December 31, 2021

The Power of “No”: Why I Stopped Being a Yes Person—for Good.

As we approach the new year, I find myself reflecting once again.

I get extremely nostalgic this time of year—reflective, contemplative, and sometimes a little melancholic.

What day is it?

A year in review. It’s an opportunity to look back on the year I’ve just lived and take in all that transpired in 52 weeks. And holy crap, it’s been a lot.

It’s also a time to gain clarity on what I’m working on building. What I’m creating. Where I want to put my time, attention, and effort.

So, in my reflections of 2021 and years before, a big theme that I will be carrying forward into 2022 is the power of saying “no.”

As a reformed people pleaser, I can confidently say that saying no has been one of the most liberating practices in my life.

At first, it felt uncomfortable. It was hard to say no. I would find myself wanting to explain why I couldn’t fulfill whatever expectation was set for me or request that was being asked of me. There is a difference between the two (neither of which requires my response to be yes).

Learning to say no set me free. Plain and simple.

Being a yes person, someone who’s always there, I found myself living a life that wasn’t fully mine. It was influenced by others and an annual cycle of obligations and expectations for special occasions and gatherings.

Knowing I would disappoint people kept me continually giving of myself in ways that didn’t feel good and right for me. When you learn to say no, you have to get comfortable with reactions that involve disappointment and some anger. I remind myself it’s not really about me. It’s about the expectations others put on me—expectations that I didn’t ask for.

I had to break the cycle so I could reclaim my life and start shaping it myself—with my vision in mind.

Also, people will surprise you. They’ll understand and not require a big explanation, but a simple “no, I’m not able to…” will suffice, which has made me more gracious in accepting someone else’s nos.

I trust that others know what they need, and I don’t require an explanation or an apology.

What I’m carrying forward into 2022 is empowerment in my yes. My f*ck yes!

In order to say yes and stand firmly grounded in my truth, I first know what a solid yes feels like in my body. And then I have to master the power of no.

When we stand in our light, others are drawn to us. I know that as I have grown within myself and I radiate this outwardly, I receive more messages from people I don’t know telling me they feel a connection to me, wanting to communicate with me. And I don’t doubt that they do. I know what that feels like. Unfortunately, I can’t entertain every conversation and be present in my life, with my children, with my loved ones.

I only have so much time and energy in a given day. If I said yes to everyone asking for my presence and attention, there would be nothing left. So, I have to practice saying no a lot. And sometimes it’s still hard. Sometimes I know it’s going to hurt someone’s feelings, or they’re going to make assumptions and create stories that aren’t necessarily true or even make it mean something about themselves.

The empathic part of me feels the pain of that, but my boundary is that I can’t/won’t own how someone else perceives my no.

Starting with social media, which I think is a big one for so many of us. When I get a friend request, I can accept or decline. I don’t want just anybody having access to my personal life. Not all of my posts are public, and I try to be mindful of what I share about my children. Their consent matters to me.

I do accept friend requests from people I don’t know, but generally we have friends in common. I see that as a web of connection and that’s how it grows and that’s how we help each other.

Sometimes I say no and sometimes I block people because their energy (vibe) doesn’t jive with mine.

When people message me and guilt me for not responding, I sometimes talk to them about their expectations or sometimes I just block them.

Within my social media feed, I get to determine what content I consume. I see this as part of my daily diet. So, I have friends who live differently or have beliefs that I don’t necessarily share. While I respect their right to believe what they want, I don’t need to consume it myself, so I unfollow.

It’s not so much about trying to avoid being triggered, though I would say we can only handle so much triggering in one day. I don’t mind investigating triggers. It’s important to perform that self-inquiry process to gain more self-awareness, and triggers are a great way to stimulate that.

I can revisit these decisions anytime.

My social media feeds provide inspiration, realness, vulnerability, musings, beauty, motivation, intellectual stimulation, insight, challenges, opportunity for engagement, connection, thoughtfulness.

Also, in general, I feel it’s okay to change your mind!

It’s okay to say yes and then change your mind after gathering more information.

And it’s okay to say no and revisit that decision.

If you keep going back and forth or aren’t sure, maybe find a way to sit in that liminal space between and get real quiet and clear with yourself.

This year I started saying no to fear-based decision-making. I’m carrying that into 2022.

I’m not demonizing fear by the way. It’s a necessary emotion. It’s just not a state that I want to guide my choices.

In 2022, I’m saying yes to the things that light me up. The things that empower me. The things that align with my goals.

I’m saying yes to creating the new—a new way of being on this planet together. Our fate doesn’t have to look like “Don’t Look Up!” (Great movie, by the way; we should take a look at ourselves.)

New Years offers an invitation to get clear about that which pulls us out of integrity. We are empowered when we say no to those who continue to violate our expressed boundaries. I’m saying no to anything that stands in the way of me being the version of myself I want to be, that feels most true to me.

Imagine what a world we could create if we said yes to the things that make us feel good inside. That make us feel strong, but not in a “I’m bigger and better than you” kind of way. Strong inside of ourselves. In our hearts. In our guts. Strong in body and soul.

Imagine what a world we could create if we said no to divisiveness, othering, shaming, scapegoating, abuse, greed.

We get to make choices with these aspects in mind every single day. Multiple times a day.

To me, 2020 was a year of setting boundaries. Who gets to be in our space? Who are we going to give our time and energy to? What feels safe for us?

Then, in 2021, we got to put those boundaries into practice in our relationships. We deepened connections with some and lost connection with others. We did a lot of pruning.

Heading into 2022, I sense that the effort we’ve put into carving out the path we’ve chosen is going to start bearing fruit. Connections with growth, and we will be transformed in ways we can’t possibly anticipate now. Well, we can anticipate them, but leave room for surprise because we can’t see every single perspective.

If you got this far, Happy New Year to you and yours!

What is calling your name in the coming year? What are you wanting for yourself? What needs to be removed to clear the way for that to be realized? With that in mind, use your will to choose and start creating.


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