I was the ‘yes’ girl.
Of course, I’ll help you out by giving you a lift to wherever you need to go.
Of course, I’m free to drop whatever I’m doing to meet you in 20 minutes for a coffee.
Of course I’m available to listen to the latest episode of the guy you like and is treating you badly and what he’s said this time. Even though it’s my only evening free this week.
I did it because I thought that’s what being a good friend was.
I did it because I “really didn’t mind.”
I did it because I thought if I didn’t I would end up being a loner.
I did it because I thought I would become a bad person if I started refusing to help other people.
It was always what other people needed.
I did it because I wanted to be a good friend to my friends.
But I didn’t realise I also had to be a good friend to me.
I had to learn to say no.
And I know, you feel bad when you say no.
You feel guilty and awkward and it doesn’t come out right.
Try this: imagine the conversation and add another you into the mix.
“No unfortunately, I can’t come, I’m writing a short story, with Claire.”
“I have to say No, Claire needs sleep.”
“Claire needs some time out.”
“Claire doesn’t like hanging out with you when you’re being vulgar, drunk or arrogant so Claire is going to break up with you.”
By talking about myself in the third person, I had a friend and advocate for my soul’s desires, which at that point were weak.
I think of my soul at that time like a half-person, without a body who needs a full boded human to do things for them, like Wormtail does for Voldemort in Harry Potter. [Just to be clear, this is the extent of the analogy… neither you nor I am like Voldemort!]
We have to be the full-bodied person for our souls.
Our little souls, so long ignored, pressed down by the demands of other people, the times and situations which we think we have to say yes to everything; we have to be the last one at our desks every evening, we have to be good daughters and friends and get mortgages and proper jobs and not say what we really think and kiss aunties at Christmas—oh go on, it doesn’t really cost you anything and it means so much to her—without our ’no’s’, those little souls diminish, wither, fade, deplete and flop.
They flop, every time we say YES, when we secretly mean (and inwardly scream), NO.
We think we have to help others whenever we have the opportunity, regardless of what we need, because helping other people is far more important than our own needs.
Here is the truth.
We don’t have to say yes to anything.
We are responsible for our own choices. We decide what we do, when we do it.
You are not responsible for everyone else’s life.
You are responsible for yours.
I’m not saying ‘be a bitch.’
I’m not saying there won’t be consequences. You can start small and adjust.
I’m saying, practice conscious, deliberate, value-aligned choosing with what your soul thinks is right. The deep deep longing of your heart. Not what you think you ‘should’do to pass as good citizen, private-school educated, girl with a brain who could do ‘any job you like’.
There is no exam for this one. I can understand, though, sometimes it feels like there is.
These are women who know what they’re talking about. Who are soulful and on your side. As am I but thought you’d want at least a second opinion.
Your soul will grow when you honour it. And as space and time is currently finite and this is how the Universe works, to honour your soul it needs, time, space and money put in its direction. Investment.
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Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: elephant archives