Saying No is hard for me! Doesn’t matter whether I need to say it to my parents, my husband, my kid or my colleagues. I dread it.
I want to believe that it is because of my desire to help people that I always say “Yes”. But sadly, it is because of my intense desire to be accepted. I feel a lot of guilt if I say “No”. I want to be perceived as the most helpful person around. But, most of the times this habit of saying “Yes” does rather lead to a lot of damage.
Recently, I went through a personal experience which made me think hard about my habit of saying yes to everything. I have suffered a lot because of this habit and I am tired. I want to make a change.
I am sharing this story with you because I feel saying “Yes” is like an addiction. It not only damages the self but also the people around.
Two months back, my family had suffered the loss of a very close family member. We were dealing with a lot of grief coupled with the pressure of all the last rites. I am a full-time working mom. I did not have the time or patience to be in charge of such an endeavor. But, somehow when my in-laws suggested to organize the ceremony at our home. I couldn’t say no.
I went ahead to take up this challenge head on so that I don’t disappoint my in-laws.
My husband was supportive, but he made his stance very clear that he would be busy the whole week and won’t be able to contribute. He was so comfortable about clearly laying out his priorities and telling me that he will not be available. I’ve always been jealous of my husband. I always felt that he was born with the rudder to differentiate what will go in yes bucket and what will in No.
He suggested we shouldn’t offer to volunteer for this ceremony.
I bet his parents didn’t like the idea. But frankly, he was so right. It didn’t make any sense to take on an extra duty as there were other people, who could have managed those ceremonies, but saying NO for me was hard. I couldn’t accept the thought of disappointing my in-laws. So, I landed up saying Yes!
The next week was really tough.
I had a brawl at the office with my team as they were not ready to stretch to deliver for the client commitments. My daughter was facing some really tough issues at school. I was struggling for the time between office and ceremony preparation.
I couldn’t spend enough time with my daughter and left her alone to handle her own battles.
I blamed my husband for not being around. But, he was absolutely rightful in saying that he made his stance completely clear before I pushed my self into this dark sea of responsibilities. I was barely sleeping for 4 hours that week.
I ended up organizing a ceremony, which didn’t meet the expectations. After the ceremony was over and I was cleaning the mess, I broke down. I felt all the efforts I had put in were insignificant for the people for whom we had organized this ceremony. Most of them weren’t even happy with the arrangements and were unaffected by our gesture.
I ignored my daughter, my husband and myself for a bunch of strangers who didn’t even care.
Half of them didn’t even know who I was. My husband came for my rescue and asked me to go off to sleep. I kept weeping for hours with my husband trying to calm me throughout. I slept through the entire next day but I was embarrassed and angry as I knew what I did was a mistake. And more importantly, I was setting a wrong example for my daughter.
My actions were telling her to prioritize every random request of people over self. So, I promised myself that it wouldn’t happen again.
A month later, my friends and I were planning a get-together. Some friends suggested to organize a get-together in a restaurant. But, a couple of my friends have babies. And, they suggested that it would be inconvenient for them to have a dinner at a restaurant as babies won’t be able to relax. So, they requested if we could have this get-together at my home. Because of my deep-rooted need to seek acceptance, I just said Yes.
Somewhere deep in my heart, I knew my week was crazy. I knew the workload at the office will drive me nuts. I knew my family commitments.
After I came home that day, I tried to explain my situation to my husband and daughter. I felt like an addict who wanted to seek approval from her family for her addiction. I couldn’t forget those stares. I was going back on my own words. As expected, my husband raised the red flags as he had an idea about my workload at the office. Then, the disapproval from my daughter followed. I tried hard to convince them or probably myself that I will manage.
But, it wasn’t about managing. It was about letting go of the inconvenience of saying “No”.
That night I couldn’t sleep. The next morning, I decided to discuss it with my friends. I explained my situation to them and they also felt it was critical for me to say “No” as I already had too much on my plate.
So, I said No and it felt really good.
I am not perfect. And, I am still working on my habit of saying No when I need to. It will take some time before I’m able to set my priorities straight. It will take some time to kill the desire to be liked by everyone. It will take some time not to worry too much about other people opinions. But I will not give up!
I repeat to myself zillion times a day that No does not make me (or anyone else) a bad person.
I can say NO because I also say yes a lot. I need to spend the time to get the balance right between the things that I should say yes to and the things that I should decline. Because if it is about convenience, then no one will say Yes for car-pooling or volunteer activities. People might not help others when someone needs them the most.
It’s the burnout factor that becomes a balancing act.
If you become the go-to person for all the get-togethers or fund-raisers or professional commitments, then it is a difficult cycle to break. It’s only by saying “No” that you can concentrate on things that are really important. You hurt your immediate priorities and your loved ones, and all this just because your soul doesn’t feel right to say NO.
Each day, the world will try to drag you by the hand, yelling, “This is important! And, that is important too! You need to worry about this! And, this! And, each day, you decide whether you’re going to give the best of yourself to the thing that is insignificant or the ones that define your life.
The choice is yours. It is always yours.
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