How To Say No So You Can Start Saying, “Hell, Yes!”

Katie - Ducks cropAt two, you weren’t afraid to say no – why is it so hard today?

Anyone who has parented a two-year old or observed one in action, is familiar with their delight in saying “no!” Though this may be exhausting for parents, it is an important developmental milestone for their kids. Children this age realize they can assert themselves and  gain confidence by doing so.

Curiously, as we grow older, the pressure to please and to fit in often leads us to say yes, even when we really want to channel our inner two year old and say no. Here’s a case in point.

A few years ago I was doing a lot of volunteer work. It seemed the more I did, the more I was asked to do. Each time I was asked to take on another task, I felt like I “should” say yes. And I did – even though I was in the process of starting a business, taking classes and juggling family and work responsibilities. To be truthful, I started getting resentful of being stretched so thin.

Why was I so hesitant to say no? My thoughts went like this:

  • I’ll be letting everyone down
  • I “should” step up and do more
  • people might think less of me

My Reality Check

Eventually, I was doing so much that I started feeling like nothing was getting done very well. And I knew I wasn’t giving my family, friends and even myself appropriate time and attention.

The fact was, I was the one who chose to over-commit myself, often for the wrong reasons. I realized it was time for me to assert myself instead and start choosing activities I was really excited about. I also had to let go of my fear of how others might judge me.

The next time I was asked to serve on a committee, I got my brave on and said: “My volunteer time is committed for the rest of the year so I’m not taking on any new assignments.” (So simple, but it took me years to do this without feeling guilty!)

The outcome? I felt relieved and they found someone who was enthusiastic about taking on the role – a win-win. And you know what? People responded with respect for my decision, not the criticism I had feared.

Getting to “Hell, yes!”

Lesson learned: I make my highest contributions to the world when I am working on purpose, using my best talents and doing work that makes me say, hell, yeah – I love this! Not when I am feeling stressed out, overwhelmed and resentful.

Where in your life have you put a “hell, yes!” on hold to do something that doesn’t align with your priorities and drains your energy? What would happen if you said no, not going to do this anymore?

Give it a try and let me know what happens!

2 thoughts on “How To Say No So You Can Start Saying, “Hell, Yes!”

  1. Thank you Jean! This reinforces Brené Brown’s mantra for saying no, “Choose discomfort over resentment.” She says the discomfort may only last a few minutes, when you’re saying no, but the resentment will last much longer. Love it Jean!

    1. You and Brené are right on, Mary! Saying no can be uncomfortable in the short-term, but in my experience, the long-term benefit of saying yes to yourself allows you to live happier and contribute in a way that feels on purpose for you.

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