Saying No-Can You Do It?

The word ‘No” is such a small word and yet so powerful. I see parents who think it is so cute when their toddlers learn to say no and yet it is from us that they learn it. Parents find it not so cute when they get just a little bigger and it sounds like disrespect to their parents as they refuse to do what they are being asked.

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We see all sorts of things today about saying no and signs posted everywhere and we seem to have no problem saying no to drugs and other things that don’t affect us personally. The problem for adults seems to be as we grow up, we become more reluctant to say no to things that involve us. We can be great champions for saying no to drugs, animal abuse, and things that affect the environment but things that affect us….we feel guilty if we say no.

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The beauty is that children don’t carry the guilt around that we do about saying no. They do not seem to worry that they will make some one mad if they say no. They say what their hearts feel. We as adults worry we will make people mad, feel guilty, feel like we think we are the only ones that can do the job. And that is what people will tell us when they try to get us to do things.  And we say yes and then come home angry with ourselves for agreeing because we really did not want to do it to begin with.

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I can think of one woman, who really put the plea on to have someone do this booth over the weekend during her time. She made it sound like she had no one to help and she could not do it alone. Come to find out…..she was going out-of-town and did not want to do it all and the person that said yes cancelled their plans to go and “assist” this woman in the booth. The woman that cancelled her plans ended up doing the booth alone.  I have learned that someone will always take the job if you say no. We are not indispensable like the person asking us tries to make us feel like we are. Oh you have heard it…. “no one can do this like you can”.  Truth is…yes they can.

I can remember being asked to help with this or help with that, with church events asking me to help serve or help in this program or that program and I would say yes because it made me feel guilty to say no. It also made me feel needed that people asked me to help. And while I did not mind helping with some things, there were many times I just did not feel up to doing it, had other plans, did not have the time…and I still said ok.  I had to learn to say no and believe it or not…I practiced in the mirror. I found that saying yes all the time was keeping me in a constant state of stress.

What I learned was that when we say no….those people who make it sound like you are their only hope will either do it themselves or will ask someone else. It is not the end of the world for them. Yes, they may get mad at you but the peace you will feel inside when you say no when you really don’t want to do something is worth it all. The first time I said no, I came home and I felt at peace. I did not feel the resentment, the anger, the remorse that I would feel when I said yes when I really wanted to say no. And the next time that I DID say yes, I did it because I really wanted to and really enjoyed helping.

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This is not to say you should never say yes. It means only say it when you REALLY want to do it. If you are reluctant….if your head is saying “I do not want to do this”….if you feel anger and resentment about saying yes….then that is all for the wrong reasons. I love what this book above says…”Breaking the Chains of Self Sacrifice”.   Have you ever thought about it in that way?  When you say yes and you really do not want to… are sacrificing yourself and your wants.

Most of us oldies on here were brought up to put ourselves last and everyone else first. Mothers were taught to put the needs and wants of their husbands and children over themselves. We were taught that sacrificing your own needs and wants was the way we should be. Now, this is not to say that you never put others needs over yourself because we all will in life. But, when you do it all the time…the balance scale is way out of whack. And what happens is people who say yes when they really want to say no start to feel anger about doing things, resentment at doing things, anger at the person(s) that asked them and derive no pleasure from helping others.

“When you sacrifice yourself and your priorities to others, you lose that part of yourself that would make others appreciate, love and respect you. This doesn’t mean that you should be selfish and never help others.”

Catherine Pratt

When we say yes to everyone, we,  in reality, are doing it because of fear. I am sure you are saying “fear of what?..I am not afraid”.  It is fear. Fear that others will get angry, fear that we will not be seen as valuable, fear of being told you are selfish. Sometimes we can equate our self-esteem with how much we do and not with the person we are inside. That makes us fear others will not love us just for ourselves but only for how much we do. Sometimes we say yes because we really want to but we know it is beyond what our limits physically, time wise, financially that we can do. Never say yes right off the bat unless you really know this is what you want to do. If you say “let me get back to you” it gives you time to analyze why you are saying yes or not and decide the best thing for you.

As I was working on learning to say no myself, I realized that part of the problem is we are taught to be self-sacrificing and we don’t respect our own selves enough to say no.  We don’t respect our own limits of what we can and can not do, what we want to do and don’t want to do. It is like we are saying that we are not worthy. And by treating ourselves like we are not worthy….we in turn teach others to treat us that way.

Setting boundaries helps us retain a calmer life and feel peace of heart. The hardest ones to set boundaries with are our children and our parents. If we never set boundaries with our children, who are learning what we show them, then they will expect the world to cater to them always as they grow up. Setting boundaries with our parents is harder for we find ourselves going back to the little child and parent feelings even though we are adults. I had to set a boundary with my parents and made them mad. The boundary was I lived too far away to come running to help all the times they wanted me to. I did go help but I could not do as much as they wanted. Did they get mad? Oh yes but I was at peace within myself and they got over being mad.

“The purpose of having boundaries is to protect and take care of ourselves.  We need to be able to tell other people when they are acting in ways that are not acceptable to us.  A first step is starting to know that we have a right to protect and defend ourselves.  That we have not only the right, but the duty to take responsibility for how we allow others to treat us. 

Robert Burney

Saying no…such a hard thing to do. It is ok to say no. It is ok to say yes. We just have to make sure we are saying it for the right reasons and to know that when we feel angry, resentful, etc…then we said yes for the wrong reason. We have to be in touch with our inner selves and recognize when we are doing what is best for us.

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Someone asked me once shouldn’t we help all those that ask us. My response is multi-fold…..Are you feeling angry and resentful about saying yes? Are you saying yes because you are afraid?  (afraid the person will get angry..afraid people will think bad of you, afraid you will not be seen as worthy?)  Are you saying yes when you know physically, emotionally, financially it is more than you can handle right now? Are you saying yes because the person made you feel like you are the only one that can do the job?  Are you saying yes because you feel guilty?  If you are saying yes to any of these questions…you are saying yes for the wrong reasons. When we help,  it should be because we really want to invest the time, energy and cost,  either emotionally, physically or financially…to do so and for no other reasons.  If we are doing it to look good, to make ourselves feel better, out of guilt, fear or whatever, then we are doing it for the wrong reasons. Helping others should be a joyous thing not a burden, not something that weighs us down and makes us angry about doing it.

And this is not just in volunteering that it is important to ask yourself these questions. It is also in donating to things and charities. If you are in a position where it is financially bad to donate, but you feel like you should because the ones asking make you feel guilty for not donating or they use things to prey upon your emotions and make it sound like you are the only one that can help save something or help build something..then you should say NO.  Charities/evangelists can prey upon your emotions to get you to donate and then after you do it, you get angry because you knew you just donated part of your grocery money or your gas money. Always step back and ask yourself why you are saying yes to anything. Give yourself time to analyze and remember…it is ok to say no.