Learning to say ‘NO’.

This week I have been ask to think about why I find it so hard to say no…

I have not really thought about this too much before, which is probably why I keep getting myself into a mess but actually I am truly awful at saying no, I mean really, really bad at it bad at it. I have some talents but saying no is definitely not one of them. As a result I take on too much responsibility and I always seem to be doing too much. The solution is not as easy as just stopping, or starting to say no more often, I don’t even know how to slow down, never mind stop. Saying no is not something that comes naturally to me, in fact the more I think about it the more I see that it is actually something which is painfully difficult for me to do.

This morning I had my first appointment for CBT, that’s where the question came from. The doctor recommended it as a therapy after I reached crisis / burnout point back in February. Previous to that particular crisis things had been ticking along just about OK, with me keeping most of the balls in the air most of the time and most of the people happy most of the time. Then Charlie hit a phase of not sleeping through the night any more. For the 6 weeks after Christmas he managed to wake us up at some point every single night. Once awake I would lie there worrying about the million things I had to do the next day. It didn’t take long of me not sleeping before I found I could no longer keep all the balls in the air. I hit crisis point and in the end I had a meltdown at work, precisely because I had failed to say no to doing a job which I not only did not want to do but which I knew would have a negative impact on the rest of the family for days afterwards.

So here I am trying to put things back together again and figure out why it is that I get to the point that I am doing way to much and try to learn from it so that I can change my pattern of behaviour.

So far here are some of the reasons I have come up with…

Thinking Positive

I tend to think positive and I like to have a ‘Can-do’ attitude to life. I honestly believe that nothing is impossible, with prayer and hard work anything can be achieved. This is good in most situations, and has served me well over the years but unfortunately I have taken it to the extreme. My first instinct when I am asked to do anything is to think through all the possible ways that I can make it happen, I do this before I think through the consequences, or the implications. Often I have said yes in my head before I have even processed the question.

Putting others first

I often put others first, all mothers do this with their kids, but I do it with other people too. I find it really hard to make myself number one priority, I find it hard to spend money on myself but easy to spend money on friends or the kids or the house, but never me. I tend to see other people as being far more worthy of my time, effort and energy than I am.

I am a people pleaser

I love to meet other peoples needs, to do jobs for others, help others out when I can. I find it easy to empathise with other peoples situations and often end up carrying the burden for other people needlessly. I get satisfaction when I know that I have done something useful for another person.

My primary love language is ‘acts of service’. I feel loved and that my needs are being met when someone goes out of their way to do something helpful for me, and I show love most easily through helping others, its the way I connect with the world.

Guilt

When I have to say no, either when a yes would be completely impossible or I have really worked up the courage to put my foot down over something, I feel guilty afterwards, for a long time. I feel bad for the people for whom my no has had any kind of negative impact on their lives. Even if the decision is final I still try to find ways in my imagination that I can make it happen. This is exhausting and pointless but I often do it anyway.

I feel responsible

Its part of who I am, the oldest sibling, a founding trustee, a manager, a parent, a teacher, a landlady, a neighbour, a friend, a leader, a community champion. I take responsibility for so much stuff, I find it incredibly difficult to just let go, I find it really hard to “not care”

I have strong role models

I have incredible, amazing and strong women in my life as my role models. I have learnt by example that I can be a leader, that I can achieve that nothing can stand in my way. I am extremely grateful to these women, especially my mum, and Gran who have always shown incredible tenacity and strength in the face of adversity, and who lead our family by example.

But now I have to find a balance and I have to find it soon. I have to practice saying no, so I’m going to apologise to those of you who know me in real life, especially if I have to practice my new word with you, and I am sorry that for some people that will mean change. I am learning that when scripture tells us

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” it doesn’t mean that I should do all things.