A “no” uttered from deepest conviction is better and greater than a “yes” merely uttered to please, or what is worse, to avoid trouble.Mahatma Gandhi
Learning to say “no” (and without added explanation) has been such a long lesson for me, but one that I feel I am truly embodying more frequently and easily than ever before. While I could never phrase it quite so succinctly or eloquently as Gandhi, I want to expound on this, and how it has impacted my life.
Call it a “shadow” or a “trauma” from my past, but whatever the reason or label, I spent much of my childhood, teens and twenties constantly seeking acceptance. This showed up in many forms, but throughout my younger years, an inability to say “no” (and without explanation) was soooo difficult for me.
Sometimes we say yes because we genuinely want to – and THAT is exactly what we want to aim for. We want to say yes because whatever it is will bring us joy, greater purpose in life, a movement in the direction of our goals or some other positive or enhancing outcome. We want to carefully examine those times that we say yes, how they make us feel, and how we feel after we engage in the actual activity that we agreed to. Agreements between ourselves are just as important as those we make with others.
When we say yes but we didn’t actually want to, or know we won’t show up (in whatever way that is, for ourselves or others) is what we want to combat, or at least work toward improving upon. WHY did we say yes? Was it out of fear that we would disappoint someone else? Perhaps we need to slow down before we commit to things and examine if we tend to say “yes” out of stress/anxiety or misplaced well-meaning. Things come up in life, yes, but often, if we find ourselves breaking agreements, or showing up only half heartedly, then those are times we need to sit and be willing to more deeply understand ourselves. Saying “no” to things can be just as liberating and deeply necessary as saying “yes” to opportunities. We are frequently prodded toward “not missing opportunities” … but if we have a secure sense of self, our values, goals, priorities and needs, then we can say no out of a place of true love, for ourselves and others.
The second part of that, saying no and not offering explanation, is not meant to be rude, withholding or anything else, but more of acknowledging when it is necessary and when it is not. It’s ok to say no (perhaps with a thank you attached), and move on. Honoring our mental bandwidth, emotional tank, and time is something everyone can understand, and a polite “no thank you” can save everyone unnecessary stress and back & forth. Asserting boundaries and allotting appropriate amounts of time for people/commitments is ok.
When you say yes, or no, is completely your decision, and it shouldn’t sit uneasy with you. If something feels off, it likely is, and we have to work every day to reconcile so much already that it seems an unnecessary expenditure of energy/emotion to fight your decision making.