Saying ‘No’ to others is saying ‘Yes’ to yourself. Does this statement resonate for you?
If it does, it might be a helpful affirmation to hold in mind when you are tempted to do something you really don’t want to do just because other people want you to do it.
But sometimes that phrase doesn’t really resonate for us, especially if part of our core values is care and consideration for others. Instead, another way of reframing this statement is:
It is ok for you to say no.
This is a helpful affirmation and true even when you care about what is happening to other people. Even if all your life till now, your role has been to meet other people’s needs. It is still ok to say no.
You can listen to their problems and be there for them in whatever capacity feels ok to you but you don’t have to meet everyone else’s needs, fix all their problems or put those needs and problems above your own. You are a person with needs and problems too. You are allowed to say no.
People won’t like it at first, of course. There will be push back and uncomfortable situations. That’s the bit that is hard work: keeping up your boundaries, saying no when you want or need to, despite feeling the discomfort. That’s why you need the affirmation, a mantra you can hold close and repeat to yourself when things get uncomfortable.
And after a while it does get less uncomfortable, you start to realise it’s true and it wasn’t so hard after all to sit through other people not liking you saying no. After a while other people get used to it, they start to realise you’re not always going to say yes, most of them learn to accept that. The ones that can’t, that won’t listen or that won’t accept your boundaries, there comes a time when you will start to question whether that is what you want in life and maybe even make some difficult choices about those relationships. That’s ok too, not easy, but it is ok.
And Saying Yes to you isn’t only about saying No to other people. It’s also about identifying what is ok for you, what you do want to say yes to. Finding out what you need and want or like in life and heading towards those things can sometimes be a difficult thing to do if we haven’t ever done it before. This is especially so if no one has ever told us it’s ok to do what we want, to like what we like, to pursue our dreams and meet our own needs.
Saying Yes to you isn’t selfish and it doesn’t require you to be mean or to say No to others for the sake of it or when you don’t want to. You can still say Yes to others when you want to but focusing on saying Yes to you is just as important. Focusing on this will ultimately give you back the energy to be there for the people in your life who need you. It’s like putting your oxygen mask on first on a plane, before turning to help others with their masks.
How do you begin to work out what Saying Yes to You means for you?
Journaling can help. Set aside some quiet time to think and write. You might want to think about the year you’ve had and begin with these questions. Just write whatever first springs to mind without judging what comes up:
- What were the good moments you had this year?
- What do those moments have in common?
- What things did you do this year which were helpful or you just liked doing?
- Think about a few of the difficult moments: what helped get you through?
- What were the lessons you’ve learned about yourself from going through the adversities you’ve faced this year?
- Who are the people you have felt good around?
- What are the qualities they have that make you feel good about being with them?
- Who would you like to spend more time with in the future?
- If you couldn’t fail and you had enough time, what would you like to do more of in your life?
- Write a list of all the things you would like to do if you had the time. You might want to divide these into categories like:
- If I had an hour, I’d like to…
- I had a whole week off, I’d like to…
- Write a list of hobbies you’d like to try
- Write a list of places you’d like to go
Each of these questions is a starting point. You don’t have to do all or any of them. Try to write without censoring yourself and reflect on what comes up afterwards. The important thing is focusing on what saying Yes to you means to you.