11th Feb 2019
Saying No So You Can Say Yes
Last week I had to say no to an opportunity I once really wanted. Actually I didn’t have to. But I chose to. It was a professional opportunity I find very meaningful and had dreamed of for ages. A friend of mine knew about this dream and was able, through her contacts, to create this opportunity for me. We hadn’t spoken of it for a while but suddenly it was there and mine if I wanted it.
I had an instant reaction in my body when she told me. Yoga and meditation train you to become more sensitive to bodily responses, to listen to them and to enquire after them. So I did. I don’t like to do things by halves. This opportunity deserved all my attention and energy. It would require me to SHOW UP in a very particular way each week. On my only real weekday off.
When confronted with a choice I always hear the words of certain teachers in my head: the late Dr. Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra and Oprah. All three luminaries suggest you ‘meditate on it’ before making a decision.
So that’s what I did for about 24 hours. My head knew instantly. My heart just needed to catch up. Because like many people, women especially, I hate to disappoint others. And I had FOMO. What if I never got this chance again? And doubt. What if I’m making the wrong choice? So I waited until I was clear and certain.
There was a time I’d say YES to everyone and everything. To get ahead, to make a name for myself, to never let anyone down, because I was in scarcity mindset, to avoid facing reality (yes you can use work to avoid your life exactly like people use substances). I was anxious, scrambling, doing lots of things in a sub-standard way, my health, personal practice and relationships suffered. It’s taken me 39 years but … fuck that.
I chose no last week, thoughtfully and respectfully, so I could say YES to time, space, energy. And so I could honour fully the things I’m already deeply committed to and deserve my full attention: my important relationships, my work, wellbeing and my writing.
I decided and then had to tell my friend. The temptation to justify my decision was strong. Maybe saying no without an explanation is next-level boundary setting? The most beautiful thing was when I told her I felt bad she said, “Well that’s not on me. I’m not making you feel bad. That’s for you to work out.” Another perfect demonstration of boundary setting. She wasn’t going to let me dump my shit on her.
Boundaries are tricky. They require courage and a strong sense of self.
But we have to start somewhere. Notice this week where you are always saying yes when you really mean no. See what that feels like in your body. What is behind your inability to say no? Take your time before making decisions. And then own them.
What have you learned about saying yes and no?