The ability to say the word "no" is the first step to freedom. Shocker!
We often find ourselves caught up in a thousand of commitments, obligations, and requests from others, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and stretched thin. The only way out is to actually learn saying no.
If you are already at that point, congrats. If you are not, welcome to the club. One more thing to learn in selfcareology.
The first time I heard about the fact, that saying no actually does something good for me was in therapy. Sounds stupid but I did not understand at all the meaning of it and honestly have never thought about it. It´s not that I haven’t ever said no, but I was for sure not paying attention, if it does something good for me. But I paid attention to the situations I said yes and my initial gut feel was “wtf no, no, no. Say no.”.
I had and still have clear issues with saying no. I mean it got better, much better. But there is still room for improvement. Like in other areas there are reasons why we do not say no. There are old habits and believes, and our good old friend called fear. A fear of being excluded, rejected, abandoned. A fear of not being loved after or ever invited again. And for sure other reasons that all go mainly back to our self-worth. Our measuring point for a lot of unhealthy, self-abandon behaviors.
In the past I said yes, even though I knew I don’t want to do certain things or I just did not have the capacity mentally, emotionally or physically. After saying yes, I couldn’t take my mind off it and the inner fight between my initial gut feeling and the fact that I already had agreed was seething. I went through a bunch of ideas how to cancel or get out of the situation without any kind of guilty conscience, and a lot of times I was trying to manifest the other person canceling on me. Well, the latter didn't work so well. Many times, like an hour before I had to go there, I came up with an excuse (or lets be honest a whiteish lie) and then I felt just bad and guilty as I was not honest with myself nor the other person. The whole situation took away so much energy throughout the day. Image how much energy I would have saved, if I would have just been honest and said no from the start.
So here is a little "secret" I learned back then in therapy: saying no is not only okay but necessary for our well-being. Surprise! Saying no is a powerful tool for self-preservation that can help us set boundaries and protect our mental and physical health.
What I didn’t understand was, when I say no to others, I actually say yes to myself. A big fat yes. Saying no is self-care. Saying no is for you. There are 5 very important factors or let’s say outcomes if you actually do say no. You prioritize your needs, respect your time, preserve your energy, protect your emotional health and value your personal time.
Saying no is setting boundaries and your boundaries are a direct reflection of your self-worth, self-respect and not selfishness. By setting these boundaries, you create space for what truly matters to you and nurture a healthier relationship with yourself and others. It makes you human and authentic. And it gives you the chance to be more present and effective in the situations you say yes. While it may be difficult to turn down requests, especially from people we care about, learning to say no can actually improve our relationships. Think about it the other way around; if someone sets boundaries, it gives you the chance to be authentic and set your boundaries too. Image how great of an affect is has on your relationship to that person and your mutual understanding. You get to know each other in a whole different way. Other people can't set your limits. They only have the right to make requests, but self-preservation is your responsibility.
So, I guess the why should be clear by now. It´s just the goddamn how. It´s like with every new skill you learn, training. Doing it again and again when necessary and eventually it gets easier. To make it easier from the start, you could begin with the so called “sandwich method” to not seem impolite or inconsiderate. It´s an approach, where we can express gratitude for an invitation or request, decline politely, and offer an alternative or further support. But honestly for me it´s hard to follow these steps. How I do it mostly is to just be honest. I explain that I am not having enough energy, or put already too much on my plate or need some Bibi time. There should be an understanding from your family or friends, and if not, let it be their issue.
I think big part of why it is hard for me to say no, is the fact that I know how hard it can be to receive a no. If someone says no to me, I feel rejected. Irrational? Duh. Self-centered? Duh. But I did associate receiving a no from others with a clear rejection of me as a person. And again, guess where that stems from; my past. As a kid, we do not understand what a no necessarily means. We feel rejected and the only explanation we have as a kid is, that it must be connected to us as a person. No one does ever explain to us, or at least not to me, that it usually has nothing to do with us. Your parents, relatives, friends or whatever person also practices self-care and sets clear boundaries. And that’s absolutely fine. There is no abandonment, it only has to do with them and with their needs.
And a lil last fun fact or let’s say therapy skill to make things easier. I have this piece of paper on my wall with 1000 no´s written on it. Every time someone says no to me in whatever context and I feel rejected by that, I cross off one of the no´s. As soon as you are done crossing off all of them, you have supposedly learned to receive a no without the feeling of rejection (at least that’s what my therapist told me). I am not done yet with my list. But let me tell you one thing. It actually feels good to cross it off. It takes the negative feeling and the heaviness out of it in a playful way. For me, it makes it easier to let the feeling go. As soon as I cross it off, somehow, it’s out of my system most of the time.
So let´s embrace the power of setting boundaries and prioritize ourselves. Remember, your needs matter, and it is not your responsibility to cater to everyone else's desires at the expense of your own well-being. Embracing the power of saying "no" is an act of self-love that enables you to nurture yourself and live authentically. So, let us all courageously say "no" when needed, be ok in receiving a “no” and affirm our worth through self-care and compassion.