When did saying no and being selfish get a bad rap? I guess when it got “in fashion” to be worn to a thread? Now, let’s be clear here by what I mean by selfish. Selfish is not narcissism nor is it abandoning the relationships and obligations you have in your life. Selfish is about self-care – putting yourself first so you can perform and serve others better. After all if you’re running on EMPTY you’ve got nothing else to give.
People-pleasing, especially for women has a long and sordid history. From the good little “leave it to beaver” type wives of days gone by to the working career professional to the lesbian desperate to be accepted by her new girlfriend, I’d put money on the fact that the number of times the answer ‘no’ passes through her lips is few.
So, why is it that we can’t say no to the new project, social obligation, or friend’s request when we’re already so booked we could melt down? What are we afraid of? Rejection? Failure? Some quiet time alone to actually think and feel?
Last week I talked a little about Create Space to Reduce Stress. The only way to create space, especially in our overbooked schedules is to say that two letter word we fear so much – NO. Now, you don’t have to be rude or uncaring when you say no. Oftentimes I find when I work with women, they are afraid that the very act of saying no is rude. If anything, it is just the opposite because you are truly being honest and respecting yourself at the same time. The key is in the delivery. Simply, politely, and authentically tell someone no. You don’t need to explain or justify (well, maybe a little if the person asking is your boss), simply decline. If it is something you might like to do in the future, you can add “maybe next time I can do “x” because I would be interested, but the timing isn’t right for me.”
So, take a deep breath and ask yourself — what am I afraid will happen if I say no?
Go ahead and journal about this question. Write freely of all the potential things you fear might happen. Go wild; write down the worst possible scenario.
Now, consider these words of wisdom:
If you make a choice that doesn’t please your mate, friends, or
whoever, the world will not fall apart.”
– Oprah Winfrey, June 2001
Hmmmm, imagine that! If I make a choice that works for me, and someone doesn’t like it, the world won’t end. That is a great relief!
Some useful resources on learning to say no without feeling guilty are: