If I had a cup of matcha for every time I said yes to something (or someone) in the past, when I really wanted to say no… ooph, I’d be swimming in a green pool.
It’s a hard thing for people pleasers (both active and recovering) everywhere. Right?
You’re having a busy week and someone asks if you want to get coffee, and even though you have 27 more important things to do that day, you’d feel bad saying no. Or, a coworker asks if you have time to handle something and you feel obligated, so you say okay even though it’ll make the rest of your day crazy. Or your kid’s school asks you to head up a committee or plan an event….on top of everything else on your plate. And you don’t want to disappoint them.
Take it from someone who overcommitted and took on way too much for way too long—and learned that hard way that doing so is usually a one-way ticket into overwhelm-ville. Stressed out, maxed out, with little margin in your life. Which then impacts your ability to take care of the things that are truly important– things like your health, well-being, your family, your career, your patience, and having the time and space to reflect on what you need for that day (including your emotional and mental health).
It forces you to live in REACTIVE mode vs PROACTIVE mode in your life.
But, we give it away, when we say yes to anything and everything that pops up in our path.
We give our time and energy out to all the other things…..and then take whatever scraps are left and try to cobble them together and “take care of ourselves”….when we’re already burned out and have nothing to give.
But here’s something I’ve learned (the loooong way, ha). But it’s something that’s changed my life.
Saying yes to things is actually your choice.
You deserve to protect your time, energy and space more than anything else.
And saying no is OKAY. More than that… it’s necessary.
But, pay attention to what comes up when you do– are you afraid that saying no means you won’t be liked? Are you afraid it will hurt other people’s feelings? Are you nervous that it means you’re selfish? All of these things are worth noting…. and then asking yourself if that is actually (factually) true.
Because here’s the thing:
Saying YES to something always means that you’re also simultaneously saying NO to something else.
Think about that ^ the next time you have a decision to make. What would that mean saying no to? (Is it time with your family, time to workout, time for your own quiet time, your own sleep, etc…. the options are endless, you just have to get really honest with yourself here.)
And we usually KNOW deep down what our answer really is. We just gotta get quiet for a second. In that pause so much can come.
It isn’t easy, but there’s a LOT to be said for tuning into your deeper intuition and letting that guide you in everyday situations. Especially when it comes to the decisions we’re making all the time, every day.
One way to start listening to and honoring that intuition is to respond well when your gut is telling you to say no to something, even if guilt or society or some internal pressure to please is telling you that you “should” do it anyway.
It’s so eye opening when that inner tug is telling you to respond with no. It means you need more space in some way, and your intuition is working to protect your energetic and emotional capacity.
As mamas, as women, as practitioners of taking good care of ourselves and our people—it’s sometimes so much easier to put others’ needs and requests first and our own on the back-burner. But I’m here to tell you it’s so much more enriching to STOP. To listen to what you need, fill up your own cup, and then serve others after that. You’ll be able to do so with such a more enthusiastic, fulfilled spirit when you can learn to say no to the things that really don’t matter as much.
But how do you actually do this in practice? As a ritual that truly sticks, and that doesn’t make you feel bad every time?
Ooooh, let’s talk about it. Some micro-steps. IN DETAIL.
I actually take these steps to protect my energy and space, and actually say no (even when it *feels* like I need to be saying yes).
How to say no and protect your energy:
1. First?? Do a calendar inventory from the last year. I mean get detailed… trust me, this helps so much. Look at your commitments, appointments, tasks, and responsibilities every day, every week. If you have a physical planner and a digital calendar (or both, or something else) look at it all.
2. As you go through them, make two lists: things that you loved doing, gave you something, and were worth it… and the things that weren’t worth it (time, money, or energy wise).You’ll know exactly what those are because that same gut feeling you get when you wanted to say no will show up as you review your past year. It’ll feel like a draining feeling or like something’s just off either in your physical body or in your mind. It doesn’t light you up or fill you up.
3. Then from your “not worth it” list, make a list of things that you are no longer going to spend time on: commitments, asks from other people. This is your “easy no” list. Just let your intuition do the leading here. You’ll know exactly what needs to be easy no’s as you go down the list by tuning into how each item makes you feel.
4. After your past year review, you’ll have a good idea of what you want to focus on. Now in real time when a new ask or commitment comes in, ask yourself how you might feel about spending your time doing that thing, a year from now. Worth it or not?
5. MOST importantly, release yourself from the guilt. Easier said than done? One thousand percent, yes. But we’ve got to let ourselves follow what matters most and lean into our intuition without beating ourselves up if we TRULY want to care for ourselves (and then others, too).
Pay immediate attention to how your body feels when you first hear the request: does your body feel light, expansive, and excited? Or does it contract? Pay attention to your shoulders, heart area, and gut. How does your body FEEL with that request? Pay attention to that. You want to be spending majority of your time on things that make you feel good. Calm, content, and yet energized.
If you have an instinct to say yes to something because of people pleasing, being afraid of what other people might think, feeling like you are disappointing them, or feeling like they won’t like you or be mad at you, pay close attention to that. Ask yourself if that is really actually true or not.
And a reminder: you do not need to be rude or harsh when you say no. You can do it gracefully and lovingly. You often don’t even need to explain why—you can just say you’re not available at that time.
A few things to do instead of saying that automatic yes?? Point them to another person or resource. Thank them for thinking of you. Remind yourself that in saying no to something subpar, you are creating more time and room to say yes to yourself and the things that matter most to you. And THAT is powerful and important.
Your to-do list is long enough, let’s shorten it asap.
You can (/and should) REMOVE some of the pressure/to-dos/never-ending “shoulds” from your list so that you can finally get your energy, time and vibrance back. Head here for a FREE checklist of 18 things to release in your life to allow more freedom and peace into your life!
And psssst- our annual, life-changing, Simply Real Life program is opening again at the end of April! Get on the waitlist here if you want to be the first to know when it opens, and get your hands on some amazing resources to help you get started on you journey to a simplified healthy life. Grab the free resources here!
HOLLY HAUPT says
Excellent article. I have always had a great self care system in my life but because of that I was always helping others as I had so much energy and yes I learned to say no to serious energy zappers and drama queens but it took cancer to get me to stop being a people pleaser and really say no!! Now I’m working on not caring. I don’t mean not caring but letting go when I say no. I could on and on but you know what I mean! Good luck with your pregnancy!
I know that condition is not easy! I’m sure you are doing all the right alternative things to help you along but sending so much love!