No is Not a Bad Word
“You can be a good person with a kind heart and still say no.” – Lori Deschene.
While I agree wholeheartedly with this quote in theory, it’s been a work in progress to actually believe it and put the word “no” to use in a loving and empowering way.
I don’t know about you, but as far back as I can remember, the, “Be a good girl, be helpful, be a good and kind neighbour,” ideology was indoctrinated in me. Deep into my DNA. While yes, I do aspire to do be giving and helpful—because after all, we are all in this together and we all need help from time to time—I realize that the balance to that deep-rooted belief system was never put in place. To say “no” was often met with words like “selfish”, “self-involved”, “inconsiderate” or even “why not?”. Saying “no”, being firm on my boundaries, even though an act of self-love, felt like it was not allowed. For a long time, it was laced with guilt, shame, and self-loathing. It was dripping in feelings of being less-than and fear of letting someone else down. The weird thing is that I was respectful of people when they said no to me. I understood on some level that it wasn’t my place to ask, “Why not?” So it was from that lens that I started to talk to myself. If it’s okay for others to say no, then it’s okay for me too.
Using the word “no” started tentatively. Dabbling with “maybe” as a safe bet allowed me to avoid a direct “no”. The ambiguity of “maybe”, however, made me even more uncomfortable and actually made me feel worse because it implied that the final decision was still to come. This meant having to agonize over the “no” even more. So, out came the word “no”. When I first started to use it, I always had the back story and the reason for the “no” spill out along with the “no”. As though to explain the “no” would assuage my guilt and prove somehow to the other person that I was still a good person. It’s interesting how much power I was giving others in that. That again, my worth was in the hands of the other. Now I can confidently say, “No, sorry I can’t,” without feeling like I have to add the back story.
It hasn’t been easy by any means. It’s still uncomfortable sometimes. I am especially bothered by people who come to the door and prey on people’s innate desire to be helpful as their tactic. It’s crazy when I step back and look at that. I don’t even know you. You came to my home, my sanctuary, and are asking me for things and giving me grief about my “no”. It’s actually quite disrespectful on their part. It makes me realize that I need to ask the question, “Do I care if you don’t like me for saying ‘no’?”, because if I am honest that need for external validation still creeps up. Less than before, though there is still room to improve on that. I now more frequently realize that a “no”, when coming from the place of having tuned into self, what I need, what I can actually do, and what I actually want to do is not only liberating but empowering. It also sends a really strong message back to myself that says, “I love you so much that I will say ‘no’ when things are not in alignment.” “I love you so much that I will allow you the time to rest, recuperate or focus your time and energy on the things that really matter.” I love this quote by Steve Jobs: “It’s only by saying ‘no’ that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”
- NO is self-care.
- NO is allowed.
- NO is not a bad word.
- NO will set me free.
- NO is saying YES to my healing.
And, when I am giving from a place of overflowing healing then that NO was well worth it. For everyone.