She was young when we met—and had lived more life in her few years than many adults.
By the time she made it to me, she was deeply wounded after years of abandonment that was then followed by the deepest type of betrayal a young girl can experience.
She could never say “no” to her peers and was constantly in trouble because of it. The predatory personality types took advantage of her inability to refuse their schemes while the manipulative types brought her into their games and often, pinned the blame on her.
In one group session, we discussed her inability to say no.
She quite literally was unable to say no—it was almost like the word itself choked her. We talked about how sometimes, when things are forcefully taken from us, we lose our ability to speak out. When you are a child whose “no” is never respected, the message that your word has no power becomes loud and clear.
I suggested that she start taking back her “no” in this safe space. With a skeptical expression, she agreed to play along. And so she did. She looked at each of us and began to tell us no. The group giggled initially and it seemed like a big joke, but the energy shifted. The group slowly lost its mirth and began to grow more somber.
The laughs dissipated, the awkwardness decreased and the group began to realize the seriousness of what was happening.
Suddenly, on her knees and with fists clenched, she yelled out “No!” in a voice that seemed as though it was being ripped from her soul. Tears began streaming down her face as she rocked, holding herself and continued shouting “no.” The rest of us sat with her, shaken but holding the sacred space we sat in together. I looked around at the faces surrounding me and many of them were tear streaked, and filled with pain. My own eyes were filled with tears—both for the pain she had carried and for the bravery she was embracing.
When the group ended, we parted regretfully because we all knew something magical had happened. She was different after that—it wasn’t a miracle cure but there was a shift in her awareness that she did have a voice and that she could say no. What was taken from her as a child was now back in her hands, and she knew she could use it. Her gift to the group was that everyone in there realized that we also had that power.
I’ve often wondered since then how many of us have lost our “no” along the way.
When our boundaries aren’t respected, our opinions devalued, bodies invaded and feelings mocked, it’s easy to believe we just can’t say no. But—without the ability to say a powerful no, your ability to say a meaningful yes is diminished as well.
To be fully grounded in your power, you must—must—take back your no.
No can be a complete sentence. You don’t have to explain, defend or justify why you say no to anything or anyone. It’s a fundamental human right to decline anything that doesn’t serve your soul’s evolution.
Tap into that deep space inside that knows what your heart craves and what it rejects. Allow that voice to speak.
Go out into a field and shout no to all the times you couldn’t say it in the past. Let your voice shake the mountains. Rage for all the times your no was taken in the past. Weep for the times you said yes when your soul was screaming no.
And when the pain passes, rest in the silence and know that your “no” is yours again. Whether you use it like a whisper or a shout is up to you—but it’s fully yours again.
Go forth in peace and power.
Author: Lisa Vallejos
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Porsche Brosseau/Flickr