Saying No: A Tool To Serve a Greater Purpose
I woke up with the lyrics to Defying Gravity stuck in my head.
Something has changed within me Something is not the same I'm through with playing by the rules Of someone else's game Too late for second-guessing Too late to go back to sleep It's time to trust my instincts Close my eyes and leap!
I spent Friday and Saturday in Seattle, seeing friends in person. Everybody was unmasked (and vaccinated). I gave hugs freely. It felt so natural and so weird and unnatural at the same time. It was as if one day I couldn't do any of this, and the next day, I could. Here's where the song lyrics come in: Something had changed. I felt different. I couldn't put my finger on it yesterday. Just as I experienced anxiety around being with people at the beginning of the pandemic, I felt that familiar gurgle in my stomach of anxiety seeing people as we make our way out of the pandemic. I've had a year of boundaries put in place for me. I didn't have to practice saying no as often because there were not as many opportunities to do so. I just... didn't see as many people. I'm introverted by nature, so I like my space. I'm sure like most of us this past year and a half though, being restricted took it's toll. Even introverts need connection and time with others! I felt ready to see my friends, to make plans. As the plans have begun, though, as the summer has started to fill with activities, I felt the knot forming in my stomach. I didn't want to go to everything. I found myself being much more cautious about what I was saying yes to.
I had to start saying no.
As a recovering people pleaser, this is no easy task. I want to see everybody and do everything and it often comes at a cost: my sanity and vitality. So, I've learned over the years to practice saying no. I got pretty good at it. Then, the pandemic made it pretty automatic, and I got a little rusty. That muscle got a little looser. Saying no felt strange, scary even. Yet, back to the lyrics of the song, something had changed. I wasn't the same person I was last March. I spent a year learning to trust myself on a deep, deep level, and it was time to take the leap. To put into practice everything I'd learned. There's a piece of methodology in Baptiste Yoga that we call Be a YES. When you heard these words, you likely thought of Yes, Man, or saying YES to everything. Really, though, Being a YES is a YES a creation, not a concept. It's putting our attention on what we want to have happen and being for it. It's not saying yes to everything, it's knowing what we are a Yes for in our lives, and saying NO as a way of facilitating, and leaning into the greater YES. If I am a YES for community, I am a no for gossip and divisiveness. If I am a YES for creating time and space for reflection, I am a NO for cramming too much into a weekend.
NO is necessary to make the big things happen in my life. NO is a requirement.
No is an empowering tool I can use to keep me focused, undistracted, and undeterred. It's a clear boundary that says, this is what I stand for. It's a declaration. It's me standing up, speaking my truth, and not backing down. All of that is wonderful. All of that is also terrifying. What makes NO feel scary to me is disappointing others. Missing out on fun events. Fear that in saying NO I'll miss some grand opportunity or be left behind. Fear of showing myself and others no approving or liking it. Here's the thing: all of those things might happen from me saying NO. It's all very possible.The question is:
Is missing out on those things worth the cost of straying from the bigger picture that I'm up to?
No. It's not. That might mean I get left behind or I miss out on a fun memory or I feel like people are mad at me for not coming or I lose people or whatever else. At the end of the day, I want people in my life who will understand and respect my no, and me theirs. So, as we ALL move into and navigate uncharted territory for what feels like the millionth time, remember that you are a changed person. We all are. Ask yourself: What are you a YES for, and what does that mean you might need to say NO to? Then don't second guess yourself or back down, trust your instincts and take the leap. Say NO as a way of fulfilling on the bigger picture of your life. And know we are all practicing this, so it's good to give ourselves (and each other) a whole lotta grace.