Saying no can boost your confidence and keep you healthy and fulfilled
Are you the holiday shopper, tchotchke displayer, light stringer, ornament hanger, schedule coordinator, gift-wrapper, chef, party-planner, mediator, baker, candle-stick maker? Jeeze, this sounds exhausting!
So you are feeling overworked and underappreciated then? Worn down to the nub? Not able to take on one more thing….that is, until someone asks you to.
I get it, learning to say no feels hard and like you are doing something worthy of being put in a time-out. I am going to let you in on a little secret; you ARE the boss of your own life. That’s right, you are the only one that decides what and when you agree to and how much and how little to take on. And YOU are really the only one that should have the power to send a very overwhelmed, exhausted version of yourself to the corner to think.
Getting acquainted with the word no is so freeing. You could get used to the power it holds – and I hope you do! But the climb to feeling comfortable enough to say it aloud to other actual people can be a long and rocky one. Before you find yourself willing and able to use this two-lettered boundary maker, you need to find your worth again. If you don’t feel like your time, energy, and talents are worth anything, it’s hard to ask others to recognize them and your limits as a capable and confident human being. But how do you do this?
Let’s use the three C’s from my Rebrand You program to summarize the process of finding your own powerful “no” so you can create a more powerful “yes”.
Over the years, I have come to realize that clarity of my time and abilities allows me to make connections to and recognize portions of my worth. For many years, I questioned my value because I let others’ opinion of me define what I thought was my personal and professional worth. It took time for me to reverse this mindset and take back the power to dictate and respect my own talents, successes, likes, and dislikes. And my viewpoint of my purpose and impact. An impact I was already making and the one I knew I was born to build with the world around me.
Understanding and celebrating your own worth is one of the biggest, first steps a person can take in not only creating an empowered life of their own but in setting healthy boundaries with others using the word “no”. When I deemed myself worthy, I was much less inclined to just agree to everything that’d been asked of me. I have an opinion, a mind of my own, personal and professional responsibilities, and even though I bring something to the table, it doesn’t mean it’s there for everyone to enjoy but myself.
And it’s the very same for you!
Instead, you, like me, will find yourself weighing out options, assessing your time limits, and your wants and needs before agreeing. It’s the overwhelming gift of clarity – the clarity to decide for yourself what you are willing to take on versus what doesn’t feed your soul or fit your schedule.
There are so many people that are willing to sacrifice themselves because we think it will serve the greater good, but in all actuality, it leads to overwhelm, a lack of self-esteem, and a diminished worth in your eyes and others. We all play roles in our professional lives, within our family units, friend groups, and tribes, but we want to make sure there is a balance between what we bring to the table and what’s left there for us to eat. There are plenty of times within these roles when we need to say no for our own mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
Clarifying what the healthiest, most fruitful choice for ourselves can take time to evaluate, so I learned how to table conversations and let others know I need to think before committing. Giving myself the time needed to reflect and organize my thoughts has served me well and the more I practice it, the more people respect me for it.
Defining actionable steps towards the confidence to say no on the regular comes with courage. Soaking in that recently realized and remembered worth, it’s time to go through and reassess your commitments. It took some time for me to learn this, so here’s a short-cut for you: your first commitment is to yourself. If you aren’t taking care of and serving yourself, you can’t take care of or serve others.
The holidays are typically a high-stress time of year where there are a lot of extra demands and asks pushed upon us to serve others. But it can also be the best time of the year to start practicing the power of no and retrain our brains to serve ourselves first.
At this point in time, you might have already assumed the regular position of holiday baker in your home. Your sweet little Aunt Jane would love to have about three dozen of your famous sparkle bars for her holiday celebration this year, but you are already weighed down from the holidays in your own household. It feels wrong, and a little scary, to say no to someone as old and dear as Aunt Jane. But the alternative yes makes you queasy with overwhelm.
Physical ailments are a sure-sign we are taking on too much; listening to how our body responds is an important short and long-term life change that will help reduce medical bills in the future! So what’s next? You know you can’t take on one more thing but you feel bad for saying no. Take some breaths and try to steady your nerves before you unleash your powerful no. Only you will know when you are ready to step into your courage.
An example might be: “I am so glad you enjoy my sparkle bars so much, let me look at my calendar and get back to you.” By saying this you have taken a courageous baby step towards saying “no” while allowing yourself the time to get into an emotional and mental state of mind to do so. One thing I have learned from delivering the “no” news is to use “I” statements – the person on the receiving end is much more open to hearing what you have to say when they don’t feel like they need to have their own set of gloves up.
Sometimes defenses will still hang high from the receiver, no matter how you put it, they don’t like and aren’t used to hearing “no ” from you. I found this happening to me when I first started setting boundaries. It’s hard not to internalize their upset but this is about you and your own well-being. This all takes time and practice- you won’t be perfect at it right away and that’s ok – but I know you’ll get there!
It’s important to celebrate your little wins along the way. Recognition of the steps we take towards “no” to get to that powerful “yes” builds our confidence.
So we are ready to use the words we choose, when they’re needed.
Confidence to a Powerful Yes!
Understanding that the word no doesn’t always directly equate to negativity or rejection is a huge game-changer. This may sound alarming, but most people will come to respect you more when you can tell them no. They won’t ever have to second-guess your commitments when you make them or where they stand in the future.
Being a confident nay-sayer means you can say no whenever, completely guilt and shame-free. No ruminating about it later. No worrying about what the recipient must think of you. You are serving your genuine self by respecting your own time, values, abilities, health, and desires leading to an overall more confident, fulfilled, and stable you. AND finding your powerful “yes”.
A powerful “yes” means we are agreeing to something because we actually want to! I’ve lost count how many times I would agree to do things using a weak “yes” when I should have just been honest with myself by saying no. I think a lot of times we as humans feel less responsibility to show up as our authentic, energetic selves when we use a weak “yes” because we feel like we are already going out of our way by just agreeing to whatever it is.
What’s in it for us and the people around us when we don’t commit to things with a powerful “yes”? Nothing. The begrudging you will feel bitter, disenchanted, and overstretched about being “forced” into doing whatever it is you agreed to and the recipient will feel disappointed and possibly angry because you weren’t there for them the way they expected you to be. I found I would have to start canceling commitments when I got overwhelmed. I now keep space in my schedule so I have room for “yes” moments. A powerful “no” can help guide us to recognize what truly excites, motivates, and interests us; those are things we want to make more room for in our lives with our powerful “yes”.
My challenge for you to learn and grow the power of no is not something just for the season – it’s a present to be unwrapped from here on out. Perhaps it will be the most valuable gift you receive this holiday and you will have given it to yourself. Great work and continue your journey to your Rebrand(ed) You!