When was the last time you said yes to a commitment you didn’t really want to be committed to? You know, the bake sale, the PTA meeting, running everyone else’s errands, coordinating the church potluck (I happen to love those potlucks, so don’t read into this here, church friends. You can count on me to cook up my best homemade dishes for these things day and night!). Probably this very week. External commitments seem, more often than not, to rule our lives.
While we may think we’re doing it out of kindness or even just that nagging feeling of pure obligation to get ahead or even just to manage to get everything done, whenever we say yes to someone else when we don’t really want to oblige, what we’re really saying is no to ourselves.
At the onset it may make you feel like your being agreeable, which in turn usually makes you think you’ll be seen as likable, but what’s really happening is that you’re chipping away at the foundation of who YOU are. If you’re not a person who wants to bake the cookies, or attend the meeting; don’t do it! Radical, I know, but stick with me here; be true to you. Be authentic.
What good is someone else’s view of us if it’s not authentic? We worry that by not saying yes, we’ll put someone off, let someone down, or cause them to see is in a poor light. What if it’s just not true? I mean, even if it may be in the short term, is that reality? Would you really walk away and say, “I can’t believe Karin wouldn’t make her famous chocolate chip cookies for the bake sale! Does she not care about the school? Doesn’t she know how hard we’ve all worked on this? Does she not love her child???”
Ridiculous, right? Of course Karin loves her little Joey, and all the children, and she supports the school, and the other moms, and their efforts, and the PTA…and pause, deep breath…, we all know it, but isn’t that where your mind immediately goes if you were to be the one to say no? Can you even imagine being as bold as Karin?
You should be. Yes, you should, because when all the yesses get in the way of your home life, your marriage, your peace, your sanity…it’s time to say no once in a while.
Take that time back for you! Yes, do it. Take it. Right now. Say no to following up on the email. Say no to the carpool this week. Say no to doing things for others that they’re perfectly capable of doing themselves. Say no to paying your bills! Just kidding! You should really do that one, whether you want to or not. Basically, some things we have to say yes to, and by all means, don’t be the jerk who never reciprocates when someone else is always picking up your kid from taekwondo, or sitting in on classroom volunteer day when you can’t make it.
The ebbs and flows of life’s continuation impact us all. Be there when you can, but don’t hold it against yourself when you can’t. Just don’t. It’s not changing anything, and it’s not doing you any good. Likely it’s just stressing you out even more, or having a negative mental impact by causing you to cultivate a lower sense of self-esteem.
This is not a fair or balanced way to treat yourself. Please, whatever you do, refrain from engaging in negative self-talk. It’s habit forming, and it never serves to inspire, encourage, or effect positive change. And, to that extent, don’t apologize for being you. Why waste the words or the breath to say something if, before you can even get those words out you’re already apologizing for them? Remember the post on audacity? Have the audacity to be authentically you. You have every right to say no, to feel what you feel, to want what you want. Serving others can be a wonderfully enlightening, cultivating, and stimulating experience, but not if done so under duress.
That one more thing that you constantly need to get to will always be there. Do them. Yes, do them. Don’t let the laundry pile up or the dishes overflow the sink if it makes you feel anxious, but also budget some time for yourself. I believe it will help you re-center and reconnect to your feelings of contentedness to refresh you and prepare you for another day ahead. When we don’t we’re just perpetually rolling along on fumes trying to make it one more mile before we fill up again. Fill your tank!
Can you give yourself one less task per day? Can you give yourself ten minutes to meditate, do some yoga, write, drink a cup of coffee, glass of wine or (inset your super cool, relaxing, tank filling thing here). Try outsourcing those dishes and laundry, kids can do these things younger than we think, and it’s good to help them become involved and invested in the household and family as a whole. If you don’t have kids, well, your probably stuck folding your own towels, but I guarantee there are other areas of your life where you can trim the fat of obligation.
Identify one small thing you would like to work on, whether it’s letting something go, building something new, even practicing saying no (which I promise you will eventually, even if not yet, find this to be extremely liberating). I challenge you to spend this next week somehow making an effort each and every day to move toward bolstering that thing. At the end of your week, evaluate this exercise. Take note of how you felt each time you practiced it, and how you feel now, cumulatively. Does everyone hate you? Did they banish you from the island? Probably not.
I want you to see that these tasks need not be overwhelming. I want you to find a space where you can cultivate a more authentic version of yourself, and grow with it until you believe in it and are comfortable sharing with with others more regularly. You’ll find the people in your life will love and like you just as much. Chances are, they will respect you more for it as well. Really, isn’t having respect better than being likable, anyway?
Being true to who we are is so much more
important that what other’s think of us.
It’s long been a joke in our family that mom hates fun. It started because, as usual, this mom was always saying no to fun things, like staying up late, having an extra cookie, or who knows what, so it became my answer to the constant question of “why not?”. “Because mom hates fun, that’s why.” So, listen, moms: I know you, like me, DO NOT hate fun. I know you love fun, actually. Of course you do, but you’re bogged down a lot, aren’t you? And someone has to stop the kids from sharing their chocolate bar with the dog, even if, as they claim, “But, Charlie looooves chocolate”, (you big meanie).
Find the ease that comes with that authentic space your give yourself and, dare I say, find your fun. Connect to the version of you that you love. Practice her. Nurture her. Then, send her out into the world to deal with others. She’ll give you the permission and freedom to be a more authentic you.
Sincerely yours, this hat wearing, boho chic, thirty-five year old mom drinking wine out of a water glass, fully clothed in a luxurious bathtub of a fancy hotel, who flew into town for one night to see a rock concert on her friend’s birthday. Hells yeah! She loves fun!