Say NO to Your YES

Over-commitment is a thing. It’s a real, live, angst & guilt ridden, draining & resent building, thing. We are in an era where busy is praised over balance, and across the board, we’re paying dearly for it financially, physically and emotionally. I can’t even count how many clients I’ve seen over the years—students, professionals, partners, women, adult children of dysfunctional families—who consistently over-commit themselves to others and their work (or perception of others and their work), while under-committing, or not committing at all! to themselves. Asked to hang out or help out? "Yes." Asked to work an extra hour or an extra shift? "Yes." Asked to lend money or your time? "Yes." While it can feel great to feel needed and trusted, and feels good to be able to come through in a clutch, what can come next and fast if we don’t manage it well, is burnout, anxiety and resent.

You can LITERALLY become tired of being there for others, being social, having to put clothes on and leave your house. You feel anxious as the time comes approaches to do something you’ve committed to. You get annoyed easier at things that didn’t used to annoy you. You don’t want to answer your phone, open that email past the subject line or respond to that text message. So you don’t. You’ve taught yourself that the only way to not feel anxious, resentful, or exhausted is to just avoid. Newsflash—DOESN’T WORK. Now you feel guilty about avoiding, ashamed that you’re not a better __________, anxious that you’ve messed up and don’t know how to recover without being scolded first. Sound familiar?

So why, WHY, Dr. A, is this happening? Well, there are some common reasons that this issue might plague you. Here are some things to think about:

1. Fear of Rejection. “If I don’t say “Yes,” I’ll lose my friend, lover, job, ________.” Somewhere along the lines of your life story, you learned that your relationships were founded on your ability to do for others vs. being who you are. You say yes to avoid someone being mad at you and to make sure to consistently prove your value to them by being ever-available and ever-resourceful.

Maybe you want to be irreplaceable to them. (cue Beyonce)

2. Codependency. Oftentimes, doers don’t understand themselves or their value/place in the world without actively, physically & emotionally, doing for others. Typically taught at an early age by our childhood relationships, doers quickly learn to seek environments that need them; need them to set themselves aside to keep the peace, to make a loved one feel better, to be loved, etc. In subconsciously seeking these environments out as they get older, doers get to keep practicing and mastering their craft in the world and feel good about it because they do it sooooooo well! The inevitable pitfall in this, is that because doers are so busy doing, they teach others that that’s all they can do—DO for someone else. So what do you think all these others learn to do in turn? TAKE.

Givers need to set limits, because takers never will.

Doers/Givers lose their sense of self because their constant focus is on what others need or want from them. When we teach others that they come first, they WILL follow suit and prioritize you 2nd, 3rd, even last on their list—the same exact place you put yourself.

3. Fear of disappointing others. This is like a subheading to rejection and codependency, but more digestible for some. Someone being disappointed in us can feel uncomfortable and downright terrible.  But let me tell you something: disappointment is a part of life. No one escapes life without disappointing someone or being disappointed IN someone. Even our closest, most trusted, self identified “person” (à la Grey’s Anatomy’s Meredith & Christina) will inevitably not be there for us in some way, in some time of need (or want). And. It’s. Oh. Kay. It’s actually healthy! Because we’re all different, we all have our own lives, we all make mistakes, we’re all HUMAN and we have other things to focus on to keep ourselves balanced.

Anxiety in saying “NO,” stems from the assumption or fear that if someone is disappointed in us, then the relationship is irreparable. The irrational thought is that if we say “NO,” to the party this weekend, then so-and-so just will not understand that sometimes you HAVE to do you, and that you really wish you could make it, but just can’t. Guess what? If so-and-so can’t understand that you can’t always meet their needs/wants, then so-and-so NEEDS TO GO.

I want you to practice saying “NO,” this week (Start with a day if that sentence really skyrocketed your anxiety. We can take this slow).  Even if you can go, want to go, can help out, say “NO,” anyway. I want you to get used to saying “NO,” and seeing what you feel and that you’re able to feel whatever that is, and still be OK. Do something else with your time—clean your room, take an extra long shower, go to bed early—whatever YOU want--because it’s YOUR time. Practicing the art of saying “NO” gives you your life back.

You’ll be surprised at what you’re able to do with your life once you take the steps to claim it!