Your Authentic No.
I want you to get comfortable with saying no. No is a way to enforce boundaries (this is how it’s ok to treat me), to ensure that you are not spending time doing things for others at the cost of yourself. Your authentic no is the protector of your self-esteem.
Boundaries are the space between you and another person. Lovingly reinforcing boundaries is one of the best relationship hacks I have ever learned. Whether it is in a romantic relationship or a friendship or parent/child relationship being able to tell someone how you expect to be treated and what you need in order to be ok is so important. This may look like telling your partner that you need alone time, telling your kids that you need to go home from the park (if you want to hear more on this listen to this podcast) or telling a family member how you expect them to treat you during a family event. Though it may feel weird at first and you may get push back, people who genuinely love and care for you and want you to be healthy will get on board pretty quickly. Especially if they know why you’re doing it. If they don’t then it’s a good indicator of the quality of the relationship.
There are people in the world that will run themselves ragged in order to please everyone, only to find at the end of the day they are completely depleted of energy, finding no enjoyment in life. When you do this you not only do yourself a disservice but you can’t show up for your loved ones, colleagues and friends as the best version of yourself. Better to say no to doing too much and then showing up happy, rested and fully present when you can.
As someone who has internalised a message that I need to be agreeable I order to be liked and valued I used to find it really difficult to say a clear ‘no’ particularly when it came to men. Saying no felt risky to me; like I was going to lose something so I avoided it instead being ambiguous and elusive. The problem was that this inauthenticity eroded my self-esteem. I was not being honest about my position and this gnaws away at your self-worth. I say no now when I mean it. No, this doesn’t work for me. No, I’m never going to sleep with you. No, I am not your friend. No, I’m not accepting scraps of a relationship. No, lying is not ok. Sometimes it soooo hard. Most of the time it still feels uncomfortable but the long-term benefit is that each time I commit to my authentic self my self-esteem expands. When I trust my gut instinct on something being a ‘no’ I feel stronger, more confident and like a better version of me.
If you’re worried that this will make you into someone that people don’t want to be around check out Brene Brown’s research. Brene and her team found that the one character trait that the most compassionate people have in common is boundaries of steel. From a protected position, you can offer more care to people.