When I first got sober, I didn’t have a whole lot going on other than learning how to live again. I had been too flaky and too selfish to have any real commitments outside of my obligations. But as I started to restructure my life and add pieces in bit by bit, my life soon became pretty full.
Before I knew it I was starting a new business, had a handful of service commitments, helped whenever I could, was going to school, and I kept piling everything onto my plate. I had no boundaries around my time, my services, or my sanity. I felt like I owed the world every. single. ounce. of myself to make up for my years of bad decisions.
The word “no” wasn’t in my vocabulary, and the world knew it.
Not holding boundaries around my time and energy sent the message out to the universe that I could handle more. When, in fact, that was the furthest thing from the truth. As time went on I felt overwhelmed, stressed, and scared that everything was about to come crashing down. My “new” life was quickly becoming once again, completely unmanageable.
I was suffering from having “overspent my yeses”.
One of the things I soon realized was that one of the beautiful blessings that had come from my new way of living was that I got to choose. I got to choose who I spent my time with. I got to choose where I spent my time. I got to hold boundaries around my time.
You see, your ‘yes’ is how you spend your time, your energy, and your money. You only have a limited number of yeses to give.
Once I gave myself permission to step back and say no more often, things almost immediately changed. Life became more serene and I experienced a lot more peace. Along the way, I discovered some exciting benefits of embracing my “no”…
No Protects You from Burnout
When you say yes to everything else, you have to say no to your own needs and wants. That means sometimes your priorities end up falling to the bottom. If this happens continually, eventually you’ll start feeling resentful, grumpy, and tired.
No Earns Respect
People don’t respect a pushover they can bully. They might like a pushover, and they may enjoy getting you to do things for them (especially if these are their tasks to begin with). But they don’t actually respect and admire you.
Yet a funny thing happens when you say no, you earn the respect of those around you. They recognize that you have your priorities and your values. That instantly makes them admire you. They’re less likely to try to intimidate you or push you around.
No Lets You Focus on Your Values
When you say “no”, there’s space to focus on your value. If you constantly agree to helping on twelve different committees, then you’re saying no to spending more time with your spouse. Now if what you value is intimacy with your spouse, then you’re saying “no” to your values.
This creates a situation that is upsetting and painful. It means that you’re not living out what you want. You’re not walking in your values. As a result, you feel inauthentic and bitter.
No Creates Space for Others
It’s tempting to think that everything must be done by you. But in reality, you can’t handle every project and request that comes your way. When you try to do it all, you take opportunities from others.
Maybe a friend asks you to design her poster for her upcoming cafe opening. You’re tempted to say yes, but then you think about Beth, who is getting started in graphic design and would absolutely love to do a project like this. Now, you can step in and say yes, and be stressed out and angry.
Or you can suggest Beth instead and let Beth stand in the spotlight. Not only will you have less to do, but Beth is going to be happier and your friend is going to be happier.
No Protects Your Energy
Women in today’s society are often encouraged to wear a “superhero” cape all the time. They’re expected to be everything to everyone and do it all with a smile and a good attitude.
But what you have to remember is that you have a limited flow of energy. This means that when you encounter things that will drain your energy, you need to stand up for yourself and firmly say, “I can’t do this.”
Perhaps you could recommend another person for this task or suggest an alternative. You could also simply say, “I’m sorry. This doesn’t sound like a great fit for me right now.”
Keep in mind that just because you overcommit does not mean you will magically gain the energy, the strength, the stamina, or the time you need to accomplish everything.
No Adds Margin into Your Days
When you’re constantly overcommitted, there is no margin in your life. For example, if you plan back-to-back meetings all day, with no margin, then by the time you hit the end of the day, you’re hungry. You’re stressed out. You’re feeling grumpy because you’re overworked.
But when you say no, you create that margin your mind and body desperately need. When you don’t commit to every meeting or every project, you can show up and bring your best self, best energy, and best focus.
No Gives You Confidence
The reason so many women say yes is they want to be liked. But when you realize you can live without the approval and validation of others, it’s entirely freeing.
Suddenly, your whole world opens up. You don’t have to spend your evenings going to the book club if you hate the book club. You don’t have to take every call from your cousin who just wants to complain about her ex-husband again.
You no longer have to work for everyone’s approval. The moment that you realize this—the moment you realize that you can say no and still have people like you—you become liberated.
No Makes Room for Self-Care
It’s common, especially in Western societies, for women to feel like they must always be busy and always be productive. This leaves you very little time or even no time for self-care most days. But when you say “no” to what doesn’t matter, you’re making room for self-care.
Your self-care can look like anything you want it to. Maybe self-care for you is spending one night a week at home to read a book in a bubble bath. Or perhaps it means that you have time to take your kids out for a walk after dinner every night. Maybe that makes you really happy and that’s self-care for you.
As you say “no” more, embrace taking care of yourself. When you’re a priority, amazing things start happening. You show up to events and meetings feeling energized and excited to face the day. You greet challenges with enthusiasm, and you trust yourself to find the best possible solution.
No Gives You Back Control
Without a firm “no”, you can feel like your life is spiraling out of control. You feel like everyone else is making decisions for you. You’re busy working on everyone else’s priorities. You’re meeting their needs and yet you don’t feel good about yourself.
Saying “no” gives you back that feeling of control. It reminds you that you are in in the driver’s seat of your own life. You are picking and choosing what your priorities are and living according to your values.
No Makes Your “Yes” Precious
When you say “no” to the wrong things, you get to say “yes” to the right things. You get to say yes to the things that excite you.
Yes, to the projects that energize you. Yes, to the relationships that fulfill you. Yes, to the dreams and the goals that truly matter to you. Yes, to the values that reflect who you are as a person.
At its core, saying “no” is about choosing what doesn’t matter and refusing to give it any more space in your life. When you do this, you have the freedom to say “yes” to the things that truly matter to you!
How do you handle holding the boundary or saying “no”? Let me know in the comments below!
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