Hesitant to assert your needs? Learn the steps to the freedom which is NO, now!
From birth, we’re taught to be polite and generous. Say please. Always say thank you. Give of yourself. Somewhere along the way we unconsciously learn that asserting boundaries is to be selfish and unkind. In truth, saying NO can actually be a life saver and game changer, not only for you, but for the betterment of your relationships as well.
On first glance, it would seem that this tiny, two-letter word would be harmless to use. Sadly, it becomes so challenging because of the associations we make with it. Fear of rejection, alienation, judgment and scrutiny render us helpless and soon, we get in line and submit to the endless “yes’s” that permeate our day to day lives. You take on the extra assignment at work. You smile gladly when agreeing to an extra day of carpooling the kids. You even raise your hand to volunteer for the bake sale and yet you have no idea why. You run on the “Yes Auto-Pilot” and wonder how you so frequently feel and become agitated, bitter and resentful. Here’s how to jump off the “yes” plane and start plotting your own course.
1. Discover Your “No’s” Through Balance - The reality of life is that we do sometimes have to say yes to things we don’t want to do. Empowering yourself to say NO doesn’t mean that you should use it as a blanket response for all things boring, annoying or uninteresting. It does however, mean that you get to use it in ‘balance.’ Clients so often ask how to achieve this balance and wonder how they’ll know when they get there. The wonderful news is that you are already fully equipped with everything you need to make this balance happen. We are all gifted with internal gauges for calibration. We don’t make habit of checking in with ourselves to see where we are at, but when you practice these vital ‘gut checks’ of both your emotional and physical reserves, clarity springs and decisions crystallize.
For example, when a friend asks you to meet them for dinner and you would prefer to stay home, check in with yourself to assess your desire against your need for relaxation, the last opportunity you had to catch up with this friend/the next chance you’ll have to see them, the mental toll it will take if you push yourself to go, how much you’ve been exerting yourself lately, how often you’ve been saying “yes” in other scenarios etc.
When you listen to the answers AND remind yourself that you are entitled to respect your own limitations, saying NO can be a wonderful option. If you choose to take it, you provide yourself with much needed and deserved rest and strengthen your relationship all at once. Wondering how? Check out step 2.
2. When In Doubt, Remember The Benefits – In the example above, you wanted to say NO to dinner plans. If you took this tack, you potentially avoided resentment in feeling ‘forced’ to accept the invitation and stopped yourself from offering less than your best self to someone you care for. Similar or additional benefits will be true for other situations you choose to say NO to!
3. Challenge The Irrational Beliefs That Prevent You From Saying NO - Friends won’t stop talking to you and family won’t disown you. Surely anyone that hears a “NO” from you won’t be thrilled. They might even be a little annoyed and that’s okay. Everyone is entitled to their feelings and no matter what frustration they may experience, it will never be significant enough to sever ties (assuming you maintain your ‘balance’). Moods will pass. Disappointment will dissipate and you’ll be left feeling assertive, confident and recharged.
If you think about it, it’s easy to say “yes.” We avoid conflict, guilt and anger by acquiescing to others' needs but ultimately suffer, as we stuff our desires in a box. The path to true freedom lies in our ability to be brave and blaze our own trails by sometimes saying NO.
When all is said and done, we want to present our best selves and be everything to everyone. The problem however is that we have different levels of capability that change, soar and sink every single day. Give yourself the gift of honoring those limitations. Push yourself to rise to the occasion when you can and take those opportunities to RSVP NO to the “shoulds” in your life when you need to. It’s the most powerful word you’ll ever use.