Are you over-committed? Do you feel as if you’re stretched too thin, and you hate yourself for not having the guts to say no?
As a person who is almost pathologically responsible – a textbook reaction to growing up with domestic abuse – I think I have a harder time saying no than “normal” women. But recently I’ve been more careful, and practicing saying no, and thinking about it a lot, and I realized this shocking truth:
I feel like I’m going to get in trouble if I say no.
By whom? What kind of trouble? How could that possibly happen? Hell if I know. It’s just a general feeling of gloom, or guilt. Very uncomfortable. It’s probably a logical reaction to how we are raised: to be good girls (or boys). As you mature, you should be able to make the choice without it being so fraught. Think of how great that would feel. As if you had the sole authority to decide what you will and won’t do.
I imagined Anna Wintour, famously frosty editor in chief of Vogue, making a decision. She’d say to her assistant: “Tell them no. Next item.” And that would be that. The assistant would scamper out of the room, and Ms. Wintour would return to her work without further thought, worry, second-guessing or hand-wringing.
How empowering it would be to keep that mental picture in our heads – our Inner Anna.
As a result of this fabulous moment of clarity, I came up with a mental checklist for being able to say no.
- Do I have a concrete obligation to say yes? I.e. did I promise something previously?
- If I’ve led the person on, can I ethically get out of it now?
- Is it essential to my family, my health, my career, my personal development, or world peace, to say yes?
- Remember to be positive and kind when saying no.
Here are some thoughts to bolster your courage under fire:
- Say this: Whose choice is it? Whose life is it? Imagine being able to always say no whenever you want to.
- Envision Anna dealing with the issue. Caveat: See #4 above.
- Remind yourself that you are old enough to benefit from your experience. You’re not a weak little kid, unsure of yourself or the way the world works. When you answer questions 1-3 above, you won’t be guessing. You will know.
I hope this is helpful.