Eager to please
Harnessing the power of No is not as straightforward as it seems to be. From an early age onwards we are being taught the importance of saying yes. To be of service and to accommodate. To be there when someone needs us. We were also taught that saying No, denying someone their wish or request, makes us an inherently bad person, self-centered, lacking any empathy and brutally unconcerned with other people’s feelings and needs. In other words, we are in danger of becoming this one thing that most of us try to avoid like the plague: selfish.
We all are familiar with these situations: the neighbor asking us for a favor when we really just want to chill on the couch. Our spouse insisting to try out this fancy new restaurant when we don’t feel like going out. The boss asking us to take on yet another “important” project although we are overloaded already. We know intellectually that saying Yes to these requests is not something we have to do. Actually, we know it’s something we shouldn’t do. Yet we find ourselves once again stuck in a self-created situation we don’t like, by simply uttering that innocently-sounding word: YES.
So why does it seem so incredibly difficult to just say: NO? What is it we fear?
Nature vs Nurture
Altruism is a trait that is possibly hardwired into us. It means our ability and willingness to help strangers, without even expecting something in return. This may have, in ancient times, helped to ensure our survival as a species: No one could do it all by themselves, mutual help was essential. But what is probably a quite beneficial inherent characteristic of human beings then gets put through the mangler of childhood and conditioning.
Our conditioned minds define themselves primarily by how they are perceived by other people. Since most of us are highly unsure of who we really are, we love to ask the world to tell us. And the world to us, for the most part, is other human beings. Approval is something we all seek to varying degrees. And while this is not a problem per se, it can become one if the fear of rejection and the need for validation become dominant models in our internal world.
Beliefs about ourselves, acquired in childhood and long consciously forgotten, continue to work their dark magic into our everyday lives, making us do things we instinctively “know” are not right, not healthy, that don’t really feel good, but it seems impossible to resist the urge to act like that. If, for example, you learned in childhood that good boys/good girls get rewarded, accepted, loved and understood, would you not continue to be a good boy or a good girl even in your 30s or 40s? If you learned that saying No is impolite, rude, disrespectful and gets you in trouble, would you not try to avoid all these like the plague?
The power of No leads to a resounding YES
Remember this: Every time you say Yes to something or someone, you are saying No to something else. It is imperative to be crystal clear on what things you want to say YES to in your Life. The Yeses in your Life are the things that really matter to you, that nurture you, fulfill you, help you grow and be of service to yourself AND the world. By constantly saying Yes to things or people who do none of that for you, you are depriving yourself of opportunities and chances you can’t even imagine, because you will be busy seeking other people’s approval and then feeling bad for it. So turn the power of No into a tool that helps you reaffirm, empower and pursue your personal Yeses every single day.
And if you want to look at it again from an altruistic perspective, consider this: If you want to do good in the world – your inner and the outer – you can only do so from a position of inner strength and power. That means being clear on what has no place in your Life, and give those things a resounding No.
Curious about the concept of learning how to say NO and create healthy boundaries in the process? Drop me a line and let’s talk.