Let me tell you about Meg. She’s smart, she’s kind, she’s hard-working. She’s always willing to pitch in and help out.
She’s also extremely stressed, crazy busy and frazzled. There are never enough hours in the day. She can’t do anything fully, or calmly, or right. She’s past maximum capacity, verging on overload. Every. Single. Minute. Of. Every. Single. Day.
Her biggest problem? Is it her job, her kids, her husband, her aging mom?
Somewhere along the line, she either never realized she could, or completely forgot that she was able to, set her own priorities.
Somewhere along the line, she let other people’s priorities determine where she put her time and attention.
And as a result, she is stressed, crazy busy and frazzled.
And she doesn’t think she really knows who she is anymore. Because while she can tell you what’s important to nearly anyone else, she can’t really tell you what’s important to herself.
Women, particularly, are socialized from the cradle to say, “Yes.” As in, “Yes, I will stir the sauce. Yes, I will set the table. Yes, I will patch that hole. Yes, I will eat at your favorite restaurant. Yes, I will take the last, misshapen, half-iced cupcake – that is, unless you want it.”
Women can feel uncomfortable and icky, then, when they find themselves in a situation where they might, possibly, have to say something sorta kinda possibly close to the n-word – you know the word I mean: “No.”
Our biggest worry is that if we say “No” , then someone won’t like us.
And if we’re not liked, we’re not OK.
OK is what is stamped on papers when approval is given. So we fear that if we say “No”, we won’t get the stamp of approval.
But – you know me – I have to ask: the approval of whom?
People who want you to attend to their priorities first, now, immediately? [insert foot-stomping here]
We call those demanding, foot-stomping people “bullies”, by the way.
When we say “Yes” when we mean “No”, we put our own needs, priorities, dreams and desires on the back burner. We neglect our own sovereignty, to use a term my friend Hiro Boga writes about very eloquently.
When we lose our sovereignty, we lose our personhood and become an extension of someone else. And a servant of their needs, priorities, dreams and desires.
We get lost.
So what do you do? How do you make the change, after a lifetime of “Yes”? How do you acknowledge that saying “No” is really hard? And more than a bit scary?
You say, “I’m sorry, I can’t.” You say, “I’m sorry” because probably you really are. Probably you worry about approval, and acceptance, and you’re sorry that you’re disappointing the person you’ve always said “Yes” to. So, go ahead, say “I’m sorry” because that’s what you feel.
And over time, you’ll find that you need to apologize less and less. You’ll find, too, that the primary person whose approval you seek, is… you.
You’ll find that by saying “I’m sorry, I can’t” to energy-sucking, person-losing stuff, you open up wide spaces to be able to say, with conviction, “You bet I can” to the things that really matter to you.