With a million things taking up our time, it is very easy to get overwhelmed and overburdened. How easy would life be if we learned how to say no?
It may be seen as radical but it sure is a form of self-care because you prioritize your well-being over your relationships, work and other obligations. Boundaries help us prioritize what we need to do right now versus what can be done later when we are less stressed and in a better mind frame.
If you’re overwhelmed from a long day of work, it may not be a good time to listen to other people talk about their problems. When you’re in the mood for a relaxing evening at home, it’s OK to decline an invite out for a night on the town. Boundaries help keep us connected without becoming enmeshed. In my work as a social worker, here’s what I’ve learned about the word “no,” and what saying it more often than not has done for me.
1. ‘No is a complete sentence’
I have wrestled with this statement for quite some time as I always thought a ‘no’ needed and explanation or at least a counter offer. I always thought it was selfless of me to negotiate the ‘no’ so as to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings. What I have come to realize is that protecting my peace did not need to be nice or selfless, it just needed to be said.
As a humanitarian worker, my job is to enrich other people’s quality of life which I absolutely love but it can often leave you exhausted after pouring your whole life onto others and not yourself. The downfall of constantly giving of yourself unconditionally can leave you feeling empty, depressed and exhausted so it is important to give the same love, energy and hard work to yourself.
I still give 100% of myself to my family, friends and to my job but not at the expense of my own peace and joy. I had to learn how to say ‘no’. I have since been able to prioritize myself, be loving, caring and present to myself as I am to others around me.
No is definite and assertive and it draws some invisible boundaries with those around you, at the beginning, it is very uncomfortable. However with time, people learn to respect your boundaries.
I love myself enough to know when I do not have the energy to give to others. It may come off as being cold however you do not really owe anyone an explanation. Explaining brings room for negotiating over your boundaries which defeats the whole purpose.
If I have more of my time, effort, energy to give, then I offer it when it is there instead of people demanding it when it was not.
2. Saying ‘yes’ to me and ‘no’ to others
Saying yes to yourself more often trains you to say no to others. Every time I have declined a request ot call has meant that I am actually saying yes to myself in that moment. This may be due to a variety of reasons but that is okay, I can always avail myself at a later time.
We often say yes to help people even if you are not in the position to or even when you do not have the resources to share. This is an example of prioritizing others over yourself because we say yes when we intend to say no or maybe not right now. Each time we say yes, we pour from our proverbial cup and too often we are pouring from an empty cup and then we wonder why we are tired, upset and resentful.
As women, many of us are conditioned to consider everyone and everything else before ourselves and consider anything less than self-neglect as selfish. I learned that by prioritizing myself, I was able to be a better wife, sister, friend, and more. So, now I only respond to calls and texts when I am fully present and able to properly engage. I do not take on more responsibility than I can actually handle. Don’t get me wrong, setting boundaries is hard, but running on empty is harder. One thing that made this easier for me was realizing that the world didn’t stop just because I didn’t answer. People are far more resilient and resourceful that we give them credit for. Their world does not spontaneously combust just because you took an evening for yourself, and if it does, setting boundaries will expose the health of your relationship.
3. Saying ‘No’ teaches people how to treat us
Implementing boundaries seems scary especially if you have been a certain way for years. The last thing you want to come off as is mean however if anyone loves and respects you, they should not be upset when you love and respect yourself. Anyone who has an issue with you setting boundaries is just someone who is used to you not having any. Saying no allows us to assess our relationships in order to determine if they are mutually beneficial or parasitic? Are those whom we are committed to equally as committed to us? Are we perpetuating a cycle of co-dependency to validate our worth? Are we over committing because it makes us feel needed and wanted? We need to see ourselves beyond our committed, productivity and involvements.
Saying no brings us closer to ourselves and brings us peace and rest, creates space and time for those that bring us joy and happiness. By clearing the distractions we are left with ourselves and allows us to explore who we are, what we like and what we need at any given time. I have learnt that I need some ‘me time’ and over time, the people around me love and respect me enough to give me that as well, eventually the quality of my relationships has improved