To Say No
I'm a people pleaser which means I say yes a lot. To favours, to events, to people I hardly know sometimes but the older I get the more I realise that there are only so many hours in a day and only so many days in a week. I have always wanted people to know they can rely on me and alongside that, for them to know that I have my shit together. Together enough in fact, that I can say yes to a favour at the drop of a hat for anyone who might ask.
In the last couple of years however as life has become ever busier and ever more unexpected, it's taught me that I simply cannot do everything anymore. I've had to let the word no infiltrate my vocabulary and with it I've had to learn that saying no doesn't make me a bad person.
Of course I still have an overwhelming sense of guilt whenever the word needs to be said but if I do say yes when the answer should really be no? Well then expect everything else to come toppling down at lightning fast speed because my shoulders can only hold so much weight - and that's okay!
I know from chatting with friends that I'm not the only one that feels this way and so many of us have been brought up to be yes people. To be the people who put others before ourselves and while that can sometimes be the right thing to do, we often forget the impact of never putting ourselves first.
For me saying no has become a form of self care. It's not saying no to become the person who cannot be relied upon or the person that simply doesn't want to help others, it's saying no when my time has to be prioritised so that the yes's can come at the right time too.
My first hurdle in realising it was okay to say no, was getting past the immediate guilt I felt whenever I even thought about declining someone's request. Even now when I get a bcc'd invite to an event that isn't specifically aimed at me, the fact the invite has come my way still makes my stomach turn with worry knowing the answer's going to be no. I just don't like the word and it often naturally leads to another overused word I'm only trying to use when really necessary - sorry. I've always found it so hard to say no (especially without apologising profusely and far more than I would ever really need to) and being accessible 24 hours a day through social media, email and my phone actually made saying no feel even more overwhelming. The fact of the matter is saying no is an important part of my life. It's a way of giving myself boundaries, it's a way of giving my best self to others when the answer isn't no and on a personal level it's allowed me to redefine the word itself. No is starting to lose it's hardened scarey exterior and I'm reinventing it as an homage to putting myself a little further up my priority list, bit by bit.
The second hurdle for me was putting my situations into perspective and realising that saying no wouldn't have the impact on the other person, that I thought it would. I'm a stereotypical over-thinker when it comes to trying to guess how other people are feeling because of me, (something else I'm working on haha) and 9 times out of 10 an authentic no is way more preferable to a wordy over apology. Now please don't assume I'm a truly awful person who says no to everything that now comes my way in both my personal and work life, I'm just learning when to say yes and that stems from wanting to say yes too. My yes's come from a place of knowing I can do what's asked of me and knowing I can do it to the best of my ability for that person. It's so easy to burn out and to overwhelm yourself by saying yes too much and too often. Saying no when I need to respects myself and others, no one needs a version of me that is stretched thin and is trying to please everyone.
Do you struggle to say no and if you do, do you feel just as guilty as I do? I'd love to know if you've discovered the right balance of yes's and no's and any tips that have helped you along the way.
Images taken in Milan during fashion week outside the Tods AW20 show.