midlife, personal growth

Learning to Say No When You Usually Say Yes

Main Image for Cheers 2 Chapter 2 Learning to Say No When You Usually Say Yes Page

Are we sacrificing our energy, our goals and our best interest by not being able to say no?

I was rattling on to my teen yesterday (as I do regularly, poor kid) about the importance of making smart choices and not succumbing to the pressures of making bad choices in order to please friends.

We expect our kids to say no and to resist the temptation of doing what they know is bad for them because of wanting to be liked or to fit in, and yet what example do we set?

When is the last time you knew you should say no, but you said yes?

Was it like it is for me – yesterday, and the day before that?

It’s natural to want to please people. Especially people we care about.

Some of us have a bigger please others urge than others. And for those of us with a huuuuuuuge please others urge, it becomes an obstacle to us living our best life.

We end up saying yes too often and compromising our own time, energy and goals to please others.

Sometimes we say yes out of guilt, sometimes out of feeling we don’t have a choice, sometimes out of fear for disappointing those we care for.

And certainly, there are occasions when saying yes and pleasing others can be fine. A win-win. No big personal sacrifices. You do what they want, they feel good, you feel good – no big loss of time or energy – no challenge to your overall wellness. After the yes, we are left with an all-around feel-good result.

But often, we feel pressured (by ourselves or others) to say yes when deep inside we’d so much rather say no. We feel the no in our gut, instantly. As soon as the letters Y-E-S are texted, and we hit send. Or the very second the word yes escapes our lips.

There’s no turning back. We feel the unease. The intuitive gut feeling that we have agreed to something we shouldn’t have. The yes felt uncomfortable, and we wish we’d had the cojones to have said no from the start.

We wish we could have stood up for ourselves, to protect our limited time and energy, to protect the progress and commitment we have to our goals, to reserve that yes for something more in line with who we are. Even if we don’t really know what that is. Just purely wishing to have had the courage to be authentically ourselves and to learn to say no.

But we say yes.

Then we must begrudgingly do whatever it is we’ve agreed to. Sometimes it’s a relatively harmless (but still soul-sucking) yes like attending a friend’s sister’s neighbor’s dog sitter’s niece’s (who we don’t even actually know’s) baby shower…

And sometimes it’s a truly harmful yes.

The kind of yes that compromises our integrity, backsteps our goals, and makes us hate ourselves a little – in exchange for pleasing someone else.

This is when the yes, no matter how big or small, is completely unacceptable.

Example? You’ve been eating healthy and making challenging changes to your diet for your well-being and you’ve been feeling much better because of it. Then you get the invite to eat out with friends at a place with nothing you should be eating.

You know in your gut that you should decline and be honest – but you feel the self-imposed pressure to say yes, so you agree.

And you put yourself in a situation you regret.

And then you hate yourself for sabotaging your self-care commitment by putting yourself dead last on the list of people to please.

Or you are trying to stay on a budget (or refrain from consuming sugar, or take a daily walk, whatever…) and then you accept an invitation to go shopping or on a trip, or out to dinner – knowing everyone will indulge and it will require you to spend money, miss your walk, eat sugar (or do whatever your self-care priorities have outlined as a no-no).

You allow yourself to feel like you will disappoint someone if you don’t partake – so you say yes to the self-sabotage… and once again, you have decided to disappoint yourself to please others and/or to be more likable.

If we’re making choices that say no to selfcare and say yes to hurting ourselves and blocking our progress – how can we expect our kids (of any ages) to have the courage to risk not pleasing their friends, to chance not being likable – by doing what’s best for them and just saying no.

Whether you have kids you want to set an example for or not doesn’t matter. At every age of life, we self-sabotage in the name of pleasing others.

This habit needs to stop.

“It is only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.” – Steve Jobs

I think the older we get, the easier it is to learn to say no. It might be that life-long experiences and wisdom are finally adding up, or it could be that we’ve been pleasing everyone else for so many decades, we are finally done with it.

We have just a few decades left – perhaps we should begin to put ourselves first more often!

Take a stand with that gut-feeling, that first impulse of running away from situations that self-sabotage and sacrifice our goals and wellness.

It would have been so productive if we could have learned to say no back in our teens – but better later than never for us. The more we learn to say no now, the more we set healthy examples and give permission to our kids and friends to also say no when they want to.

Learning to say no is an integral piece of self-care – at all ages.

Every single morning is a new day, a fresh start, an opportunity to make better choices for our mental and emotional wellness. An opportunity to make ourselves a priority.

Cheers to our continued growth, to making smart choices, and to learning to just say no.

– Marlene

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