nancy, I agree, that is WAAAAAY easier said than done. But it's far from impossible and in the end, it feels damn liberating and it allows us to be true to ourselves.
Learning how to say no means that we can say YES to other things.....the things we REALLY want to be doing, the things that make us happier, saner people. And who doesn't want to be, or be around, happy, sane people? Learning how to say no, is really a win win situation!
How do we face our fears about saying no? Well Nancy, in my experience, the only way out of any situation, is to go through it.
First off, decide what it is that you want to say YES to. In other words, what are your true priorities? Take some real time to mull this over and write it down. Think about what you value and what you want your life to look like. Think about where you want to be at some point in the future. Most importantly, and I can't stress this enough Nancy; think about how you want to feel. (For some kick ass, soul satisfying help with that, I urge you to read Danielle LaPorte's 'The Desire Map'. It will open your eyes to a whole new way of thinking about your goals).
Once you've got your priorities straight, it should be increasingly clear to you what needs to go. In other words, what are the commitments you need to ditch and where can you start saying no? Then, pick one thing as your jumping off point and, get ready for it.....JUST SAY NO! Will it be scary? You KNOW it! It will be especially scary the first time. But guess what Nancy? Every time you say no to something you don't want to do, it will get easier and less scary. Eventually, you'll be an effing pro. You just have to get comfortable with the idea of...well, feeling uncomfortable. The discomfort will fade, the more you exercise your "no" muscle. I promise.
What about the guilt? Well, the guilt will fade too. And if it helps, whoever is asking you for something you don't really want to commit to, will figure out how to get what they want from someone else, or in some other way. If they don't, it wasn't that important in the first place.
So say YES to what genuinely makes you feel good. Sometimes that will mean you are running errands for the neighbour, sitting on a committee at work, coaching your kid's soccer team, or taking your grandma to get her hair done. If it feeds your soul, go for it! But when you are faced with a request that makes your stomach tighten, your eyelid twitch and your jaws clench .......remember Nancy....you owe it to yourself, and to the people you love, to 'Just Say No!'
P.S. If you want to practice learning to say no, or anything else that scares the heck out of you, you'll get some tools, support and encouragement to do just that in Kick Fear To The Curb, my e-course which starts September 12th. Say YES to joining us, say YES to yourself for a change and NO to the excuses you make for never giving to yourself, as much as you give to everyone else.