It's common for people to have trouble flexing their "no" muscle. While it's certainly not true for everyone, if you're a people pleaser by nature, chances are you will find it challenging to say this short but powerful word--and you're probably exhausted from taking on too much and trying to appear stronger than you feel.
There is an art to saying no that can take time, patience and practise if it doesn't come easily for you. It's important for many reasons that we learn to get more comfortable flexing our "no" muscle.
If we say "yes" when we'd really prefer to say "no", particularly if we do it regularly, we set up an internal disharmony that can lead to resentment building and bubbling away under the surface. This can be incredibly damaging to our relationships and we may end up blaming other people for the way we feel when, in actual fact, it is own reluctance to say no that's lies at the heart of our discontent.
People pleasers have such big hearts, and they come from the wonderful place of just wanting to help. Yet, usually this means that they fall to the bottom of their own priority list. Many people often use their busyness as an excuse for not taking better care of themselves. I regularly hear "I'm too busy to..." cook my own meals/take a lunch break/have some time to myself.
The reality is we are only busy with what we say yes to and we show what our priorities are with what we spend our time doing. You might want to read that sentence again; it's that important.
Learning how to say no, deciphering what you want to say yes to, and where your priorities lie, will help you to experience a heightened sense of spaciousness and calm, cultivate better personal energy and enjoy a greater level of wellness.
Here are some ways you can change your world by getting more comfortable flexing your "no" muscle.
Explore where and why you have trouble saying no.
Many people find it easy to say no in one part of their lives and impossible in others. It's helpful to explore in what areas of your life, or to whom, you find it hard to say no to. Then ask yourself "What am I afraid will occur if I say no?" This will allow you to begin exploring what the difficulty in saying no is really about. Perhaps you don't want to appear unsociable or incapable of coping with many tasks, for example, or perhaps you feel a sense of duty or obligation to say "yes" to things.
Reduce your busyness.
Being busy leads us to use the language "I don't have time". A more honest choice of words would be, "That's just not a priority for me at the moment". The next time you hear yourself say that you don't have time for something, try the latter instead and see how it feels. If it feels uncomfortable, use it as an opportunity to explore your priorities and compare them to what you're currently busy doing to see what you could exchange out for something you'd prefer to invest your time and energy in. There will of course be many things you're unable to stop doing just because you don't feel like it, but there will invariably be some opportunities in your schedule to reprioritise your time.
If you find yourself being asked by someone if you can do something (such as attend a party or other engagement), and you get that sinking feeling inside because you know you really don't want to, a great strategy is to press pause on making a decision. We tend to agree in the moment out of obligation and then regret our decision later. Simply by telling someone that you'll come back to them and let them know later, you can avoid making in the moment decisions and take some time to reflect on what you want to do.
Focus on the benefits
You will also find it easier to say no if you focus on what you are giving the other person when you do. For example, saying no might allow the other person the opportunity to develop other resources, give them a more authentic friendship, an expanded view of the world, or help them to grow or become more flexible. It's also great to remember the benefits within our own lives of learning to say no. If we are doing more things because we truly want to do them rather than just because we don't know how to say no, our lives will be much more enjoyable and energised.
So, what are you going to say no to this week?