LEARNING TO SAY NO

Updated: May 16, 2020



I never thought I was a people-pleaser. I've been told before that sometimes I can be pretty stubborn and willful. Neither of these really speak of a person willing to bend to the whim of others.


But as I learned to rest I realized something about myself that made me wonder whether I might be a people-pleaser after all.


I rarely say "No."


I know my mind on many matters, or at least I know what my mind is not, and perhaps that is where stubbornness comes into play. And when I make a choice to accomplish something, my willfulness helps me to persevere.


But that doesn't keep me from answering nearly every plea for help with a, "Sure, I can do that." It doesn't keep me from wondering what more I should be doing. From packing my schedule tighter than I should, until suddenly I'm having to tell everyone, "I'm sorry, I can't. I'm busy."


This is especially painful when I overextended myself, and now I must make a choice: stay true to my word and commitment or excuse myself to rest?


I don't like to break my word.


That means I rarely ever back out of doing something I said I'm going to do. Doesn't that mean I should be more particular about what I commit myself to doing in the first place?


Many people don't take issue with backing out. I struggle with that, because my view of commitments is that time promised to a person or activity is a tangible display of trustworthiness and loyalty.


Obviously this doesn't include when the cause is illness, accidents, or the occasional schedule mishap. But repeated incidents begin to create fractures in my mind until I question whether my friendship means anything at all. Whether I mean anything at all. When those fractures deepen, trust breaks.


Then I might be shocked if you ever did show.


I even hold myself to such a standard -- because it isn't just others that I allow to fracture me, I break my own trust at times.


I tell myself I'm going to accomplish this very great and challenging thing; it is something I am excited for and passionate about, and it will be wonderful. Then, it takes longer than expected. Or my commitments to others get in the way of my commitment to myself. Or passions change and fade.


Fracture, crack, break.


So I call myself lazy. I berate myself for daring to dream up such a silly idea. I fret to make the next thing happen and I don't allow myself to rest.


Then I might be shocked if my dream ever turns real.


I break my own trust because I can't seem to tell anyone "No."


Not even myself.


So I'm starting to say it; to myself and to others. Not in a mean way, and always with good reason. Because I am not an unlimited person. I do not have infinite time and resources and energy and capabilities.


No matter how many amazing and great things I would like to say "Yes" to, the truth is, I simply can't. Not to everything.


It's a strange frame of mind when time becomes a resource. That's how I view it when I allow myself to choose between "Yes" and "No." Before, it was simply something to be spent and spent and spent. Never set aside or saved for something better.


Which is odd, considering how particular I am with how I spend money. For me, it has always been easy to tell myself "No" when spending money because I might want to spend it on something better. There might be something I will enjoy more in the future.


Time is a resource, and I'm starting to realize I want to spend it better.


Which means not spending it recklessly until I exhaust myself and instead taking the time to analyze how I spend it, like I do with my budget. Asking who do I want to commit my time to, what causes do I want to commit my time to, and when will I commit time to myself in order to rest.


I practice creating margin in my week so that I have time if something unexpected comes up, without sacrificing my rest in order to do it. Sometimes this means my rest time will move around a bit, but as long as it stays on the calendar that's okay.


Because honestly, if I am too tired and under-rested from lack of time to myself, then I am hardly going to be any good to anyone.


It also means keeping track of when I need to complete various household chores and tasks by. Some people don't do well with "due dates," but I personally like having them as guidelines to hold myself and my schedule steady.


I don't always get things completed on time like I plan to. Part of life on earth is a lack of perfection. I am not perfect. I will rarely have a perfectly empty laundry hamper. I will occasionally have to swap chore days around in order to get things done.


Or sometimes only get half of the things done in a day that I tell myself to. Or none!


Using a resource well means saying "Yes" to some things and "No" to others.


I'm still practicing telling myself "No" when I start to think I'm lazy for resting on a day that I planned to get work done.


Our culture bases value on so many inaccurate measures of worth, and one of those is quick-paced productivity. The saying "good things take time" is so true. Yet we rarely put it to practice in our own lives for fear our value will decrease.


If I don't get the bathroom cleaned on Monday because I worked hard on other chores in the morning and then decided to take a break, that does not diminish the fact that I worked hard on other chores in the morning!


If I had planned to write all day but instead spent my time in another enjoyable pursuit, my worth is still not any less than if I'd written! Resting is not laziness. And resting instead of working does not make me lazy.


I'm writing this down to tell myself.


There are many more important things than checking every little thing off your list in a day. It feels good when you do it, but every day does not need to be a full list.


The difference between rest and laziness is neglect.


When you become neglectful of the responsibilities in your life, that is laziness. When you are merely taking a break from your responsibilities in order to return to them with full strength, that is rest.


So tell yourself "No" when you need to. Tell your friends "No" when you need to.


Tell yourself you don't need to get everything accomplished, because you are still valuable at the end of the day. Tell yourself your worth lies in much greater things than a marching line of checked boxes.


Allow yourself to get things done at a gentler pace, but don't lose your drive to do them. Let the break regenerate your energy, your excitement, and your passion. Then get it done, and do it well!


But learn to tell yourself "No."

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