Why is it so hard to say “no”?
I opened the door and there she stood, Christmas cookies in hand with her family trailing behind walking up my front steps. She was full of anticipation and excitement. After all, it was three days till Christmas and she was there to join my family in a neighborhood caroling party. Why, then, did I have this overwhelming urge to slam the door in her face? What on earth was the matter with me? At that very moment, I had reached my proverbial “wall”. I simply could not face one more activity, one more party and I was certainly in no mood to sing carols at the top of my lungs. Every bone in my body ached and my spirit had flat-lined. Here we were, at my most favorite time of the year, my most loved holiday and I was baked…DONE! I wish I could honestly say that I’d reached my profound turning point and from that moment on I stopped choosing to double and triple book my calendar. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I sleep-walked through the event, hosting it as usual but with a mummy-like presence before collapsing into bed the minute the door shut behind the happy carolers.
My exhaustion and overwhelm were only symptoms of something I have since come to recognize as an addiction to the validation and recognition that comes from saying “yes”. After all, had I not voluntarily committed to every social event, school activity, sporting event, church concert, children’s concert, gift shopping, party planning, gift wrapping, cookie baking, card addressing, tree-trimming, house decorating and company party planning and hosting for all those in my life who were counting on me? The cold, hard truth of the matter was…NO! I was not doing all that for my children, my husband, my friends or even my community. I thought I was, but really, I was saying yes to my vision of who I thought I needed to be.
If this scenario seems familiar, you’re not alone. Learning to say no is a starting place for about 90% of my female clients. It has a deeply woven thread in the fabric of overwhelm, frustration, burn-out and the inability to live in the present. Overwhelm and over-committing don’t discriminate. They’re troublesome to virtually everyone, regardless of intelligence, education, socio-economic level and proficiency. So why do we do this to ourselves?
We fall into the trap of over-committing due to a number of factors. ( At one time or another, I’m pretty sure I’ve had to deal with all of these).
· setting boundaries.
· putting strategies in place to protect boundaries.
· allowing other’s issues and crises to becoming your own.
· feeling validated by “busyness” and having a heavy schedule.
· fearing missing out on something.
· fearing damaging your reputation by letting someone down.
· getting clear as to what activities really matter to you.
In her book, Find Your Courage, Margie Warrell suggests there are two key blockers that prevent us from finding the courage to say no:
1. Lack of clarity about what you want to say yes to.
2. “Shoulding” on yourself…how we think we should be seen by others.
In life coaching, this is where we start. I help my clients 1-identify what they value, 2-get clear about their purpose and 3-make choices that are meaningful to them.
As we head into the holidays, give some thought to where you may be empowered to avoid the overload by saying NO!