What is your first reaction when you hear the word "No" ?
Is it a cringing? A pang? A sadness or sense of rejection? Loss of confidence?
Or is it a sense of excitement and empowerment? Possibility? An opportunity for something else?
I've always had a hard time with the word no, hearing it and speaking it. I grew up as a people pleaser, an enabler of sorts. Yes sir, yes ma'am, yes mom and dad, yes world even if it hurts me. I did not have any sense of boundaries or even the feeling that it was ok to have boundaries.
Hearing no was hard too. I was very lucky as a child and was afforded all of the opportunities I wanted. I really didn't hear no that often, so when I did, it came as a shock.
Image by Charles Gollob
I've been wanting to write this post for over six months now, and even as I do I feel like a hypocrite. My world is changing, I've said no to a cushy and comfortable office job, yet I'm still saying yes to so many other things!
Let's start with some basics: Mark Manson wrote a great article about saying fuck yes or fuck no in relationships. You should be all in or not in at all. Ambiguity is a scary place...
There's also this amazing quote by Stephen Covey:
You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside.
I guess for me the problem is still that I have too many yes's. I want to do everything. I want to say yes to life. It has been really hard narrowing down what to say no to and what to say yes to, but if I pay close enough attention- the answer is there. I have been learning to really connect to myself when making decisions and listen to those internal cues.
Our intuition always knows; some feel it in their gut, their second or third chakras, some may feel it in their hearts or their third eye. If this doesn't come naturally for you, find a moment to sit in silence, close the eyes and take a few deep breaths. Place one hand on your low belly and the other on your heart and bring your awareness to these points. Then think about what the decision is. What is your body telling you? Are you chakras spinning with joy or recoiling in opposition? Start with simple choices then move on to bigger questions.
When we say yes to something without taking the time to check in with ourselves, we may be doing us and the other a disservice. When we choose something but don't show up 100%, we are not serving our best good or the good of the people on the other end. Have you ever shown up to something but been half in and the day or work just doesn't go very smoothly? Had you listened to that inner voice that said "Maybe we shouldn't do this one" you could have prevented that "less than" experience.
Plus, when you say no to something that isn't a 100% yes for you, you are giving someone else the opportunity to fill that role who is a 100% yes!! This goes for relationships, jobs, volunteering, get togethers, anything. There are billions of people on the planet- there will for sure be someone who is 100% into what you are not. Wouldn't it be magical to allow them that opportunity to fill that role if you say no?!
Is "no" the presence of something or the absence of something else?
Three lessons have really stuck out for me in the past few months relating to hearing and saying the word no.
1) Hearing the word no is a welcome experience.
I have done some beautiful work in Women's Circles with Rovena Skye, and her explanation of the word "no" has been revolutionary. In Tantra, we do many practices to become more aware of our own selves using others as a mirror. We have to trust ourselves to make the best decisions for ourselves and trust the other to make the right decision to them. If that is a "no" we respond with "Thank you for taking care of you."
Then if we hear the word no... ok, what else can I ask for, suggest, explore? No is an opportunity for more. It could be as simple as:
Working with "no" like this offers so many personal breakthroughs and so much transformation. I highly recommend trying it in a safe space to start and then feeling how that changes your life.
2) No is a complete sentence.
The second big lesson for me is that you don't need an explanation. No is enough. Simple.
Often I feel like we need to offer an explanation, an excuse, a reason for saying no, but no is enough. You don't need a reason or an explanation and you certainly don't have to say sorry. You are respecting yourself, your boundaries, your life. If someone else doesn't understand that, that is their concern and not yours.
If you hear a "no" don't ask them why. Look for other ways that they could say yes. You will both find more happiness there.
3) It is never too late to change your mind.
I think this one is the hardest. Once you say yes to something, do you feel locked in? I do. One of my core values in life is integrity, so if I say yes, I stick to it. However, sometimes there are reasons that we have to latter say no, and that is ok! It is never too late to change your mind and your no should always be respected.
I learnt this lesson the hard way over ten years ago, yet I still struggle with it. When I was 16 I spent six weeks at an international ballet summer school in New York. I cried home on the phone every night and I lost 30 pounds. Let me just say, I didn't have an extra 30 pounds to lose... That summer almost killed me, slowly, and at the time I was too young to understand but my mother certainly wanted to pull me out before the end.
Since then I have learnt that it is better to say no than to die trying. A few years later I went to a wonderful professional dance school in Toronto and left partway through my second year. I was struggling with a deep depression and suicide and it made more sense to come home and be with family as opposed to struggling for a dream that no longer served me. Now, those are extreme examples but you get the point.
Another example, that is quite personal, is sex. You might be hooking up with someone and everything feels good, until it doesn't! And you are allowed to say "NO" at any point and have that be respected. That goes for men and women. And I won't have the other party shaming the other one for giving them "blue balls" or leading them on. Again, "thank you for taking care of you", and "what do you need?"
We can find more intimacy in the word no, as long as we respect it.
It's still really hard for me to say no, it hurts, it's scary, but every no I say I gain a little more power, a little more confidence and I know it's taking me where I need to be.
Simply put, no is a way to align with your higher self and your greater good. When we say yes to everything, we spread ourselves too thin and we end up not showing up fully for any of it. When we say no to the things that do not serve us, we allow ourselves to show up fully for the things that are a Fuck Yes for!
And so it is.
Please share your experiences or reflections of the word no. I'm still far from perfecting the art of no but I'm on day 56 of my year of celibacy... and that's saying no to a whole lot and saying a big yes to me. I'm worth it. And so are you.
Here's to you taking care of you.