As a woman who wears many hats, wife, mom, daughter, friend, business owner, volunteer, and writer, to name a few, I am constantly asked to do many tasks. With each request, I have to assess how the new proposal will impact the others. I have to determine what is required and how much it will take to complete the request. I have to assess when the task needs to be completed. I also have to determine how this request will enhance what I am currently doing and plan to do in the future. There was a time when I received a request to complete a task that I would simply say YES.; I would then try to figure out the rest of the details later. I did not want to disappoint anyone, and it felt good to be asked to do specific tasks. I felt needed.
Why Can I Not Say No?
However, my continuous YES led me to fatigue and handling tasks that I did not enjoy. I found myself not having as much personal time as I wanted. I was constantly on the go with an unending To-Do List. While completing a requested task at work that I knew was not challenging my mind or helping me grow, I realized I had to be better about saying NO. Other coworkers said no, so why not me? I had to ponder that because I felt like I could not say no. The task needed to get completed. I felt guilty if the job was not finished. Who is affected, and what are the consequences of this unfinished task? I felt uneasy with all of these concerns to consider. Yet, I did not think of the impact accepting the additional assignment would have on me. While I said yes to the requestor, I said no to ME!
My Needs are Valid & Important.
As I began to look over requests for tasks, I had to acknowledge and accept that my needs were valid and essential. While, yes, there are times I need to put others above myself, I do not need to do this ALL THE TIME! My needs matter! For many women who are natural givers, it can be hard not to feel selfish for always wanting to give and do for others. However, this giving nature can become unhealthy when you do not take the time you need to properly care for yourself and instead fill your days with tasks that are not helping you grow as a person and are not fulfilling. You become tired and disinterested. You lose your joy and excitement in tackling projects even when it’s something that genuinely interests you because you have exerted so much of yourself without being fully restored. Think about the results that can happen to YOU when you don’t say yes to yourself.
Three Crucial Actions.
So how do you say yes to yourself? Assess if this is something that you want and have time to do. If not, then assess if it is something that you absolutely must do or will enrich you. Assess the alternatives. If your assessment indicates that you should not do it, provide an option. Providing a well-thought-out alternative to the requestor can take the pressure off and allow your ‘no’ to stand without much consequence. Practice how the conversation, email, or text will go. Practice saying no to others. Think about potential scenarios that you know you should not say yes to and practice saying no. Visualize it AND physically look in the mirror and practice saying no. As you practice, stop at saying “No.,” or “No, I am not able to do XZY.,” or “Thank you, but no, I am not able to do XYZ.”
You do not have to explain yourself in every situation. If you are asked why you said no, THEN give a brief reason if you wish, which may be the case with your supervisor. Depending on who, such as friends or family, this can be as simple as saying, “Because I don’t want to.” If you need a professional response, you can say, “Due to prior commitments, I am unable to give the proper attention to your request as it deserves.” Avoid over-explaining. If you have a well-thought-out alternative, then you can add that to your no response but avoid explaining why it can not be you. Focus on why the alternate option is the ideal solution.
Saying no to others does not make you less of a person, employee, boss, wife, mom, or another title you may carry. Saying no to others means you have the strength to say yes to yourself to ensure you use your energy and time wisely.
Assess if a request is something you want and have the time to do. Provide an alternative. Practice your response. These crucial steps can help you find and maintain the joy within yourself to propel yourself to the next level when that perfect opportunity does come along!
Crystal A. Maxwell, MD, MBA, FAAFP, is a board-certified family medicine physician with over ten years’ experience. She is the Founder & CEO of LIGHT Family Wellness, the first direct primary care practice in Indian Land, SC. She is also a wellness coach, author, speaker, wife, and mom. Her website is www.lightfamilywellness.com, and she can be followed on Instagram and Facebook at lightfamilywellness.