I sat for a while pondering how to title this post…
The one that I’ve gone for sure packs a punch but even writing it, seemed a little rude. And it isn’t rude at all but we are conditioned to believe ,that no is the wrong answer and ‘yes’ is the right. This belief is one that I’ve been working on changing but it is still hard, especially at this time of year. I am writing this post to remember that it is okay, more than okay - to say no.
For most of my life, I’ve been a people pleaser, I would do and say, whatever anyone wanted me to. I placed myself firmly between the masses of what everyone else was doing and what everyone else wanted, I was half them, half me.
I spent year after year saying yes, when all I really wanted to say was the opposite. Be it social gatherings, one more drink, or unkind boyfriends that didn’t like being told no. I thought that it was easier to go along with what was expected, rather than thinking about what was right, for me. And I wasn’t even sure what I wanted much of the time but generally, it wasn’t the thing that I had agreed to do.
We are brought up to polite and not disobey, to be thoughtful, kind and put others feelings before our own. And of course, it is important to be all that we are brought up to be but it is also important, to recognise and be these things to ourselves too.
it wasn’t until I had children, that I started firmly saying no. And it wasn’t to them but to external voices, telling me how to raise the most precious thing to me. The mama force is strong and so for the first time in my life, it was easy, so easy, to say no. A no, to those who told me not to hold my babies, a no, to those who told me that I could spoil my children with love and a no to anyone who told me to be the kind of parent, that my heart didn’t want to be. no, no, no, no, no.
Yet I couldn’t say it for myself. Whenever I tried, the word stuck in my throat like treacle and so it stayed there, whilst I spread myself too thin. I said yes to being everything that everybody wanted me to be and no to being me. I consoled myself that I was doing the right thing but the trouble with the ‘so-called’ right thing, is that often, no-one wins.
And so many of us do it. We bring ourselves along to gatherings, half heartedly with one eye on the clock, or we make promises through false smiles and over exaggerated pleas of “its fine” when its really, really not. And we think that we are doing the right thing but when we say yes to something that we’d rather not do, everyone loses out but mostly, that someone is you.
I never really thought about what I wanted until I started simplifying. It was just never even an option until then. I was so busy sorting out my stuff, or filling my life with someone else’s time, that I didn’t even have the space to realise that by saying yes to someone else, I was saying no to what was right for me.
And it was one thing, decluttering the physical items that I had but I needed to declutter the habits that I carried and the excess I held, about letting people down. I had to simplify my whole life and not just the things that I could box up and give away. To really make a change I had to do more than, sell/donate and throw away my things. I had to learn how to stand up for my time, by using the hardest word of all, that two letter word that holds such meaning, that big, little word of no.
It didn’t come easily and gracefully to me, there were stumbles here and there and quiet whispers of “I can’t.” or “not today.” It took a lot of work, resistance and if I’m honest, therapy, before I felt comfortable saying no. But through learning about what I needed, without all of the stuff in my way, I discovered that I had be honest with myself and those around me, about how I wanted to be.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t that I wanted to live a life of solitude, or disliked having fun but often, all I really needed, was my little family of four. I am an introverted soul and to me, that was more worthwhile than hanging around with people or at places, that I didn’t want to be. And even when I got intentional with my calendar, somehow, priorities snuck back in. Only on closer look, they weren’t my priorities at all - they were someone else’s and they were stealing my life, with their time.
Now, I realise that this last sentence sounds harsh and I’m not sure that I could ever say it out loud but I’ve learnt the hard way, that if we continue to do things that we don’t want to do, they wont stop until we say so. Because if we don’t dictate our own time, someone else will. And by saying yes to someone else’s agenda and someone else’s priorities, no matter how kindly they ask - means that you are saying no to yours.
With time and practice, I slowly and intentionally learnt to say no. At first, with long explanations, of why I couldn’t make this thing, or do that thing but after a while, I just started saying no. With a thank you attached but a very firm no. With quivering hands and sweaty palms, no, no, no.
No to attending that event, that I really didn’t want to attend. No to waiting dutifully beside the phone, just so someone could talk at me, rather than to me. No to saying I will make apple pie, when I can’t for the life of me bake and no to being stuck in a room with people, just because it was what everyone else wanted.
And do you know what I learnt?
I learnt that people appreciate a no.
They may get offended at first, or give a glance of disbelief, especially if you’ve always been a yes girl like me but gradually and with time, people will value your no. And suddenly you will realise, that all of that time and all of those years, saying yes to things you didn’t want to say yes to, were wasted on things that you didn’t even have to do.
Maybe for you, it wont be as easy if others don’t value your no. They may get cross, resentful, or try to persuade you otherwise out of guilt but know that it isn’t really about your no - it is about their reaction, to you.
You are not being unkind, or disregarding everyone else’s feelings by saying no but rather thinking of your own and deciding what is important to you. And it may not always be a no, it could just be a no for now, it doesn't have to be final. You may decide that next time you’d rather say yes but at least that will be your decision and not one made out of obligation, or just because you think you should.
This season is without doubt, the season of yes. Either through expectance, necessity, or thinking that by saying no to something, memories wont be made. It is the season that will make or break us and it’s often the latter, if we try to do it all. But it is also the season for us, to enjoy and be enjoyed. And with our days being accounted for before they’ve even begun, it can be the perfect time to practice saying no to the things you don’t want to do and delight in saying yes - to you.