Have you heard about the ‘Terrible Twos’? This is the time when a child becomes defiant, throws lots of tantrums and wants their own way. Parents begin to clamp down on the child’s behaviour and instead of the child hearing, “that’s so cute” the child is hearing No!!! over and over again. Don’t touch that. No, you can’t have that No, No! No!!!
As a grown adult, do you have a challenge saying the word no? Not to your children you say? Only sometimes? But what about to your boss, your partner, your colleague, persons in authority?
Often times we were brought up learning that although we were told no, the correct answer when we were asked to do something was — Yes Mom/Dad/Teacher/Pastor. And probably we were also trained to say it meekly, as a sign of our humility. So, we grew up as considerate, accommodating adults who looked out for others and put the needs of other before our own.
Now compound this with the act of being sexually wounded or assaulted. You now have a person of power who has taken your rights away and basically told you No, your body is not your own.
But when is enough – enough? And more importantly, as you continuously say yes to others, being considerate and pleasing, are you in effect saying no to yourself?
Let’s look at 4 times when it is important for you to say No.
1. Stress Loading
If you are placed in a situation where saying yes makes you feel over-burdened and stressed out, you need to take a second look. If the stress is …that’s way too hard, I’ve never done it before or other thoughts of not being enough… then go for it! Stretch!!!! You can rise to the challenge and do it.
Know your limitations. Put in place your own boundaries. Helping others is important, but you should take care of yourself first. This sometimes means saying no to friends and family, in order to maintain an optimal level of health and wellness for yourself.
If you feel you cannot afford to say no and that leads to elevated stress and feelings of overwhelm then beware! People who cannot say no are usually the first to fall victim to chronic stress.
2. Feelings of Obligation
Argh! This is by far the most common cause of resentment in persons. You are basically being “forced” to say yes whether or not you want to. Maybe the person asking did a major favor for you in life some time back so you feel a sense of obligation to always be on beck and call for whatever that person requests of you. But you need to ask yourself, “When is my bill paid in full?” Will you continue to feel a forced sense of obligation forever?
This constant obligatory situation builds resentment, and resentment can literally make you physically ill! I should know!
You need to let your friend, family member – be it parent, sibling or partner know that it is your time now.
Is what is being asked of you that important? Does it have to be done now? Is there someone else who is better suited or able to handle that particular situation? Discuss the options with the person. You have to put yourself first. If they can’t understand that; if your No is trivialized, laughed at, or made an issue of; it may be best to sever ties and remove that person from your life or better yet, remove yourself from their life.
Yes, I know this is hard, but which is more important – your mental health or a toxic relationship?
3. Enabling Bad Behavior
It has happened to all of us before, from a kid asking for something, hearing no and slowly breaking you down, to friends begging you for a loan to cover unnecessary spending, to your partner taking you for granted and demanding a loan that you know won’t be repaid.
While it may seem ok or insignificant in the beginning, what happens is that:
a) you begin to feel used, abused and afraid to speak up about it
b) it enables and encourages bad behavior and disrespect over the long haul.
When you say NO, it needs to stay that way. You will gain infinite respect for having unbendable beliefs and even though you may get called names, you will be looked upon as someone who sticks to their convictions – which makes you reliable and a pillar of strength.
4. Not Speaking Up
I know there are times when you sit quietly while something (or someone) brings your blood to boiling point, yet you show no outward emotions. This can range from a boss berating a colleague in the office, watching a child or less abled person being bullied, or a random stranger who finds it appropriate to assert their dominance over you.
Take a deep breath. By allowing this behaviour, you are in essence curling into a fetal position. I understand this. You don’t want to get hurt again. However, until you take a stand you will not get the respect that you deserve. Open your mouth, demand your respect and speak up for what you believe in.
How Do You Get to No?
May I suggest therapy? Therapy is a safe place for you to vent, for you to ask for help and for you to get the support you need. During therapy you will learn a lot about yourself and discover that you are much stronger than you think you are. You will get help to understand and work through upsetting or confusing events that you have experienced.
Living through sexual wounding, trauma or abuse is difficult. It affects your ability to say no to others. It may also cause you to say a lot of no’s to yourself.
Today, take a step in your own favour. Say no to the negative voices that keep talking in your head.
NO is not a bad word. It has been interdicted by society and the illusion that women must always say yes to the male and the person in power/authority. Let’s change that. You are not ok saying yes, all the time, especially when it deprives you of doing things that you really wanted to do like spending time at home, with family or pet or just curling up with a good book. Your personal time is your own. It is not ok to have it taken from you.
You need to look after yourself before you look after anyone else. Your terrible twos are over or are they just beginning? Begin saying NO today. It is such a powerful word.