The unexpected joy of stepping back.
It’s great to say yes to new things, to say yes to adventures, exciting experiences – but this isn’t about saying yes. This is about something that (as a needy extroverted people-pleaser) I’ve only just discovered! This is about the liberating joy of saying…
Why is it good to say ‘no’?
Everybody knows it’s nice to be nice, but it’s not often discussed how exhausting it can be to always say yes. As mentioned, I’m a mega extrovert who no doubt gets a lot of sense of self-worth from how many friends I have, how close I am to people, how much I can help out, all of that ‘good’ stuff. Thing is, that stuff is great, but when you do things for the sake of doing them, or over-extend in the process, you’re not really helping your friends or yourself.
A few big scenarios come to mind for me when it’s good to be able to say ‘no’ that I’m gonna go through here:
- Doing favours that are very costly to yourself, for people who may not do the same for you
- Agreeing to go to events or social gatherings with people who aren’t actually positive influences in your life (for anyone who’s gone sober, this one is a stand-out)
- Filling your diary to the point that you don’t give yourself any alone-time because of FOMO
These things can all have a pretty major impact on your sense of self – whether it be depleting your self-worth, or your ability to care for yourself. That being said, they’re also kind of tricky to navigate out of if you’re worried about upsetting people.
On the flip-side, being able to take control over how and when you do say ‘yes’ is massively liberating. It helps you feel like you’re in control again, and it subconsciously reinforces your self-worth to treat your time and energy as important. It helps you love yourself! Most of all though, it frees you up to do stuff you actually want to do. With that in mind, here’s some advice for each of those situations where you might find yourself needing to just say no.
Saying ‘no’ to crazy favours
Firstly – if you are someone who is concerned they are helping someone too much, or doing too much for their friends – you are probably a very good person. I hate when people call someone who helps others out a pushover – you’re exhibiting great qualities as a person, and you’ll (hopefully) get big karma props for it. That being said, you can’t help others if you’re running yourself into the ground, and not every favour is a) necessary or b) helpful. Lots of people take advantage, and they might not even realise it, so it’s crucial to evaluate the real good that comes from helping to carry the load of others.
Big case in point here: I read something the other day about how doing someone a favour actually makes you feel closer to the person you’re helping out than it makes them feel to you. Worse than that, if you’re helping someone out who always seems to need it, you might be inadvertently enabling negative processes and traits in the person.
So how do you say no to a favour? Depending on the person and your relationship, you can be totally honest, or you can just say no and sorry! A great piece of advice I saw about this the other day was that you don’t need to explain yourself. If someone tells you they can’t do something with you, do you question them and push them to give you an explanation? Sometimes less is more. There’s some great advice about this specifically available here.
(Side note – if you do interrogate people when they say they can’t help with something, you’re probably being a dick.)
Saying no to things you don’t want to do/attend
This is a tricky one that I’ve only really come across a lot since being sober. Reason being, when you’re able to get drunk, pretty much everything can be manageably fun. Awkward party? Get drunk. Boring people? Get drunk. You see what I mean.
When you’re sober, you’re suddenly almost painfully clear-headed at social gatherings – and if you’re not with people you love and enjoy being around, you’ll feel the disconnect a hell of a lot more. Nevertheless, sober or not, we’ve all experienced situations where we’re feeling uncomfortable about a social event, or a particular person.
My main advice here? Follow your gut. If you don’t want to do something, don’t do it – and if you don’t want to see someone, don’t feel obliged to see them. Luckily, the solution to this is relatively straightforward – it’s easy to give an excuse about being busy. The real challenge with this one is instead with figuring out how you actually feel. If you haven’t had a big change that shows you who your real friends are, it can be pretty tricky. More info on that over here.
Saying no to give yourself time to breathe.
I’m a sucker for this one. I’m so so bad at saying no to stuff I actually want to do, and I do the same thing every month like clockwork. Worry I won’t have anything to do >> make loads of plans >> over-book myself >> no free time >> tired because of it >> decide to make no plans for a while >> back again.
As one psychologist says, “… it is actually a very important process to give ourselves that time and space alone to just disconnect from everything around us to truly relax and get centered.” Even if it’s just one day a week, it’s so so important to give yourself time to practise self care, unwind, and decompress.
Truthfully, my advice with this one? Be honest. There’s something really satisfying about taking ownership of your need to look after yourself, and it feels really good. Pretending you’re busy or some other excuse, on some level can feel like you’re de-legimitising your own need for self-love, and that’s rubbish. Again, there’s some great advice on deciding when to take time for yourself here.
Basically it all comes down to valuing your own time, and your own needs, at least as much as you do your friends and families. You’re not even saying that it’s more important – you’re saying it’s the same – and sometimes it just wins out.
Give it a go for a week – try to evaluate each thing you take on, and say ‘no’ to the things you don’t want to do. Question why you’re doing something! It’ll feel good, promise.
Not sure what to do with all your excellent free time?
Lots of love,