Ironically, what is often a child’s first and most commonly spoken word becomes increasingly more difficult to say as that child becomes an adult. “No” is used by toddlers as a first expression of independence, yet we, as adults, have developed an aversion to it. In my work as a therapist, as well as in my social circles, I find that the number one complaint of women is burnout. In one study, 60% of women were found to be over-committed and more than 68% admitted to agreeing to do something when they really wanted to say “no.”
Why is it so hard to say no?
Here are some of the reasons women give: “I feel guilty when I say no,” “I don’t want to disappoint others,” “I should be able to do it all,” “I don’t want anyone to be mad at me,” “I like to feel needed.” But like the toddler who emphatically tells his mommy “no” to exert his independence, we need to say no to acknowledge our own independence and exercise our own voice. By saying “no” when necessary, we are expressing our own individual needs. It sets a boundary that lets others know you are mindful of yourself and doing what’s best for you.
Ideas for saying “No”
1. Recognize that you have limits. No one can be all things to all people. There is no reason to feel guilty for being human.
2. By saying no, you are giving someone else the opportunity to say yes. Have you ever noticed that sometimes the same people are asked over and over to do the same job? Have you ever thought “Hey, I could probably do that,” or “So-and-so is really good at that. Why don’t they ever ask her?” When someone else has the opportunity to say yes, they have the opportunity to develop their talents and share their gifts. We each have something to offer. Saying no allows you to share the love.
3. By saying no, you are giving yourself the opportunity to say yes to something else. You don’t have to justify your reasons for saying no. What is important to you might not be important to anyone else. But always remember that in saying no, you are opening up time for something—or someone—else.
4. It is good self care. You are allowed to pick and choose how you spend your time and energy. Some of that time and energy should be on yourself. When you say no, you prevent yourself from being overcommitted, stressed and developing burnout fatigue. You are taking care of your most valuable resource—yourself.
I challenge you in the next two weeks to reexamine your schedule and find something to say “no” to. Reawaken the toddler in you and declare your independence! Then come back and share your experiences. I want to know.