I had my birthday a couple weeks ago.
My gift to myself this year is simply the permission to say “no.”
I am a yes-woman, through and through. When I am asked to do something, just the thought of saying no gives me the shakes. I am not sure where this anxiety comes from, but I can assure you that exists.
Just before the Epic Vacation, I turned in an article for TOFW.com about just this very topic, because it’s been on my mind an awful lot. (I’ve already linked it on a previous post, but if you missed it and want to read it, it can be found here.)
Basically, this summer I said yes to one too many things and I couldn’t handle it. While I was trying to juggle everything, I totally forgot about a lesson I was supposed to teach (one that was out of the ordinary on my schedule) and I got completely reamed for it.
Now, I don’t do confrontation. That gives me more anxiety than saying “no” to someone does, and is perhaps the actual root of my issues with the word. The only people I am comfortable confronting and/or saying “no” to are my husband and my children. And I realize how little sense that makes when you think about who my highest priorities should be.
So, after that little incident with my lessons, I vowed that I am no longer going to pretend I can do everything. I realized that, once and for all, I am going to have to learn how to simply say “no” to people. Believe me, I’ve tried. This is not a new problem, nor have I just discovered its existence. But it is time to actually have the courage to say it.
And I have.
Wanna know how?
I said I couldn’t sing in Stake Conference in October. But that kind of doesn’t count because my husband has a gig out of town during Stake Conference and I’m not driving 4 hours each way by myself with the kids.
I have turned down two students this week already, so that makes me feel pretty good. But, I still have a larger load than ever for the upcoming semester, so I’m not sure that really counts either. But I’m working on it.
Finally, I had agreed to teach a class at the university this semester, and when I started to realize how much work it was going to be (for not so much money), I started stressing over it. I couldn’t bring myself to back out of it, so I hoped that I would work on lecture plans while on vacation and get as much done as I could (yeah right, like that was gonna happen).
I got an email while we were on the cruise ship regarding this class. They told me that there was no way they could schedule it within my availability and had slated the class from 4-6 on Thursdays. Now, my availability was pretty big—any day, any time before 3:30 pm—and I thought that it seemed silly they couldn’t find a way to work with that. Of course, I could have still taught on Thursday afternoons if I wanted to—the only thing keeping me from doing so was my children.
Even after I calmly told myself that I couldn’t possibly teach this class anymore, I still had major anxiety about emailing back and telling them I couldn’t do it. It took me several hours to garner up the courage and to just stop thinking of all the ways I could make it work because I had to remember that my burning yes was for my girls, not for a university course that many people are qualified to teach.
As soon as I clicked “send,” an enormous weight was lifted from my shoulders. I didn’t even realize how much this particular “yes” had been weighing me down, and I was so relieved to have it gone! Every once in a while I start to panic that maybe the university wasn’t able to find a replacement for me and I’ll have to find a way to do it anyway, and then I remember that I do not have to do anything. And I have permission to tell people “no.”
I’m hoping that I will eventually be able to do it without first breaking into a cold sweat. I’m also hoping that all of the yeses I said before I resolved to stop it will not kill me off this semester.
I guess the next thing I need to learn to do is back out of things graciously. But, that kind of makes me want to throw up, so I’ll have to worry about that once I’ve mastered the word “no.”
One thing at a time.