I have a very submissive personality, and one of loyalty and service. I also grew up feeling unwanted and in the way of the adults around me, so I was forever trying to appease them by any means I could so that they could at least tolerate my presence. These feelings of inadequacy coupled with my desire to serve those around me led me to constantly say, “Yes” to a lot of people and situations I shouldn’t have in my adult years.
Now that my life is quite literally about half over (yep, I’m the “glass is half-empty” girl), I have finally realized in my 40’s that it’s okay for me to say, “No.” Why was this so hard before?
I don’t know what it’s like to grow up as a young man, but I know that as a female, I received plenty of messages that “It’s not lady-like to do this…” or “It’s not polite to do that…”. This societal pressure was certainly exacerbated when I became a conventional Christian and felt that I was being taught to serve others to the point of exhaustion. All this in addition to my lack of self worth culminated in the idea within my being that everyone else’s needs and wants were far more important than my own. In my 20’s and 30’s, I led much of my life thinking, “What can I do for someone else?“. Although this is an altruistic way to think and feel and our society as a whole would be much more beautiful if we all thought this way, the reality is that we do not all think this way. After a decade and a half of living like this, I was tired of life, people, and even of myself.
I became self-aware of my propensity to say, “Yes” to everyone when I realized I was feeling worn out, unappreciated, and resentful of the very people I was meaning to serve selflessly. By this time, I was a mother, trying to raise assertive children who understand their worth and right to be their own person. I had to make some changes in my life to reclaim my energy and be a better example to my children, but deep down, I was afraid of hurting or rejecting others. How could I diplomatically say, “No” to people without feeling like I was letting them down?
I realized I had to change my mindset. It wasn’t about letting someone down: it was about making sure that whatever was being asked of me was truly something I wanted to do. Would I resent the act or person afterward? Was this person taking advantage of me or truly in need of my help? Do I have the energy and will to accomplish the task or is it something I’m already dreading?
I’m not perfect at this yet, but I realize now that I have needs and wants that are just as important as everyone else’s. I have rights: the right to say, “yes” and the right to say, “no”. I can claim my space and set boundaries in a way that’s healthy for me without hurting others. I love to help those around me but I have come to understand that sometimes I can’t, or shouldn’t. I allow, with no judgement, those around me to say, “no” to my requests and I have found that they are more than happy to reciprocate!