Woman to Woman: Learning to say no

The topic for Woman to Woman on Tuesday, August 28th, will be "Learning to say no". A lot of women feel like they have to "do it all", regardless of what may be realistic for them. Do you fall into this category? Can you just not resist the urge to be involved in everything? Or have you learned to say no? Have you taken a step backward and seen positive results? Share your frustrations or share your advice... Tell us what you think about the current trend to be all things to all people.

Being unable to say no is exhausting! With the mentality of doing it all, is it any wonder that there is such a soaring depression rate? Matthew 6:24 says: "No man can serve two masters." In regards of doing it all, who are the "masters" we have to choose from? There are so many - cooking, cleaning, soccer mom, homework mom, housewife, career woman, crafty lady, sister, daughter, organized woman, spiritual woman, working on talents, ETC ...

I didn't realize that "No" was part of my vocabulary until after my depression hospitalization. I was so focused on being everything to everyone. I wanted to fulfill my callings at church, be a great neighbor, the best friend, the perfect mother, an organized housewife. I wanted perfection in everything ... and a perfect person can always handle one more thing on their plate, right? So I'd say "Yes ... sure ... I can work on it ... I guess so ... no problem" anytime someone asked me for something. What happened? I was setting myself up for failure. I couldn't live up to my own expectations of perfection, and it tore me apart and trashed my self esteem. I'd try so hard to be perfect, the stress would get to me and I'd rupture into yelling or tears.

After coming to terms with my imperfections --- and realizing that perfection is nothing but a mirage that we can kill ourselves going after, I had to reevaluate my stance on "Always say yes - always go out of your way to help others." I withdrew for a while, into my little cave of a home. I backed off of everything - housework, interacting with people outside my home ... I even stopped answering my phone.

I began to focus all my energy inward. I had to heal myself before I could help others. I had neglected myself so horrifically that I didn't see the point in my life, and I had to recover from that before I could do ANYTHING outside myself. I went through the actions of motherhood, but that was it. Everything I did was about me - I came first. This was extreme, but necessary in my extreme situation.

Now I have described the two polar opposites that there can be, and I have lived them both. I am now in a state of maintaining balance. And it works well for me.

The inability to say "NO" stems from our fears of disappointing someone else. We can't stand to let someone down. Whether that is because we want to keep an image of a woman able to handle it all, or we have a type A personality, or we just get caught up in the feeling of needing to nurture others.

While in therapy, my Dr gave me an assignment to try and help me with my inability to say no. I was mortified, but she insisted. I was to go to an ice cream store, and ask to sample 1 or 2 ice creams. Then turn around and walk out. It was so incredibly difficult for me to fathom doing this assignment. I felt that asking for something, then saying no to them was so rude! I honestly hated the assignment and will never do it again. But I had to face disappointing someone - I had to face saying "no, but thanks anyways." Facing it was the whole battle. Once it was done, I was okay - they were okay, everyone was okay. The world kept going.

There's a common saying: "When momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." We want to forget ourselves in service ... which is a wonderful idea. But more often than not, we neglect ourselves in service --- which does NO ONE good in the end. How many times have I put off a shower to care for a whiny child. TOO MANY! I end up grumpy myself ... and smelly too! We'd all be much better off if I'd just take care of myself first --- shower --- then I'd feel more like caring for others.

It's like in an airplane - you are told to put on an oxygen mask if they drop due to air pressure changes. They always say "If you are traveling with a child, or someone who requires assistance, put on YOUR mask first, then help them with theirs." I've thought about this before - thinking, how could I leave my child there while I take care of myself first? BUT, could you imagine a mother who is so worried about getting the oxygen mask on others before herself? She will pass out, and be NO help to those depending on her. She will end up letting everyone down simply because she didn't put herself first. The same holds true to life. Mothers who put everyone else first will pass out!!!

So, say yes all you want ---- as long as you have FIRST taken care of yourself. If you are neglecting yourself ... YOU MUST COME FIRST. A night out, your nails done, a warm shower, your very own treat to share with no one else, spending a day thinking the world revolves around you ... all of these are healthy to making sure you do not neglect yourself.

Say no to neglecting yourself. Say YES, SURE, or WHY NOT to taking care of you first. When you are taken care of, you have the ability to do SO MUCH MORE for those around you.

If in doubt, follow Nancy Regan's campaign: "Just Say No."


Anonymous said...

Imagining me doing the ice cream exercise...

A chubby lady in an ice cream shop...

Taking one or two samples...

Leaving without getting any...

I would fail this miserably! LOL

My therapist was a gem too! She taught me the coping skills I was seriously lacking. I didn't know how to take care of me first at all. Glad you feel better! :o)

Morning Glory said...

Excellent post! Thank you so much for telling of your experiences and the success you achieved. This is good advice.

Thank you, also, for linking up and joining in on the topic.

Lei said...

You are so right, Sunny... we are the only ones who will take care of ourselves, because everyone else in our lives is pretty much dependent on us right now!

Thanks for joining in!

Anonymous said...

great post!! It would bug me to death to get two samples and walk out. I'd feel so bad LOL. And I need to get a shower for myself, FIRST more often. Thanks for the reminder

Emily said...

i really enjoyed reading this post. this is something that i think many (most?) women struggle with to some degree.

i'm not a mama, but for me, it's mostly due to my chronic pain - i want to take on more than i'm able to. i need to learn new limits. thanks for this great reminder. :)