Like so many women ‘of a certain age’, I was enculturated with the need to please and as a result, I’ve spent decades saying yes to things I really don’t want to do.
So as I fast approach my 60th birthday, I’ve decided that it’s time to learn to use that deceptively simple word “No!”
Men don’t have any difficulty in saying no, often quite forcefully, to anything that doesn’t suit them. Even little children use it repeatedly. In fact, it’s often the first word many of them learn and one that they continue to utter defiantly throughout their childhood and teenage years. So why is it that we woman battle so to employ it?
According to everything I’ve read, the benefits of learning to say no are as many as they are varied but at its core, it’s all about time. Apparently, saying no to requests, invitations and activities one has no real interest in frees up an enormous amount of time.
We are all so programmed to be more, have more, do more and rush, rush, rush that initially at least, doing this may be scary. However, I know that at least for me, contentment, creativity and a sense of well-being are all directly derived from escaping the whirlwind and slowing the pace life. Happiness comes from having time to enjoy the simple things in life. Coffee and the crossword in my pyjamas, an early morning dip in the pool (or even better, the sea), a long walk on the beach or a leisurely lunch with good friends all add immeasurably to the quality of my life and I’m determined to do more of all of these.
As with everything though, there is a time and a place. A clear but gently delivered ‘no’ to a child (of any age) will often lead to a reinforcement of boundaries and perhaps, after a few minutes, hours or days of theatrical pouting and door slamming, a closer relationship. Meanwhile, a emphatic refusal to carry out a reasonable, if mind-numbingly tedious chore for your boss will at best cause an arctic-like chilling of the work environment and at worst, the immediate cessation of your income-producing activities!
Even in the most ideal of circumstances, saying no, however diplomatically, takes a healthy dose of courage and sadly, some people will be offended. Nonetheless, the next time someone asks me to do something I just don’t want to do, I intend to politely say “No, thank you” and spend that reclaimed time doing something that makes my soul sing.
So why don’t you join me in my quest to live a quieter, more contented life because, as they say in that awful, clichéd advert “You’re worth it!” (I know, I also can’t believe that I just wrote that!).
That is, until I next meet up with someone and utter those all too familiar words:
“You want me to … (fill in the blank)? Umm, okay … no problem!”
What can I say? Old habits die hard and learning new behaviours is a very long and difficult process!
What is the one thing you wish you could say no to?