It’s no secret that I am a people-pleaser. I have a typical firstborn child personality: organized, type A, driven, and a little on the cranky side if things don’t go my way. One flaw with my personality traits is that I have a deep desire to please people and have gone to great lengths to feel “important” (to whom, I don’t really know sometimes).
I’m still absolutely a work in progress, but over the past few months and my life only growing busier (literally, with our growing family), I have scaled down the “need to please” and scaled up the grace, forgiveness and understanding of myself and others.
There are a lot of words I’ve put hope into: organized, thankful, routine, and happiness. But none has changed my life so drastically as the word no.
No used to be an off limits word for me. I was supposed to say yes, right? Yes is positive. Yes makes people happy. But yes keeps me overwhelmed and booked past what one person is capable of doing.
How do I say no?
No, I don’t need to check social media first in the morning.
No, I can’t do that project right now. I already feel over-scheduled and have too many.
No, I don’t need to volunteer for this. I already do enough.
No, my house does not need to be perfectly clean for me to enjoy an afternoon playing with my daughter.
No, I don’t have to finish this book if I really don’t like it.
No, I don’t have to write blog posts every day or even three times a week.
First glance at this list, it can seem very negative. Lots of I can’t and don’t and of course the word no. But you know what no makes room for?
It has always sounded backwards to me, but saying no actually means you’re saying yes to other things. And for me lately, better things.
By not checking social media first thing in the morning, I say yes to reading my daily devotional and starting my day off with the right words and tone.
By saying no to new projects or more work, I’m saying yes to doing a better job on the project I already have.
By not volunteering for something I don’t really want to do, I possibly open the door for someone else who is better suited to fill this role. And I make ample room for the activities I already have in my life.
By letting go of wanting my house to be perfectly clean all the time, I say yes to actually enjoying my time, despite what the floor looks like.
By not finishing a book I don’t like that much, I say yes to reading a book I do like.
By not blogging by a schedule but only when I have or make the time, I feel so much less stressed out and actually enjoy my blog more.
No always makes room for yes, if you let it. No does not always have to be negative. And although it’s taken me a long time, I’m getting better at saying no when I need to. And lately, I’m saying no to almost everything to make more space and peace in my life.
When I can get past the false feelings of guilt or worthlessness that I self-impose, I can say no without abandon. I am allowed to control the parts of my life that I say yes to and I want to say yes to great things.
A No-Yes Story
At my previous church, I said yes-yes-yes to a lot and suddenly became a part-time director for the nursery. I so thought it was “God’s calling” and a bunch of good doors opening for me, but all this position created for me was turmoil between me and people in my church and major resentment for doing tasks I truly didn’t have time for.
I debated on stepping down for much too long, causing myself a lot of grief. And when I finally did – what a relief it was for me and everyone involved. Someone who was looking for a leadership position in my church was able to immediately replace me and did a much better job. By saying no, I opened the door for my resentment to fade away (and remove that attitude from my church, somewhere I was supposed to be a servant) and actually have time for other things. And I opened the door for someone else who was actually called to do the job well. I believe that person is still the nursery director two years later.
When I write this out, the concept doesn’t actually seem that novel, but it’s harder to put into practice than it sounds. I feel like some part of me just “grew up” recently and really truly stopped caring about what other people think. Between motherhood making me realize what’s truly important and lasting (and that I don’t get a second shot at my children’s childhood) and my life’s demands being increased a lot, no is the logical answer to a lot of things.
A big influence in this change for me has been the book Present over Perfect by Shauna Neiquest. She writes, “But you can’t have yes without no. Another way to say it: if you’re not careful with your yeses, you start to say no to some very important things without even realizing it. In my rampant yes-yes-yes-ing, I said no, without intending to, to rest, to peace, to groundedness, to listening, to deep and slow connection, built over years instead of moments.”
I feel like I’ve finally reached the point where enough is enough. I am limited and human and flawed and I can’t be all things to all people all the time. This life is what you make it, what you choose it to be. Sometimes owning up to the fact that I have been the one to make my life crazier than I wanted has been a hard pill to swallow. But it’s been pure blessing to witness the undoing of crazy and watch the birth of peaceful living unfold before my eyes.
I don’t know what things you might need to say no to or what saying no could actually be saying yes to for any one person. But if there’s a nagging to do list item that you can’t ever seem to get done, don’t have the energy to do, or have been doing solely out of obligation – I can bet you it’s safe to say that should be a no and not a yes.
I encourage you, if you’re not a “no” person, to say no to something or someone that you normally say yes to this week and see what it brings you.
Questions for you:
- Are you a people-pleaser type? Do you have trouble saying no?
- What’s one thing that saying no leads to for you?