Do you find it hard to say no? Are you a person who tends to say yes to new responsibilities being added to your plate, even when your plate is already full and you really just wanted to say no? Do you often agree to doing things, even when you don’t want to? I feel your pain if you nodded in agreement to any of these questions, because saying no is something I too have struggled with throughout my life.
I learned to say yes early on in my life to everything my parents asked of me and wanted me to do, solely because it was easier than saying no to them. Saying no generally had its consequences. Sometimes it meant less love was offered to me. Sometimes it meant guilt trips were thrown my way. And sometimes, it even meant getting punished. Because what was asked of me was never a question in the first place, rather it was an expectation formed in a self-serving way that appeared as a question, where saying no was never meant to be an answer that emanated from my mouth.
Sadly, not being able to say no throughout my childhood became a pattern that went well into my adulthood, mostly with people I became smitten with. From spending hordes of money on them that I should have been saving for my future, to giving my body away when I didn’t want to have sex, to accepting forms of mental and emotional abuse when I was only hoping for love and acceptance. It took a lot of work over the years to set healthy boundaries in this part of my life, boundaries that I now keep to and say no to if someone tries to cross them. It wasn’t easy at first, but it got easier the more I said no.
Ironically, at the same time I was struggling to say no to those I was smitten with, I had no problem saying no to everyone else. I said no to just about every possible thing that could have been added to my plate because I was quite selfish and wanted to have as much free time as possible to keep saying yes to all those people I was attracted to and addicted to. Once I found recovery from that addiction, that all changed. My pendulum then swung to the other extreme where I began saying yes to just about every favor being asked of me, because I didn’t want to be that selfish and self-centered person anymore.
“Hey Andrew, can you sponsor me?” Yes!
“Hey Andrew, you’d make a great social coordinator for the church? Will you?” Yes!
“Hey Andrew, why don’t you plan monthly socials for our AA home group? Will you?” Yes!
“Hey Andrew, I think you should take on the IGroup MKP contact? Will you?” Yes!
On and on this has gone, with many things being asked of me, most of which I kept saying yes, because I didn’t want to be selfish and let anyone down. Meanwhile, I didn’t realize how much I was letting myself down in doing so. I was burning out…rapidly…and becoming resentful in the process. Thankfully, it took a friend asking me to drive them home from work one evening at midnight, on a night I was just plain exhausted, where I finally found the courage to say, “No, I’m sorry, I can’t do it, I need to take care of myself and my health.” That was all it took. Saying no to a good friend began a push within me to create more of a balance of things to say both yes and no to, where I didn’t feel totally selfish with saying no from time to time, nor completely taxed out from saying yes all the time.
Now, I’m setting healthy boundaries and learning to see how important they are for the process of saying no. If one doesn’t have healthy boundaries established for themselves then it’s pretty easy to always say yes to the things that people ask of you. But, by having healthy boundaries, it makes it far easier to say no when what’s being asked encroaches upon those boundaries.
I’m still working on some areas in my life that absolutely need some healthy boundaries. Some of those areas are emanating during times I’m continuing to say yes, but figuring out later that I really wanted and needed to say no.
Saying no is a work in progress for me, but I’m feeling a whole lot better learning how to do it. I’m not as overwhelmed and overburdened lately, and am feeling empowered more than ever, the more I keep to my boundaries and realize it truly is ok to say no, no matter how the other person may feel about it.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson