Taking Care of Yourself: Learn to Say “No”
Saying no can be the ultimate self-care.
The other day I was standing outside waiting for my shuttle ride to work when I witnessed a somewhat funny exchange around a light pole. It went something like this:
Woman: “Come here! Stop that!”
Kid: Continues to twirl dangerously around the light pole and into the street with each turn. No verbal response given
Woman: “What did I say? Don’t look at me and keep doing what I’ve asked you not to do.”
Kid: Finally stops and turns his attention to her purse
Woman: “No! Stop licking my bag! That’s disgusting! Do you want to get Ebola!”
Me: Hard side eye to both of them
As I watched the urchin and his misguided guardian, I started to think about boundaries and the art of saying “no;” more particularly, how people react when we say “no”. For some people it can be hard to say “no” for fear of disappointment—either from family or society. Instead, many people are hard-wired to be agreeable and to frequently say “yes.” But being a “yes” person can be detrimental to your mental and emotional health.
I’ve found that people will take what you give and this isn’t to say that it’s done with malicious intent. I think it’s just human nature to keep returning to the people that prove helpful in any aspect of our lives whether it be professional, emotional, spiritual, or financial. It’s easy for each of us to become dependent and over use our blessings. To protect your well-being, it’s important to set boundaries for those people and stick to them.
I very rarely get asked for money because most people know what the answer will be—I set those unflinching boundaries a long time ago. I do get asked to give my time and professional advice quite a bit. Sometimes I have to say “no” because I’m just too busy/tired or I’m not invested in the person/cause, or I simply just don’t want to. I know my limits in terms of how I feel when I’m giving too much of myself and once I’ve hit those limits, “no” comes out quite easily. (Side note: I think this also comes with age. The older I get, the easier it is to say.) I wasn’t always like this but life has taught me that it doesn’t pay to be a martyr for niceness and being a “yes” person will inevitably lead to resentment from the feeling of being used or taken advantage of.
Life has also taught me that you can really find out how someone feels about you by saying “no” and observing the reaction. Do they ignore you or act out like the little boy in my opening story? Do they get mad or defensive? Or do they accept it, respect it and move along? If you’re truly dealing with someone that cares for you, the “no” will be enough.
Saying “no” when you don’t want to do something or can’t isn’t about being mean to someone else but rather, being kind to yourself. So if you’re a “yes person”, and you know who you are, try setting clear boundaries and saying “no” to things that don’t bring you happiness and fulfillment. I guarantee that life will be much simpler and peaceful for you.