Saying no. Taking no action. Allowing others to step in instead. Deciding I don’t want to.
These are all skills I’ve had to learn and ones that have ultimately made my life fuller, and more fulfilling.
I grew up as a people pleaser believing that my role was to make people happy. I would go over and above to make sure everyone else was ok and if I was even half able to, then i’d say yes and figure the rest out as I went along. ‘No’ didn’t come into my vocabulary. ‘I don’t want to’ was a concept I didn’t understand. I didn’t even realise we’re allowed to say it!!
Being the over-achiever that I was (and still can be from time to time...) i shot myself in the foot by having a pretty decent stab at all those things that I started out being half-arsed able to do. Which meant people realised I could, and would, do them and I got asked to do them more often. So I people pleased doing more things I was very capable of doing but not necessarily things that I was best placed to do, or that I could efficiently do. I gained my confidence from things I became good at but was half-arsed interested in doing. I kept doing things that stopped being good for me, coz I didn’t know what I’d do with the space that NOT doing them would create. And my ego balked at the idea of someone else doing them Incase, heaven forbid, they might be better (then everyone would realise that I actually wasn’t that great at doing that thing after all).
The first time I learned to say no was when I chose recovery, my recovery, over and above everything else. It was really difficult. But really necessary. It was the first time I chose me.
I went on to realise and decide that I could, but wouldn’t, continue being: a marketeer, fitness instructor, personal trainer, performance coach, competing athlete, running coach, pilates teacher. I did each of these jobs really well but they stopped fulfilling me and started draining me. So I chose me.
I learned to let others step in and take on roles or jobs that they did better, so that I could put my energy where it was better spent. I chose me.
I learned to wait, to see what might happen, to see if there was another option. I learned that no action sometimes said more. That no action was sometimes the more efficient action. That no action sometimes brought to light a better, easier option. I found the value in NOT doing.
I’m a natural helper. I know this about myself. But I used to think that saying ‘no’ was selfish, and that I wasn’t being helpful. Actually, saying ‘no’ is sometimes the best way to help someone. When I’m not the right person to help, I need to say no. When I don’t have the capacity to help, I need to say no. When saying yes feels like a compromise in some way to who I am, I need to say no. Because for my no, there’s a ‘HELL, YEAH’ person waiting! And that’s the right person.
Saying 'no' models healthy boundaries to others. It also empowers others by offering an opportunity for them to help themselves and meet their own needs when they are infact able to.
So, in the words of Zammo, it's far from selfish to ‘just say no’. And yeah, it sounds like it should be simple, especially when pre-fixed with ‘just’. But you know, try it out, even once - to try it in for size. It might turn out that you like it..
I am Caroline Toshack. Movement is my passion, my mirror, my creative source and outlet. I am a therapist, coach, educator, geek, yogi, mover and creative who loves getting muddy on her bike, running in the hills and having pyjama days.