In an effort to live life to the fullest, some people have ‘yes’ years, vowing to say yes to every opportunity and invitation that comes their way.
Dinner on the weekend? YES.
Bungee jumping? YES.
Hiking on Saturday? YES.
Sounds great in theory? YES.
But what happens if you’re like me.
Hard-wired since infancy with an involuntary primordial Tourette-like impulse to say ‘yes’.
This condition of mine (the spawn of incurable people-pleasing // fear of rejection // anxiety about missing an opportunity) has seen me say yes to lots of things I don’t want to do.
airport drop-offs at 4am
volunteer causes in ‘spare time’ that doesn’t exist
babysitting for friends when I’m on the edge of burnout
staying in relationships well passed their expiry date
The end result is that I spend my life pounding the treadmill of busy.
Turning, burning, churning through
compulsive list making
Not a skerrick of spontaneity in sight
My permanent state of exhaustion aside, I realised that those closest to me (along with my career and my health) are all too often the collateral damage in my servile complaisance to others.
So. At the beginning of the year I swore to myself I would learn how to say no.
Between you and me (and the internet), here’s what happened in the nine months since then:
The world has kept turning
Each time I’ve turned down an invite or a request people have understood. No judgements made. No friendships lost. I’ve learnt to talk myself down from the cliff of guilt I teeter on after delivering a no. I’ve even taken annual leave without sinking into putrefying anxiety.
I average more than 5 hours of sleep a night
Sometimes now I say no to things simply because my body is telling me I need an early night. This is ok. I’m human. In fact, those close to me (myself included) have enjoyed the less-frazzled, less sleep-deprived version of me.
I say yes more…
… to the things that matter.
Instead of trying to be everywhere at once all the while thinking about what is next on the ‘to do’ list, I now have the time and presence of mind to say yes to the things I truly care about.
Making memories, not fulfilling commitments.
I’ve found the art is in the delivery – you need to be assertive but not rude when delivering a no. It’s ok to take time to check your schedule before committing (rather than saying yes then madly trying to reverse engineer your calendar and find a 25th hour in the day).
That’s not to say I don’t relapse from time to time.
The weight of expectation I place on myself to ‘do it all’ is still heavy. However, I am no longer the hopelessly harried irredeemable ‘yes’ monster I used to be.
Quite simply, I’ve learnt to value my time more highly and I invest it more wisely.