“We must say “no” to what, in our heart, we don’t want. We must say “no” to doing things out of obligation, thereby cheating those important to us of the purest expression of our love. We must say “no” to treating ourselves, our health, our needs as not as important as someone else’s. We must say “no.”
– Suzette R. Hinton, author of The Sound Of My Life.
As a practising physician, I see a lot of misery and struggle, conflict and self-doubt. It can be quite dangerous, as I have written elsewhere. The person who tends to get cancer—the so-called “cancer personality”—is someone who gives little priority to self, is a people pleaser, self-effacing and overburdened with care for others.
Basically such a person has no life of their own; she (usually female) is so busy running around after other people, she has no time for her own needs and desires. Yet such a person will rarely complain. They bottle up their frustration and that’s what is dangerous. Stress has to come out some way or other. If it doesn’t come out with yelling and demanding attention, it just manifests in a different direction: typically a disease, such as blood pressure, heart attack, or the dreaded cancer.
A little known study carried out some years ago looked at this issue and found certain women had a great deal of trouble saying “No”. Even if what was demanded was something she didn’t like, even hated, she would go ahead and comply anyway. But this is an act of injury against the self. It may be justified as duty or “helping others” but it is still an injurious willingness to ignore the self and its needs.
Saying NO reduces stress considerably!
The researchers took the typical cancer personality case and had the woman practice saying “No!” to things she didn’t like, and sticking to it. The results of this intervention were startling. The women who said NO (and meant it) lived many years longer, on average, than those who could not bring themselves to do it.
So for some people, saying “No” is a good start in creating a new and satisfying life. Are you a people pleaser? Do you have little time for yourself and your own needs?
Time to change. And make no mistake, you need to change, otherwise you may die before your time.
Don’t let fear of rejection rule your choices. Some women are afraid that saying NO would lead to rejection; that every time she says NO, she would disappoint someone, make them angry, hurt their feelings, or appear unkind or rude.
But this is really letting other people’s opinion of you rule your own choices. Not good!
You need to know that the world won’t end if you say NO and someone gets mad at you.
“Men are expected to assert themselves and speak their mind; that’s what gives them status in our society,” says social psychologist Susan Newman, author of The Book of No. “They learn to say ‘no’ early on because if they don’t, they’re labeled wimps.”
Here’s a simple hack anybody can do. Take a sheet of paper or an index card and write on it I GIVE MYSELF PERMISSION TO SAY NO TO: in big letters. Then start writing all the things that you need to start saying NO to.
Tasks you don’t like; routines that are not shared equally with others; things you find demeaning; things that are not really part of your inner world (football maybe, cars, beer swilling, TV programs, having the neighbors round for dinner, lewd topics or gossiping about others). It’s your list, you choose!
And that’s the key. You are choosing. You can even say YES once in a while. Providing you can say NO and stick to it, then saying YES is not nearly so hurtful. You have a choice.
When you can’t say NO, you’ve lost that power of choice. Do you see the difference?
If you can say NO, then saying YES is an act of love. You do it for the right reasons.
If you want to engage others (and you should) stick your list on the fridge door and make certain persons read it and acknowledge the new you! But you must stick to it! Being yelled at may not kill you. But I’ve explained that saying YES when you don’t mean to could. In fact yelling back has some power of healing. You are standing up for yourself. Just make sure you get rapidly beyond that stage and stand your ground courageously.
If the person who puts great demands on you says they love you, they shouldn’t mind you taking a stand. If he/she doesn’t really seem to love you, or won’t grant you the status to run your own life, then, well, what can I say?
Try the Supernoetics® Four Magic Questions to reduce or eliminate the conflicts. Or pack your bags and look stern! You may find the other person backs down for a change, instead of you. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Chantalle Blikman (tinybuddha.com) gives several helpful tips for saying No:
- Be direct, such as “No, I can’t” or “No, I don’t want to.”
- Don’t apologize and give all sorts of reasons.
- Don’t lie. Lying will most likely lead to guilt—and remember, this is what you are trying to avoid feeling.
- Remember that it is better to say NO now than be resentful later.
- Be polite, such as “Thank you for asking.”
- Practice saying NO. Imagine a scenario and then practice saying no either by yourself or with a friend. This will get you feeling a lot more comfortable with saying no.
- Don’t say “I’ll think about it” if you don’t want to do it. This will just prolong the situation and make you feel even more stressed.
Remember that your self-worth does not depend on how much you do for other people. If you don’t stand up for yourself you’ll just feel pathetic and/or guilty. It’s about setting boundaries, if you think about it. Melody Beattie, author of Beyond Codependency and more, explains that “guilt can prevent us from setting the boundaries that would be in our best interests, and in other people’s”.
Dr. Keith’s Experiment (Join In!)
What I’d like is all you wonderful people out there to help me out with a mass experiment. It’s easy and could change your life entirely. It could even SAVE your life, as I have explained.
I have prepared an “I GIVE MYSELF PERMISSION TO SAY NO TO:” blank list. I want you all to download it, fill it out (start working on it, of course) and tell me what happens (email: scottmumbywellness-at-gmail-dot-com).
The idea is that if you find this document a helpful lead, then I’ll print up some super “Say NO!” cards and get them out there in the world.
Your help could be valuable.