When It’s Time To Say No

Just say no

Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity. ~ W. Clement Stone

Confession:  I’ve been a people pleaser most of my life.  I’ve done what I think I’m supposed to do to make the people around me happy.

Needless to say, my own happiness was pretty low on my list of priorities.  My thinking was that I would be happy when everyone around me was happy.

Funny thing is that this time never comes.  Making everyone around me happy is completely impossible.

For decades I didn’t understand the core tenant of happiness: no one and nothing outside of you can make you happy.  Happiness comes from within.  It’s a choice.

My ability to momentarily please people (or not) depends on how they choose to perceive my actions.  What may be helpful to one person could be interference to another.

It has taken me quite some time to shift my core beliefs in this area.

The Internal Battle

When epiphanies like this happen, it’s our logical mind that gets it first.  Initially our subconscious fights the new thought because it “knows” differently.

The two minds duke it out as the logical mind shows the subconscious all the obvious evidence to support the new belief.  The subconscious fights it with lots of “yeah, but’s.”

As long as we keep thinking the new belief and seeking out evidence to prove it, eventually our subconscious mind gives up and takes on the new belief.

Once I believed that it wasn’t up to me to make everyone happy, I was finally able to focus on what makes me happy.

I also realized how much energy I used trying to please others.  I started to understand why I felt so exhausted most of the time.  Relentlessly pursuing an impossible goal will do that to you.

Choose Yourself First

We’re programmed to believe that pursuing our own happiness is selfish.  Like we’re not supposed to be happy until we make everyone else around us happy first.

This comes from the same warped thinking that keeps us from doing things we enjoy because we have to finish all the un-fun work that never ends first.

I’m here to tell you that those rules are total BS.  They’ve created nothing but misery for millions of people.

It’s time to wake up to your new, happier way of being.

It all starts by putting yourself first.  Go ahead.  Be selfish.  You’ll also be happy.

Putting yourself first means saying no much more often than you’re probably used to.  Start getting used to it.

Learn to say ‘no’ to the good so you can say ‘yes’ to the best. ~ John C. Maxwell

For years I said yes to everything, thinking that I was invincible and could take on more than anyone else.  Even being very organized and efficient, it’s crazy for me to think I could handle this level of stuff – especially other people’s stuff.

When I started saying no to requests (in a diplomatic way) or not volunteering by assistance, I felt bad.  I thought I was letting people down.

Setting Boundaries

In this process I started to see more clearly what other people were made of.  Most people shrugged it off and went elsewhere for help.

The ones that got mad at me seemed to be shirking responsibility for their own lives.  I wasn’t picking up their slack.  They got mad because I wasn’t doing what they expected of me, even though I never signed up for their expectations.  Who were they to set such unrealistic expectations?

The more I said no, the more clearly I could see my healthy boundaries – that imaginary line between helping because it makes me feel good and helping because others expect it of me.

The more I worked my ‘no’ muscle, the more people started to respect my decisions.

While I may take on crazy amounts of work, I do it because I love the process.  It’s not really work.  I’m learning and growing and helping people.  I’m doing it because it feeds my happiness, not someone else’s expectations.

I say no to things that don’t support my values so I can focus my time on things that do.

I have a long list of projects that I’m choosing to take on at work, at home and in my businesses.  Yes, sometimes I lose sleep and get stressed out but it’s because of the pressures I put on myself.  Sometimes it takes me a little time to realize that these pressures are all self-imposed and completely under my control.

No one else knows or cares what my deadlines are.  They’re just happy I’m doing what I’m doing and helping them in the process.

We Teach People How To Treat Us

If we’re a doormat and say yes to everything, people will continue to expect us to say yes to everything.

When we make our boundaries clear by saying no because that’s the healthy choice for us, we teach others to respect our choices.

The next time someone asks you to do something or you think of taking on something new, get quiet, take a few deep breaths and listen to your gut.  Is it relaxed or tight?  Do you feel drawn to the project or repelled by it?  Act on those feelings.

Don’t let your monkey mind rationalize something that your gut knows isn’t in your best interest.

Just say no.  What’s the worst thing that could happen?  Hint: It’s not nearly as bad as you think if you think it through.

Maybe no means “not now.”  Or maybe it means “no chance in hell.”  Be clear with yourself and those around you.

Saying no to something that doesn’t serve you opens the space to allow you to say yes to something that makes your heart sing.

What’s one thing on your plate that makes your gut tight?  What can you do today to say no to that thing and mean it?

Go do that thing.  Now.  Your happiness depends on it.

 


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30 Responses to When It’s Time To Say No

    Jackie
    Commented:  01/02/2014 at 10:57 pm

    Thank you for this article–I really resonated with the concept of noticing the wisdom of our bodies. Noticing where we feel tight or expansive to serve as information to move more mindfully forward.

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  01/03/2014 at 2:33 pm

      Thank you Jackie! Our bodies contain much more wisdom than our brains. The challenge is in getting our brains to be quiet long enough for us to hear the messages our bodies are constantly sending. Meditation certainly helps with that along with long walks in nature.
      Paige Burkes recently posted..How To Release Yourself from Your PastMy Profile

      Reply
    Lone Traveller
    Commented:  07/12/2013 at 5:44 am

    “Success: It is not the position you stand, but the direction in which you look.”

    Reply
    Caroline McGraw / A Wish Come Clear
    Commented:  05/21/2013 at 4:29 pm

    Paige, thank you for this post – I’ve been working to strengthen my ‘no’ muscle lately, as I’ve struggled with many of the same feelings you shared here.

    One small thing I’ve been doing lately: in addition to checking in with my body when a request comes my way, I also ask: Why the *?!?!?* would I do that? And then I have to answer, honestly, why in the world I would do that thing. It helps me not to say yes automatically, and also to channel the more subversive, honest answers.

    Thanks for the encouragement! 🙂
    Caroline McGraw / A Wish Come Clear recently posted..Have You Been Imagining Those Prison Bars? (Or, Don’t Re-Enroll In High School)My Profile

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  05/27/2013 at 3:15 pm

      That sounds like a great practice Caroline! It’s a great way to be more mindful with making choices. When you’re on autopilot and automatically say yes to every request that pops up, you never take the time to think about why you’re doing all those things. When you realize that most of those “yeses” are simply to appease other people, you start wondering why that seems so important. Thanks so much for your comment!
      Paige Burkes recently posted..The Ultimate Productivity HackMy Profile

      Reply
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  2. Julie Rowlands
    Commented:  05/05/2013 at 8:36 am

    Hi Paige, Great post and I so relate to it as a ‘recovering people pleaser!’
    It takes so much energy to try and keep others happy, and unfortunately I was always at the bottom of the list. Not so now. I look forward to reading your mindfulness guides. Thank you so much
    Julie
    Julie Rowlands recently posted..Self Preservation tips for Surviving Aspie MeltdownsMy Profile

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  05/06/2013 at 4:02 pm

      And thank YOU Julie! I agree – it does take tons of energy to attempt to keep others happy. Not only are you trying to guess at what will make them happy, you’re then running in twenty directions to do those things and they’re frequently not really what the other person is looking for.

      So glad to hear that you’re prioritizing yourself. It’s the only way to have enough energy for others – not to please them but to happily be with them.
      Paige Burkes recently posted..Sailing Through Life: How Not To Crash and BurnMy Profile

      Reply
    sree
    Commented:  05/05/2013 at 7:16 am

    This is what i was waiting for…great post..this post can change me..much needed.

    Reply
    Galen Pearl
    Commented:  04/29/2013 at 7:03 pm

    Wow, how did you cram so much wisdom into one blog post?! People write whole books and don’t cover as much ground as you did here. Where does happiness come from? How do we block our own happiness? How to set good boundaries? This post is one stop shopping. Well done!
    Galen Pearl recently posted..Benefits of Being a Spoiled ChildMy Profile

    Reply
    Lorrie Jones
    Commented:  04/29/2013 at 4:40 pm

    Thank you,Paige, for such a wonderful and impactful article. Until this past year or so, I couldn’t even think of not pleasing people! But now, after much personal work, I realize I was chasing a feeling that depended totally on how people responded to me. Very ‘ego’! While loved ones are still important to me and i wish for their happiness, I realize that their happiness is ‘up to them’ as mine is up to me. I am even finding that I can be ‘happy’ (BE happy) during stressful times.

    I am eager to read your other posts and love ‘discovering’ your blog site. Blessings to you, Lorrie

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  04/30/2013 at 8:56 am

      Thank you so much Lorrie! Your comment includes many subtle nuances of being happy: finding happiness from the inside instead of assuming that it comes from others you can’t control, you can’t control others’ happiness and that happiness is an overall way of being, not a fleeting emotion. It takes a lot of work to come to these realizations. Bravo to you! May your happiness continue to grow!
      Paige Burkes recently posted..How To Be EnoughMy Profile

      Reply
  3. Pingback: John C. Maxwell teaches about TIME MANAGEMENT | Time Management Tips

  4. Sarah | Holistic Hot Sauce
    Commented:  04/23/2013 at 11:22 pm

    As a fellow lifelong people pleaser I’ve also struggled with way too many ‘yeses’ when my inner self was screaming “no!” Like you I’ve come to realize that everything I “have’ to do is really my choice. Just changing that language in my head does a lot. Maybe I’ll say yes to something because of I value a relationship, but then I can tell myself “I choose to go to this event because I value this relationship.” Alternatively, I can gracefully decline, and let the person know how much i still value our relationship. Like you so eloquently state – that’s when you get to see what someone is made of and how valuable that relationship really is to them.

    Letting go of those ‘have to’s’ by saying No and making your own choices frees up SO much energy! Love how you broke this down Paige!
    Sarah | Holistic Hot Sauce recently posted..The Zen of Fresh Juice: Inspiration Sauce with Farnoosh BrockMy Profile

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  04/24/2013 at 8:56 pm

      Thanks so much Sarah! Whether we realize it or not, EVERYTHING in our lives is our choice. Yes, there are consequences for our choices, one way or another. The more consciously we make our choices (i.e. knowing that our “have to’s” are still choices), the easier it is to live peacefully with them.

      I know you’ve been working hard at flexing your “no” muscle these last bunch of months. While the times have been a bit challenging at times, the payoff’s have been huge. You’ve come a long way baby!
      Paige Burkes recently posted..My Beliefs Have Hijacked My BrainMy Profile

      Reply
    Marietta
    Commented:  04/23/2013 at 10:49 am

    I have learned that lesson; I was a people pleaser up to few months ago. It really feels good to be able to stand up for yourself and say NO. Once I started to say no to whatever I thought I did not want to do, I started valuing, respecting, and loving myself and I didn’t need anybody else’s love.

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  04/24/2013 at 8:51 pm

      And that’s exactly how it works Marietta. Once we love, value and respect ourselves, we stop needing those things so badly from other people. The more we chase after them from other people, the harder they are to find.

      I’m so happy that you discovered this!
      Paige Burkes recently posted..Experimenting with FailureMy Profile

      Reply
    Betsy/Zen Mama
    Commented:  04/23/2013 at 7:53 am

    I am a people pleaser, too. It’s taken a long time and courage for me to say no to people. Sometimes it takes me a while to finally do it, too. But you do feel relief when you’re able to do it.
    Thanks for the great tips, Paige!
    Betsy/Zen Mama recently posted..“I Am” “Happy” (The Movies)My Profile

    Reply
    Rob Collins
    Commented:  04/23/2013 at 3:57 am

    Hi Paige. Great post, thanks. I think I’m already adequately selfish (or perhaps too selfish even!). My problem is that I lack motivation to get stuff done, i.e. I enjoy being lazy! So if I took your advice and allowed myself to say “no” to tasks that didn’t feel right, then I’d never get anything done! Like many people though, I find that once I start a task, it usually becomes far more enjoyable than it seemed beforehand. I guess it’s all about getting into that state of flow.

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  04/23/2013 at 7:58 am

      Starting something is usually the hardest step. It’s all downhill from there.

      I think motivation has to come from deep inside you. It’s hard to start something if you don’t feel like it’s somehow important to you and your mission on earth. Seeing the big picture and feeling the “why” deeply create all the motivation you need.

      No motivation is simply a statement that what you’re already doing (or not doing) is more important to you than doing something else. Like “finding time” for things. We always find time for the things we deem important, whether we realize that’s what we’re doing or not.

      Saying no in a way that serves you is about saying no to the stuff that’s not important to your world. Everyone lives in their own world and has no business judging other people’s worlds. If you enjoy being lazy (and who defined “lazy” for you?), that’s simply important to you. So be it.

      The ‘art of being’ is incredibly important to our mental, emotional and physical health but it could be interpreted as “being lazy” by the people who feel that they have to be in constant motion. Two different worlds.

      Thanks so much Rob!
      Paige Burkes recently posted..It’s Never Too Late – Change Is Always PossibleMy Profile

      Reply
        Rob Collins
        Commented:  04/24/2013 at 5:27 am

        Hi Paige. Wise words, thank you. Unfortunately, if I gave in to my laziness, I would soon find myself unemployed. I need to find work that I find consistently motivating first. Thank you though. Rob

        Reply
    Ada Hung
    Commented:  04/23/2013 at 3:41 am

    Saying no cannot hurt that bad especially if you are doing it for yourself. Yeah, it’s not a selfish act, sometimes we really need to have that time to feel important, loved and respected.
    I read and reread this post. Sharing a part of yourself here in your blog is really interesting and inspiring . Keep inspiring others too, Paige!
    Ada Hung recently posted..5 Ways Yoga Changed My LifeMy Profile

    Reply
      Paige Burkes
      Commented:  04/23/2013 at 7:49 am

      Thanks so much Ada!

      Saying no to everything in their life that doesn’t serve them is one of the keys I’ve noticed for people who have cured themselves of cancer and other serious diseases. Putting yourself first and feeling great sends signals to every cell in your body. Happy mind, happy body, happy cells = health and happiness.

      As I wrote, we teach people how to treat us. The biggest way we do this is in how we treat ourselves. When you honor, love and respect yourself, others will do the same.

      Namaste!
      Paige Burkes recently posted..How To Be EnoughMy Profile

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