My mother says that I started saying "No!" when I was 2 years old, and I haven't stopped since. Obviously, I don't remember, but that does sound about right! In most areas of my life, I don't have too much difficulty saying no. And what I have found, is that saying "No." is the least expensive form of self-care I have!
Self-care has become a big topic in recent years, and with good reason. We, as a society, are over-worked, over-scheduled, and generally stretched way too thin. That includes adults AND children! There is absolutely a need for a shift in focus here. We are floating through life as empty vessels because we are giving it all, and leaving no time for replenishment. "No." might be the hero we're looking for!
Saying no can be difficult for many reasons. Often, the fear of being judged as selfish or mean can be overwhelming. In professional settings, one might fear being perceived as unreliable, unprofessional, or under-qualified for saying no. Fear of being rejected or disliked can lead people to go to extraordinary lengths to maintain interpersonal connections. That's understandable, of course. As human beings, we are pack animals and we're wired for connection. That need for connection can often lead us to stay in relationships (personal, professional, romantic) that become toxic for us.
There was a time when I worked in an environment that had become toxic for me. I was, what I called, “functionally depressed.” I went to work, I did my job, and I did little more than that. It drained all my energy and motivation. It was literally all I could do. I knew I needed out, but there was so much that I felt obligated to. A co-worker of mine was in the same place but she chose to move on, and when she did, she left me this note (it was for all of us, I’m guessing):
She reminded me of what was at stake. There is no good that can be done (whether in a friendship, a marriage, or a job) that is worth sacrificing yourself. "No." (a complete sentence) is really our first line of defense. Saying no sets your boundary, defining what you will and will not tolerate, what you can and cannot abide, what you are and are not going to endure. "No." protects you from being exploited and allows you the space to start considering yourself first. Because the fact is, you're all you got!
Saying no to others is an important aspect of self-care. However, saying no to yourself is equally as important. Saying no to that nagging voice in your head that calls you selfish for taking care of yourself first, or tells you that you're not capable or worthy of anything better. Saying no to that tendency to beat yourself up for not being a superhero. Saying no to self-destructive behaviors disguised as self-care. And saying no to the belief that anyone is in charge of your life but you. You run this! Your well-being is the TOP priority, and don't you forget it!
Now, there are a LOT of good books out there about saying no and setting boundaries, but I've heard great things about this one: