Do you ever feel a knot of resentment building inside of you when someone asks you to do something and you feel you have no choice but to say yes?
I remember that feeling very well. I grew up experiencing it time and again in my family of origin. I was given all sorts of unhelpful messages, some of them unspoken. Jesus first, yourself last and others in between = JOY. Be selfless and giving. Always put others before yourself. Always say yes when someone asks something of you. We, your parents, are always right, so follow our direction and opinions and you’ll be okay. Don’t listen to your own intuition because it’s off. Your opinions? They don’t matter. Your feelings? You shouldn’t trust them.
It’s challenging to find your way out of that sort of muddle. When you have been given those messages repeatedly you end up believing them and you doubt yourself. I know it’s possible to crawl your way out of that sort of thinking and belief though, because I have done it. How? One little step at a time.
One of the first times I said no was to my brother. It was a bit scary because I’d had no practice. I was ready though, because by this stage I had had enough. Enough of feeling obligated, enough of feeling that knot of yuck inside me whenever I begrudgingly did whatever he asked of me.
A little back story: My brother was staying with us over Christmas. There was a lot of tension between him and us because he was realizing that he didn’t have the same level of control over me now that I was married. Anyway, so Bro’s friends were flying into our city and my husband had offered to collect them from the airport. He asked Bro where he was going to be taking these two girls. Bro’s response, “They are staying here.” What? At our place? You didn’t ask us??
We didn’t know back then what we know now and so we let them come, but expressed our displeasure at the rudeness of it all. He offered no apology – he was offended that we were offended. That night I retreated to our room and let them have use of the kitchen. I felt like a prisoner in my own home. The girls were nice enough, but it felt horrible that we’d been put in such an awkward position.
They left the next day and we were very relieved to have them gone. When we processed together what we were feeling we decided we didn’t like it one bit and did not want to be in the same spot again. So when my brother phoned up five days later to ask me if they could come to stay again I said “No”. He then asked if I could call our grandmother to see if they could stay there instead and my response was, “Sorry, you’ll need to do that yourself.” I still remember how good that felt. It was empowering.
Once I had said no once, the next time was easier, and the next. It might seem juvenile to those of you who learned you could say no in your formative years, but for those of us who didn’t it can be really hard, scary and cause feelings of guilt.
I want to encourage you that saying no is vitally important to your well-being! Imagine you own your own home and it has a fence around it. Would you allow a stranger to come inside your fence and set up a tent on your lawn? Would you let them invite all their friends over and have a party? The answer is no, right? And hopefully people respect your property lines enough not to do that.
The same is true for your life. You have the say over what people can and can’t do to you. It’s called setting boundaries and is about you establishing where others end and you begin. It’s about you learning to value yourself and take care of you first. And while this might seem selfish I can tell you it isn’t! Life is too short to live it for other people instead of for yourself. Start living your life! You can choose what it looks like!
If this is a new concept for you, or something you struggle with I would advise that you look for blog posts or books on the subject of personal boundaries. Here is one I can recommend you read: It’s a two-part series called Personal Boundaries 101 and written by a psychotherapist.
Do you find it easy or difficult to say no?
A key to me being able to take the first step was because I had my husband’s support. Do you have someone who can support you in taking baby steps forward? If you can’t think of anyone who will cheer you on I would love to be your cheerleader. Message me via my Contact Page. I look forward to hearing from you!