I have a lot to say about honouring our truths and desires and saying a big, loud, enthusiastic YES or an equally loud and firm NO when it resonates. This probably comes up in my daily conversations, well, daily, and it’s a really important life skill to figure out how to wield your truth, whatever that might be.
I’m a recovering people pleaser. I made a lifetime of flinging my yeses around with abandon like rice at a wedding. If you asked me to do something and I had nothing else keeping me occupied, I would say yes, even though it gave me stomach aches and made me resentful and exhausted.
After awhile (translation: 38+ years of it) I noticed that I was wildly relieved, when looking at the ridiculous plethora of invitations to events that my colleagues were hosting, to find I already had plans and could truthfully decline going. I decided this was something I was going to work on and over the course of several months, I practiced throwing around some “Nos” with equal abandon.
I clearly remember the turning point at which I discovered I didn’t need to have an excuse to not go to something I wasn’t feeling at all called to: I was invited to an event and was delaying my RSVP in hopes that I could just do that thing where we all forgot I had even been asked and it would all go away.
And then the host messaged me directly to see if I was able to come.
I stewed. I shut my laptop lid. I opened it back up. I stewed a little more.
I read her message a few more times, and with a deep, shaky breath, I responded: “I really can’t confirm if I’m able to come, so I’m going to say no this time. I love you, and I hope it goes so well.” I hit Send with a gulp and a leap of bravery like I was asking Bradley Cooper to go on a date with me.
I braced for her reply.
“No worries! You’ll be missed, but thanks for letting me know.”
Truthfully, I probably looked around the room for a hidden camera, wondering if I was being punk’d. Surely it wasn’t just that easy to honour my own “No”? Impossible.
FACT: It can be hard to speak our clear yeses or nos when we fear disappointing someone else or creating conflict. Our deep fear is that we won’t be asked again, that we will be hated for saying no, OR that we will be hurtful.
This applies to all situations; the people with whom you choose to spend your most valuable resource (your time), how you spend your money, the people with whom you share your intimate self, the people with whom you choose to work, and even the books you may choose to read. At some point, I realized that I was the only gatekeeper of my own time and happiness, and that it was my job (alone) to police my resources.
To put it simply, and this is how I happily run my life, if it’s not a deep-in-your-bones YES!, then it’s a NO. And to my knowledge, my saying no has hurt no one, because as I lovingly honour myself, and my time, it garners me all kinds of respect, especially from myself.
I know that we often allow ourselves, in order to please or to not rock the rowboat, to sit in indecision, to say “I’m not sure what I want here” and to stay in situations and even relationships that just don’t serve us. To this, I unequivocally say this: BULLSHIT.
Here’s what I know about what we know:
We know whether it’s a yes or no. Always.
Sometimes we need to know a little bit more before we stand in a response, but most of the time, if we just drop into our bone-knowing and the tiny-but-solid truth inside us, we know. It’s when we stray from that when things go sideways.
This applies to everything.
From small things like what you may want for dinner, to whether you want to stay in a relationship that is not at all in service of your growth and joy. Everything.
Saying no is always about you.
Sure, it impacts someone else, but it’s certainly not a reflection of how we feel about anyone but ourselves. If we are offending others when we honour ourselves, then we need different people in our lives.
No is a complete sentence.
You are welcome to add a nicety, but you don’t owe anyone any sort of explanation or excuse.
You can choose your nos.
My gatekeeper notwithstanding, I sometimes find myself at events to which I wish I could announce my arrival with “I’m sorry I’m late. I didn’t want to come.” My secret in these cases is to note my “No” and then for whatever reason, go anyway, agreeing that I don’t get to be resentful or bitter at my attendance. I make my yeses-that-were-nos a conscious choice.
When you are faced with a decision, take a deep breath, and listen. Your truth is whispering to you and honouring that whisper will make it squee with glee and you will embark on a whole new relationship with the glorious you who knows you best.
Tara Caffelle is a relationship coach and an expert in grief. She's writing a book called Grief: A Love Story that you're gonna want to read (check her site from updates). She also has a pretty rad Facebook Group and you can join it here. Lastly, follow this bubble of good juju and love-infused life advice on Instagram, too.