How Learning to Say No Changed My Life
During the past year and a half, while I, like many of us, was pondering a calendar that was empty for the first time in decades, it occurred to me how much time over the years I’d spent feeling uncomfortable, angry, exhausted, or even physically ill, all because I was afraid of saying no to people.
As a lifelong people pleaser, I was so worried that if I didn’t do what they expected me to do, they would get angry and maybe even (horror!) stop liking me.
But when I realized that saying yes to things I didn’t enjoy had been leading me to do way less of the things I treasured most, I decided something had to change once the calendar started filling up again.
Here are three ways I’ve started saying ‘no’ more, so I can say ‘yes’ to the things I love:
I started leaving social situations when I wanted to.
This was the hardest one for me. I hated being the first to leave a social event so much that I preferred spending hours feeling exhausted or uncomfortable over saying goodbye before anyone else. Often I’d end up having a few too many drinks to try to dampen the discomfort, and then feel unwell the entire next day too.
I still hate being the first to leave, but now I make a point to check in with myself every hour or so, and when I’m ready to go, I thank everyone and go.
I stopped drinking alcohol.
So much of our social lives revolve around alcohol. Pre-Covid, restaurants and bars were the default locations for lunches and nights out with friends. And even nights in are often beverage-centric. When we don’t partake, those around us can sometimes feel that we’re putting a damper on the festivities - if you don’t think there’s a lot of societal pressure to drink alcohol, try stopping suddenly and see how those around you react.
I get outrageously bad hangovers from even one or two drinks. I’m no longer willing to lose out on the entire next day just to enjoy a few beverages, even if it means being a party pooper.
I say no to most invitations so I can spend time with the people I’m closest to.
As a business owner with chronic illness, my energy and free time are very limited. Those closest to me know that and give me lots of space. But then I’d just end up accepting invitations from others who weren’t aware of my schedule, which limited my availability to those closest to me even more, because I then had to spend more time recovering and catching up on work.
Now I save my “going out” energy for quality time with a select few, and keep in touch with others when I can via e-mail and phone calls.
After some experimenting, I’d love to say that everyone is understanding when I say no, but it’s not the case. While some are wonderful, others push back, get offended, look at me strangely, or become angry, and it hurts.
However, the upside is one hundred percent worth it - for the first time ever, instead of feeling pulled in a million directions by other people’s priorities, I have the sense that my schedule is my own. I’m exercising and meditating almost every day, and spending what free time I have with my closest family and friends. I’m working fewer hours, having fewer health “crashes,” and am on track to blow my reading goal for this year out of the water!
This week, consider how often saying “yes” to the not-so-good (or even the pretty-good) is causing you to say “no” to the great. Where is fear holding you back from the people and things you love most? Choose one of these situations and decide how you can say no next time, kindly but assertively. Share in the comments below if you feel comfortable!
Take care of yourself,
Debra Purdy is the owner of ShopEco, a beauty and self care boutique located in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Her mission is to help you thrive through self care you can feel good about. For more self care tips delivered to your inbox and a special birthday treat, click here to subscribe.