Learning to Say No

After listening to an episode of my favorite podcast, Dear Sugars, about the power of saying no I felt compelled to write about this topic. I am a recovering people pleaser. Some people are addicted to drugs or alcohol, but my addiction is to people.

I used to work really, really hard to be what I thought others wanted me to be. I have a hard time accepting it when people don't like me, especially when I try so hard to make everyone happy.

This addiction has led me to make making some bad decisions that have put me in really uncomfortable situations. I have also damaged relationships with people I care about, because it turns out that doing what you think others want isn't always the best way to build trust and friendship. The most important relationship my people-pleasing ways has hurt was my relationship with myself. I lost sight of what I wanted and needed to be happy, and my recovery has been focused on getting back in touch with myself in that way.

In the Dear Sugars episode, “The Power of No”, the Sugars interview Oprah Winfrey who weighs in with her experiences of learning to say no. She told them, “there is always this innate fear that, if I say 'no,' I'm going to somehow be discarded or dismissed or unloved.”

I can relate. So many times I have said yes to things because I wanted the person to like me or to think I am nice, not because I really wanted to do it. This often backfires, because the person we say yes to is (correctly) under the false impression we want to do that type of thing - and so their asking continues. I have learned it is just better to be honest and say no, and let the chips fall where they may.

It's not always a bad thing to do what will make others happy. However, when we feel anxious and overwhelmed by our agreements that we don't really feel passionate about - we sort of lose ourselves a little.

I think women, especially those who take on the role as the primary nurturer in their family or friend group, struggle with this. We say “yes,” “yes,” “yes…” constantly and we lose sight of what we actually want.

As I practice saying no more often, I am learning what a real yes feels like. A true yes feels GOOD. Really good. Your whole body says YES and you feel the joy, excitement and passion behind it. This is vastly different the times I have said yes because I felt guilty for wanting to say no, or I was simply afraid of rejection.

Saying no empowers us, and gives us a chance to address what we really want to do with our energy. Do you know what you really want? Even though I'm getting better about being honest with myself about what I don't want, I am struggling to figure out what I DO want.

I think the trick is to learn to listen to our intuition, and really trust our instincts. It's not that easy to do, but with time and practice you will begin to trust yourself.

In the book The Gift: Understand and Develop your Psychic Abilities author Echo Bodine recommends using an affirmation to help develop this sense of inner trust. Simply close your eyes, take a deep breath and repeat these phrases three times before making a decision: 

I open myself to my inner wisdom.
I trust my intuition.

This affirmation is a tool for spiritual development. I recite it regularly before doing a Tarot reading, Reiki session or meditation. It has slowly helped me develop the ability to determine what I really want in a given situation. When I am unclear about what to do, I  practice this affirmation, and then ask my inner wisdom to guide me.

It is not always easy to listen to yourself, trust yourself, and then act on your deepest wisdom, but the alternative is much more painful. Being in alignment with my truth and living authentically is the only way I have been able to find true peace and create lasting happiness in my life.  

If you have something to say about this topic I would love to hear from you. What experiences do you have saying no, in spite of what others want you to do? How have you learned to listen to your inner wisdom and figure out what you really want?

Thank you for reading, sharing, and commenting. You participation is a valuable part of this conversation.