Recently it seems like every thing I read or listen to is all about encouraging women to say “no” to too much commitment in their lives.
Say no to the PTA and the volunteer cupcakes and the free babysitting and the extra work projects, one suggestion reads. Say no and make time for yourself.
I’ve always heard that advice and thought how strange it was. Well, obviously, if you have too much going on, you will say no, I thought. How hard can it be?
Turns out, it’s a lot harder than I thought, because apparently, I’ve never actually said “no” to anything in my life.
You want that article in the next hour? Sure thing! Another speech 3 hours away? Why not? Get up at 5 AM so you can go to the workshop? Coming right up!
But this week, I listened to one of my favorite podcasts, The Write-at-Home Mom Podcast and they encouraged us as women to listen to our guts. If something feels “off,” don’t do it. You know best, right?
So I did it. I said “no” to an event that I felt in my gut I just couldn’t handle right now.
I expected that to be the end of it, for me to feel proud for putting my gut feelings first, for taking charge of my own time and needs.
But I didn’t expect that saying “no” would actually be more work.
The backstory is this: I’ve gone through a few personal issues this month and just feel like I need to slow down before the holidays start. I won’t get into them, but they included some personal losses and more than one mental health breakdown. So when I said “no” to this event, I was fully anticipating that my life would become easier as a result. And I don’t know if it’s so shocking to me because I have never really said “no” to anything before or it’s just a fluke, but since I turned the event down, my answer has been unacceptable. I am literally fighting to stick to my guns.
I expected saying “no” for what I believed I needed would then mean my life would be better, more easy-going, and freeing, but I didn’t realize that it could actually make it harder. Why doesn’t anyone mention that when talking about how important it is for women to be able to say “no” when they are asked to do something? I feel completely blind-sided by how much mental energy and soul-sucking has been drained from my body simply by turning down one even that is beyond my capabilities at the moment. Maybe that’s why as women, we just say “yes” to so much–it’s just easier. It’s much, much harder to feel like you deserve to say no and to fight for yourself and that’s something I wasn’t expecting at all. How can saying “no” actually be more work for me?
Perhaps it’s a process and that first time you realize you don’t want to do something and timidly say “no,” there is a backlash, like how I’m trying to train my kids to put their own dishes in the sink. Perhaps it’s a big shock to the system when a woman believes she can say “no” and then gradually, as she learns to stand up for herself, the universe accepts that she means business.
I’m struggling so much with wondering if I had it wrong–maybe my gut was wrong and I should just be the responsible person who says “yes” and makes everyone happy and doesn’t let anyone down.
I don’t know and I definitely feel stuck at the moment, churning my wheels and going nowhere fast. It’s dramatic, I realize, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around the fact that even saying “no” to something is work for a woman. Maybe this is normal and maybe it’s insane, but either way, I need to find a way to move forward.
Have you ever encountered a similar situation? How do you know when it’s right to listen to yourself or honor a commitment to others?
Image: Unsplash/Sergei Zolkin