We live in a society of “yes.”
We are told to lean in.
We are told to push ourselves.
We are told we can sleep when we’re dead.
And I fully believe in these things, I really do (not so much the sleep when we’re dead scenario, as not ever sleeping will likely ensure you do actually end up dead).
Shonda Rhimes even has a book called “Year of Yes.” She writes about how she was able to push past her own limiting fears and beliefs in one year and expand her life and herself in ways she was never able to experience before, all by saying ‘Yes.’
There is absolutely no denying the power it holds and I know this too from firsthand experience. You can grow in leaps and bounds, create an unbelievable life and a powerful, limitless You all by saying this small 3 letter word.
But I often wonder, at what point does saying Yes come from a place of obligation, guilt and fear instead of coming from a place of love and as an aligned desire from our hearts? At what point does saying Yes actually come from a place of avoidance and maybe even from a place of deeper hidden pain?
I used to be a Yes person of the above stated nature. I would go so far as to say I am a recovering Yes-aholic. I would say yes to dinners, lunches, birthdays, dates, parties, events and trips even if every fiber of my being (and wallet) was screaming No. I said Yes because honestly I often found it too difficult to do otherwise.
In my younger days and on a more shallow level I thought, what if I miss out on something that will never ever happen again (spoiler alert: it usually does happen again in some way)? I think the kids these days call that “FOMO.”
But on a deeper emotional level I thought, who am I to say No? The word felt heavy to me. It felt like disappointment. I felt as though I was not only letting others down, but myself down if I uttered those two letters. People wanted to see me; they wanted to do things with me; they liked being around me and I believed I should be happy that this was the case.
I believed I should be grateful that people liked me because what if it was the opposite? What if my fear of not being liked/loved/accepted was a reality?
I simply couldn’t let that happen.
And that’s what kept me as a Yes person for many years - this deep rooted fear of disappointing others (and myself) and not being loved/accepted. When all signs within me pointed to the path of No, I said Yes to protect myself from feeling the pain of someone else’s disappointment. So instead, with every unaligned Yes that I committed to, I slowly but steadily depleted my own well of self love and chipped away at my inner compass, my guiding light.
I would do this until my well was dry and my compass was broken and the inevitable would happen, I would have a breakdown. It took three breakdowns until I realized that I could no longer live this way: I could no longer say Yes for the sake of others at the expense of my own health, happiness and sense of self.
But please do not misinterpret any of this. We can often stay small, unchallenged and stuck in life if we do not say Yes and push past fears and limiting beliefs; however, as important as that is, here are 4 reasons why there is beauty and power in also saying No.
1.) Makes Room for Self-Care
I am a huge advocate for self-care and not just in the physical realm. Working out, eating well, sleeping enough and whatever else is on your list are essential aspects to our well-being; however, I find that an emotional self-care ritual is where many of us are lacking. Just like we carve out time in our day to take care of our physical bodies, we must learn to do the same for our inner worlds.
Without that space we risk experiencing not only a disconnect within our hearts and bodies, but a disconnect with our own external lives as well (which I talk more about here). But how can we do that if we pack our days to the brim and max out every available hour? Either way, whether it’s physical or emotional, it’s important to understand what we can say No to in order to create space and time for our daily self-care (even if that self-care sometimes looks like not working out and actually allowing our bodies to rest).
2.) Helps to Prioritize
I can often experience a sense of overwhelm because of all the goals I want to achieve and things that I want to do and experience in a day. While I believe that life is meant to be lived to the fullest capacity, I don’t believe it needs to be done with the price of feeling overwhelmed and constantly on the brink of burning out. I get it though and sometimes life just happens and despite being on the edge of a meltdown, we feel we cannot say No. However, learning to prioritize means consistently checking in with ourselves (i.e look up from the electronic in front of you) and seeing if we need to say No not only to other people and plans but possibly even saying No to ourselves and our never ending list of tasks (which can often be more difficult).
3.) Provides Access to Clarity
…….Which leads me directly to #3 because the more that we are able to take the time (once again, no matter small it may be) to slow down, possibly say No to something on our to do list, take a breath, create some space and check in with ourselves, the easier it becomes to understand the next step we need to take in any aspect of our lives. It can actually increase efficiency by showing us what can be taken off of our plates whether physically, emotionally or mentally and help to give us the necessary clarity to see what is the most aligned action (or non-action) for ourselves.
4.) Builds Connection to your Intuition
We hear a lot about intuition these days - people’s personal success stories about it, which spiritual practices are best suited to strengthen it and how to live “your best life” by following it. The information out there about it is endless which is wonderful because intuition really is an essential aspect of living an authentic and personally aligned life. And the best part about intuition is that we all have it and while many spiritual practices can help cultivate easier access to it, the most fundamental of these is simply the practice of being still and quiet (and not looking at a screen). To do these things however, we must do what? We must actually create the space to be able to look within and listen which may at some point require uttering that sacred No to the outside world.
In the most basic and foundational way, giving ourselves the permission to say No creates space and freedom in our lives. Because we live in a “yes” society, it may not feel liberating at first; however, the more we practice the more it allows us to create boundaries both internally and externally. It can be a powerful declaration to ourselves, to others and to the Universe that we matter; that our time matters; that our health matters and that taking care of ourselves physically and emotionally is a priority.
If we can not take care of ourselves properly, how are we expected to take care of or help others effectively? Or rather, help them from a place of love and fullness instead of from a place of scarcity, obligation and depletion?
At the end of the day, we all want more time, more energy, more connection, more peace and a life that we love. We cannot achieve this though if we are in a constant state of motion and saying Yes to everything around us, even if it is not in alignment with ourselves. Understanding when we need to say No is absolutely essential in creating a structure within our lives that creates spaciousness and room/time to connect.
The personal power in saying No is especially important during the holiday season. Although it can be a joyous time, it can also be an emotional time. With pressures to over eat, over commit and over spend combined with the pressure to appear happy and merry (even if you don’t actually feel this way), it can be easy to fall into the Yes trap and find our internal state and physical bodies in complete disarray. It may not be easy, but both your anxiety levels and your digestive track will thank you for the occasional well placed No.
Like anything else in life, there must be a balance in its usage but I think we all need to give ‘No’ a little more credit for its necessary place in the creation of a more connected, balanced, harmonious and joyful life.