Why Is It So Hard to Say No?
Last week, we talked about disappointing people every day. We hope you started thinking about who to disappoint, when and how to drop that ball, who will pick up the slack if needed and start processing how it feels to disappoint others on purpose. Hopefully you were able to spread the “disappointment” around and you were amazing at not making things happen. But it’s possible that “disappointing” others was a challenge. So, this week, we’re delving deeper into the art of saying “no” to help you do the things that really matter to you.
“Just Say No.” Remember that anti-drug campaign from the 80’s and 90’s? Politics aside, those 3 little words seemed like they’d be so easy to say but they didn’t really make a difference for real people in real-life situations in the real world, in part because those words didn’t tell people how to “just say no.” Telling someone to do something really hard without giving them the knowledge or tools or support they need to do it is likely doomed to failure. SO, we don’t want the idea of “disappointing someone every day” to be another memorable but unhelpful slogan. Something that sounds good on paper but is just way too hard to do in real life.
Why is it so hard to say no? Understanding why it’s tough to say no may actually help you feel a little more comfortable saying no. At a basic level, “no” is a powerful word involved in our earliest learning experiences. “No” can derail our brain’s functioning, triggering the release of stress-related chemicals in our brains, activating our fight-flight-or-freeze response, bringing about emotional distress and interrupting our thinking, decision making and communication. At the same time, we are aware of social norms, we care what others think about us and we can experience intense emotions and perceived pressure when we are put on the spot*. So, if someone asks a favor, we may become overwhelmed, feeling awkward, guilty, embarrassed, anxious, etc. When that happens, it may be easier to say “yes” even when we want to say “no.”
Now, let’s get back to you. If you are hard-wired and socially-wired to experience all kinds of distress around the word “no,” it kind of makes sense that it isn’t easy to “just say no.” It isn’t just you. It isn’t a mom thing or a woman thing. It’s just a human thing. There’s something fantastic in all of this: if this is how pretty much everyone is wired, then you aren’t weird or bad or even unique for struggling with saying “no.”
Don’t get me wrong- you may have your very own reasons for struggling with saying “no” that are about being a mom or a woman or something else. But, if everyone has a hard time saying “no,” maybe you don’t need to feel bad about it or avoid it. Maybe you could be okay-ish with saying “no” to some things and leave the turmoil for times you actually do have reasons to feel bad for saying “no.” Think about it this way. Everyone sneezes, right? Sneezing clears irritants out of your nose. You could feel mortified about sneezing whenever it happens. Or, just save that distress for something truly cringe-worthy, like when you sneeze right in someone’s face.
Let’s turn to the support you need to say “no” in order to pursue your priorities. Clearly, we have your back when it comes to encouraging you to “disappoint people on purpose.” If you haven’t already done so, think about who in your daily life will support your prioritization efforts- a spouse, friend, sibling, cousin, co-worker, parent, aunt, etc. Who is there to listen when you’re having a hard time? Who sees how tired or stressed you are? Who has enough distance (physically, emotionally, etc.) to see the big picture? Who is also trying to conquer their overcommitment to being everything to everyone?
In addition to having the general support of people who want you to take things off of your plate, it’s ideal to have the support of the person/people who really matter to you and who will be directly impacted by your commitment to prioritizing. It’s not that you need permission to do something good for you. But it can certainly be easier to commit to that good-for-you thing when you know that the person who will be affected is on board.
Let’s say you will be disappointing your kids 2 days this week by not picking them up extra early after school. Your husband will instead pick them up from their after-care program, which will allow you to finish your work at work then go to the gym. Your kids will likely ask you to change your mind, question your decision and/or pull a guilt trip like only they can. When that happens and you feel the pressure to cave, it would be great if your husband could point out that it’s important for you to do things that matter to you too. Talking with him beforehand to make sure you’re on the same page will help him back you up on your “no.”
This week, while you work on prioritizing, identify your "disappointment cheerleaders" and enlist their support. If you’re asked to add things to your plate, see if you can notice how that request makes you feel (i.e., does it create distress, does it throw you off track, does it make you feel pressured, etc.). If you can recognize the urge to just say “yes,” you can remind yourself that we all struggle with the discomfort of “no.” And, if you need a little inspiration, remember the following (courtesy of DL Hughley via Twitter):
* If you are interested in recent work on the fascinating topic of “compliance,” you can listen to the following episode of NPR’s Hidden Brain, which features Vanessa Bohns, a Cornell University social psychologist who studies the topic: https://www.npr.org/2020/02/20/807758704/the-influence-you-have-why-were-blind-to-our-power-over-others
Find your supports and keep working on taking things off your plate. You've got this!
Reach out and tell us how your "disappointment cheerleaders" are helping you by clicking the link or emailing us at email@example.com!
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Welcome back! We hope you read last week’s blog and have started working on your very own self-care plan. This week’s blog is inspired by a conversation I had with one of my close friends. We were talking about the difficulty of trying to juggle so many demands and how guilty we feel when we disappoint someone. Then my friend shared a saying that her sister often says to her: “Practice disappointing someone every day.”
Wait, what? Disappoint someone on purpose?
Now, I don’t know about you, but that sounds exactly like what we’re all trying to avoid. But, after we talked about it some more, this saying made perfect sense. It’s all about being intentional about what you agree to do and setting boundaries so that you do not take on more than you can realistically handle.
Since the beginning of the year, we’ve been talking about things like setting priorities, making small intentional changes, recognizing how amazing you already are, and taking time to care for yourself. Underlying all of these topics is the recognition that we cannot be all things to all people all the time. It’s just not possible to perfectly balance all our responsibilities in life. When we take on too much, we end up juggling too many balls and, inevitably, we drop some. Sometimes we drop them all.
So, how do you avoid dropping all those balls you’re juggling? You practice disappointing someone every day. Instead of trying to juggle too many tasks, plan which ball(s) you are going to drop. When you make decisions on the front end about what you will and will not be able to do in a given day, you are able to have conversations with the people who will be affected and help them make arrangements to have their needs met.
For instance, let’s say you have to get two kids to two different activities that start within 30 minutes of one another. Instead of racing around trying to take both kids to their activities, what if you go with one and arrange for your spouse/partner to take the other? Or maybe both kids carpool to their activities and you run some errands (or even stay home to take some time to yourself). When you plan for this in advance, you can talk to your kids about the plan. This reduces disappointment because your kids are not expecting you to take them to their activities that day. You feel less rushed and stressed and you don’t end up feeling guilty because you let your kids down. As a bonus, you can also let them know when you will be able to attend their activities in the future.
Really, this quote is not about letting people down or making them feel disappointed in you. It’s about prioritizing what’s most important and figuring out what you can handle at any given time. It’s about communicating with those who depend on you so that they know what to expect. Practicing disappointing someone every day actually leads to less disappointment in the long run because you are setting realistic expectations for yourself and for everyone around you.
The other key here is to make sure you’re not “disappointing” the same person all the time. Things that are priorities in our lives need time and attention in order to thrive. You’re not going to miss all your kids’ activities. You’re not going to skip spending time with your spouse or partner all the time. You’re not going to leave work early for every event at your kids’ school. You’re not going to put your own self-care last all the time. If you “disappoint” the same person all the time, that relationship suffers. By alternating who you “disappoint” on any given day, you will be able to be more present in the activities in which you choose to engage. You will have more energy to put toward your priorities. Most importantly, all the areas of your life that you have intentionally prioritized will receive enough of your time and attention to flourish.
Start taking some things off your plate. You've got this!
Reach out and tell us how you practice disappointing someone every day by clicking the link or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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Take Care of You
We hope you checked out our blog last week and have started thinking about what truly matters to you and what you want to start (or continue) prioritizing in your life. Hopefully, one of those top priorities is YOU. If not, we’re officially adding YOU to your list. Yes, we can do that. Self-care is a big buzz word right now and you probably hear about it all the time. Like many things, however, the idea of self-care has become yet another thing to strive for that we never get quite “right.”
When we hear the phrase “self-care” what often springs to mind are things like getting massages and pedicures, having a day at the spa, or having a girls’ night. Now, those things all sound wonderful and if you can do them, go for it. But what if we told that you can do all those things and still not truly be practicing self-care? Shocking, I know. There are plenty of people who get weekly pedicures and still feel empty, tired, resentful, and spent.
Self-care is not just about doing nice things for yourself. It’s about having and acting on a belief that your needs are important and that you deserve to take care of yourself. True self-care is not about blowing off responsibilities and doing whatever you want to do. It’s also not about selfishness. Let me say that again. Self-care is not the same as being selfish. It’s about filling yourself up so that you are able to do all the things you need and want to do in life. Healthy self-care actually allows you to take better care of other people.
Still not convinced? Ok, let’s think about it from this angle. Part of your job as a parent is to teach your kids how to take care of themselves. Children learn way more from watching us than from listening to us. You cannot just tell them that self-care is important. You need to model healthy self-care for them. If your kids see you taking care of yourself, they will learn that it is important for them to take care of themselves. If your children see you running yourself into the ground, putting everyone else first, and neglecting your own needs, they will learn that to show love to others, they have to do things at the expense of their own health and well-being.
One comment we get from moms all the time is that they don’t have time for self-care. That’s based on the idea that self-care requires a lot of time, money, or effort. Guess what? True self-care does not require all of those things. Really, it requires that you set an intention to be kind to yourself and take time for yourself.
Now, let’s talk about the time required. True self-care does not have to take a lot of time, and it can be combined with things you do already. Things like making healthy food choices, meditating for five minutes while you take a shower, and listening to what you want to listen to in the car for a change are all ways of taking care of yourself. There are many ways to decompress and refill your cup. The key is that self-care has to fit into your life and involve things you actually want to do.
Also, you can use your powers for you – use your special talents to do nice things for yourself, not just for other people. It's great to give gifts, but don't you like receiving them? Give gifts to yourself. If you like baking, bake something for yourself. If you make jewelry, make yourself a nice bracelet or pair of earrings. That gives you some time to yourself andyou get to give yourself a gift. People might call you selfish (including yourself), but self-care in whatever form you can find it, is the opposite of selfish. It’s a vital part of being a healthy human being. And, above all else, you’re a human being. Start treating yourself like one.
At this point, you might be having trouble coming up with ideas for how to include self-care in your routine. Well, we can help. Download our free printable, Taking Care of Me. We’ve included some ideas for self-care. Yes, things like pedicures and massages are on there, but so are other things like reading/listening to a good book and sitting outside for a few minutes. We also included a guide to help you create your own self-care plan. Remember, we want this to be as easy as possible. So, download our guide and start taking care of you!
You deserve to take care of yourself. You've got this!
Reach out and tell us about your self-care plan by clicking the link or emailing us at email@example.com!
Click here for a printable version of this post.
Feel free to peruse our blog and see what Sarah and Lisa had to say about topics related to your needs as a busy parent. We will talk about everything from parenting values, to life hacks, to realistic self-care.
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