“Sure, I’ll give it a go.”
“I’m doing it anyway…”
“Of course I can! It’s no trouble at all.”
“Yes, absolutely. When do you need it by?”
“Here, let me.”
How many times a day do these phrases or similar cross your lips? Do you stop and think about the impact this commitment will make or do you agree because that’s your default response? Are you the reliable ‘doer’ who everyone knows will get it done? Are you the one who can always be counted on to be there and lend a hand?
Feels good to be seen as valuable, trustworthy and needed, doesn’t it? Recognition and appreciation provide a nice little hit of confidence that temporarily soothes the buzz of self-doubt that never seems to go away.
But what is the cost of this cycle of over-committing? What if I told you, you only have so many yeses to give? Each yes has a price and the price is time, energy and resources. You pay the price of yes and your ability to pay is finite.
When we spend more than we have, previous yesses soon turn into nos and it occurs without us even realising it. Yes to overtime may mean no to performance or productivity. Yes to a busy social schedule may mean no to deeper, more meaningful connections. Worst still, what should be our non-negotiable yeses (relationships, health, rest and integrity) are often the first to go. These are the yeses we find easiest to give as the compromise and sacrifices they require only impact ourselves.
Yes feels safe but is deceptively not. It promises acceptance, affirmation, security and an easier way. No is letting people down, causing conflict, being unhelpful, rude, arrogant, difficult. Even the word NO looks hard. N is pointy, sharp, hard. O is a zero, a big, fat, nothing. Symbolically we see a harshness with no reward after. To the ear, no sounds short and unflinching. It’s a command, threat, admonishment. We try to soften its negative impact with a positive prefix (“yeah-nah”) or by suffixing it with manners (“no thanks”).
We feel compelled to justify our reasons for saying no subconsciously seeking acceptance that such a response (and by extension, ourselves), are accepted and understood. Yes doesn’t need softening or explaining. It stands on its own as a complete response. There is so much less work, thought or emotional pressure when this is our answer.
Whilst yes provides instant happy feels, its overuse creates additional busy-ness and responsibility along with associated feelings of frustration, overwhelm and discontent. Before we say yes we need to evaluate the time, energy and resources the commitment requires. We need to recognise the limitations of our resources. We need to appreciate their high and irreplaceable worth. We need to consider if the short-term high of acceptance is compromising our sense of self.
Only when we embrace no can we stop people pleasing and begin to please ourselves. No means you know you are and what matters to you. No means you are only making commitments that align with this. No requires strength and courage and therefore increases your confidence and self-esteem. No creates more time, energy and resources so you have more yeses to the things that matter.
No is peace. Yes is busy.
No is less. Yes is more.
No is hard. Yes is easy.
No is empowering. Yes is compliance.
No is scary. Yes is safe.
No is authentic. Yes is acceptance-seeking.
Being comfortable with no means we are being comfortable with ourselves. It’ll take practice, as all hard and worthwhile changes are. But no gets easier and you’ll soon see and benefit from the space and peace it both within and within your daily life.
No to others = yes to you.