Learning To Say ‘No’

by Lori Dwyer on November 2, 2012 · 6 comments

I am– so very, very gradually– learning to use the word ‘no’, and apply it where necessary.

It’s not about saying ‘no’ to my kids– I’m quite well practiced at doing that. And they are equally well practiced at hearing it (even if not actually listening to it). Some days I feel as though all I say is “No, no, no, no, no!!” And I get sick of hearing it myself. So I can only imagine how my four year old must feel about it. And exactly why he gets that sour look on his face when he Spidey-senses I’m about to say it again.

It’s more about learning to say ‘no’ to pretty much everything else in my life. For my own health and sanity.

I’m such a ‘yes’ person, and I’m ridiculously suggestible. It’s taken me a long time to even begin to understand the notion that just because someone asks you a question, that doesn’t mean the answer has to be ‘yes’. And just because someone suggests something, that doesn’t neccessarily make it a good idea.

Ironically, putting myself into the situation where that created a huge weakness helped. You just can’t be a ‘yes’ person, dating in the modern world… you will only sleep with people for all the wrong reasons and get hurt. (And I can tell you that from sordid experience, too.)

But in most situations, I really can’t seem to help myself, and I don’t remember really being any other way. I dislike saying ‘no, and it takes a lot to squeeze a refusal from me.

I hate saying no to more writing work, even if the money’s not worth the time involved. I hate saying no to requests of time and space on my blog, especially from charities, even when I really can’t squeeze it in. I hate saying no to invitations to events I know my kidlets would enjoy, even if they fall on one of those holy sacred ‘Mummy’s Days Off From The Screaming Children‘, otherwise known as the blessed institution of daycare. I really hate saying to my friends, to requests to join them sin some way, do something with them. Especially if it’s something fun. And especially if the reason I’m saying no is I am just too damn exhausted to say ‘yes’.

For as long as I can remember, in most every area and aspect of my life,I’ve prodded and pushed and flagellated myself, saying ‘yes’ when I mean ‘no’. Bending to the will of the wind, rather than breaking against it. And, to be honest, I like that character trait in myself as I do in the people around me. It makes me happy, contented, knowing for sure that generosity, kindness and a willing to offer whatever I’ve got to assist others is so ingrained in my personality that I have to fight against it. And I’m certainly not planning to shut that off, stunt it, let that creeping bitterness seep foggy fingers under the doors of my mind again.

I’m juts going to stop running around like a goose, trying to do everything at once, when half the things I’m doing no one notices but me, and no one- including me- is any better off for them.

It hasn’t so much been a conscience decision as a simple unavoidable, catalyzed by that massive meltdown following my return from Melbourne. In the wake and comedown, the day after that one of my mates stayed and patted my back as I cried myself to sleep like a tiny child missing someone they love dearly; I look back on the last few months and take stock of what I’ve been trying to do– everything, all at once. Trying not just mum and a bit of dad as well, but also a handful of other randoms with long to-do lists and multiple anxieties . And I realize, in the calm following that storm, that there’s none of us who are any better for what I’ve been doing. As I said, I’m not sure anyone noticed but me. And the only person really paying any price for it is me, too.

Of course, as usual, I’m exhausted.

So I’ve begin the practice, the ritual, of saying ‘no’. I’ve discovered, of course, that’s it not saying ‘no’ that’s difficult. It’s dealing with that self-flagellating, arse-kicking guilt in the aftermath. But that guilt always passes, and the people who love me understand.

So I’m saying ‘no’ more often. And once again, the only person who’s really noticed is me. I’m still exhausted, but somehow, it’s an easier exhaustion.

Maybe it’s because at least this way, that exhaustion is negotiable. I can trade off big hunks of time for things I was going to do, but have said ‘no’ to. The relief is… awesome. This saying ‘no’ thing, I’d highly recommend.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Missy November 3, 2012 at 2:23 pm

What a crazy new world you've found yourself in Ms. Lori. Your strength and perservation is awe inspiring.


Claudine Swiatek November 2, 2012 at 9:07 pm

Learning to say no in a compassionate way (for yourself that is) is extremely difficult… your post reminded me of this post I wrote some time back. Thinking of you in your efforts to learn no! http://theyoungsourceror.blogspot.fi/2012/08/learning-to-say-no.html


Miss Pink November 2, 2012 at 8:46 pm

I struggle with no too. Sometimes I say yes when I should probably say no out of the simple fact that sometimes I feel the other person needs the yes more than I need my no. But you're right, there's a line and sometimes it's crossed because I don't want to let people down.
Please don't feel like I am someone you cannot say no to.


Jess Myheartisyourhome November 2, 2012 at 1:08 pm

I feel like these are my thoughts I am reading out in front of me.
I am learning to say NO more often too and it really is the break I need. Always putting others needs and wants before your own is just so flipping tiring!

Good for you, looking out for you!


Kate @ Our Little Sins November 2, 2012 at 10:35 am

Saying 'no' will pay off… Take care of you first and the rest will fall into line. x


alwayslauren November 2, 2012 at 8:57 am

Power to you Lori – you're carrying a huge load. Be kind to yourself x


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