Updated: Jul 8
For many years I found it difficult to say no, I had developed a very strong people pleasing tendency in childhood which stayed with me into adulthood for many years. One of the things I would do would be to rehearse saying no to people over and over in my head, and still at times ended up saying yes. When we don't develop the capacity to say no, often we don't develop strong boundaries either, and this was the case for me. Learning that 'no' meant saying yes to myself was one of the first steps at beginning to loosen the noose of the ties that kept me caged in not being able to get our own needs met and feeling drained from trying to meet other peoples needs.
Owning both our yes and no, is critical for good mental health and wellbeing, and is also critical to developing healthy boundaries. Healthy boundaries allow us to feel safe, secure, and let other people know what is acceptable and what isn't. Sometimes we can be good at setting boundaries at work but not in our home life, or vice versa. The feeling of overwhelm or frustration can often be a sign that we have said yes to too many things and have allowed our boundaries to drift. So this is a good place to start looking at your boundaries if you are feeling overwhelmed or frustrated, whether at home or work.
For me to learn how to develop my boundaries I had to look at my values, what I stood for in life, and that helped me to navigate my life. Looking at your values helps you develop a sense of what is right for you and what is wrong. They help you to make decisions and provide a moral compass in which to live your life. For me boundaries aren't there just to let other people know what is acceptable but also how I live my life in terms of my own thoughts and behaviours, it is about self-regulation or self-parenting.
I know that caffeine isn't good for me right now and so saying no to coffee, is saying yes to something I value far more, a healthy and calm nervous system. Switching off my phone or turning on Airplane mode at 8pm allows me to switch off in time to get a good night's sleep. Managing my time effectively so that I have enough time to balance my work, leisure, and relaxation, is important to me. Knowing what you really truly value, will help you to determine your values, and also where you are right now in terms of your own health and wellbeing. If you are recovering from a chronic illness you have developed recently your values and priorities are going to be very different than they were 10 years ago. Often we don't reassess our values through our life, and we can be still living a life with values inherited from our parents or care givers.
As hard as it is for some people, and it was for me, it really is our responsibility to learn, and be comfortable with letting others know how we truly feel. The more we do this, the more we can be truly there for other people in a genuine and totally authentic way. I believe we all have the ability to say no but that it can be often covered up by low self worth, lack of confidence and low self-esteem. This was how it was for me, my 'no' came much more easily when I started to value myself. When I started to love myself I was also able to be more open with what it was I wanted from life, to share what was important for me with my friends and family and to know that my relationships would still be strong even though I had spoken up and said my truth. Saying 'no' really is a complete statement and saying no sometimes is really about saying yes to you, to something you value more.
If you find it difficult saying 'no' start practicing with something not too emotionally charged for you. You could even practice saying no in the mirror, as many times as you need too, along with positive affirmations to help you build your own self-worth. There are plenty of good articles and self help on the internet around the subject and a great book by Nancy Levin from Hay House 'Setting Boundaries Will Set You Free' can also give you some good pointers. If you want to work on values, Sophrology is also another resource for you and can help in developing self-worth, confidence and self-esteem.
One final thought for today on the topic is that when you attend to your own needs and saying yes to yourself, it is paradoxically one of the best and kindest ways to help others. It is not selfish but self-full, and when we are full, we overflow and can be in a much better position to help others.
Here's to saying yes and no in equal measure and achieving a more balanced life.
Wishing you a wonderful day,