It’s a small word. One consonant, one vowel, and one syllable. And while I may have said it often as a toddler it definitely became more and more challenging to say as an adult – in fact, it seems to be a difficult word for most to say. You know the word … come on, on the count of three we will all say it out loud.
Such an easy word to say, eh? Yeah, right. It’s easy to say until we have to say it to a friend, a family member, our mate, a colleague or employer. Suddenly our throat feels dry. The world stops spinning – well, it hasn’t really, it’s just everything else seems to be at a stand still in relation to our brain which is spinning out of control, trying to come up with some sort of excuse that says no without our having to say it (that sounded complicated but you know exactly what I mean). There is a rumbling of the earth – except it’s just our teeth chattering so hard it shakes our whole body because we are watching their expression and it’s starting to turn us into a fraidy-cat!
But we realize they’re waiting for our reply so we start to answer – our tongue is glued to the roof of our mouth as we try to force out the word and it comes out something like this: “N-n-nooo problem!”
Why is No such a difficult word to say? This is something that I have given a lot of thought to through the years. Regardless of what was going on in my life, if someone asked if I could do something for them, I would. Now, 99.9% of the time I was happy to do whatever was asked of me – excuse me while my head deflates a bit – but seriously, I usually didn’t mind and I imagine that is true with most people. What I am talking about here are the times when there are mitigating circumstances that really calls for saying no to a friend, family or business associate.
It was after illness changed my life, changed the way I interact with the people in my life, that I finally started understanding why it was so difficult, sometimes impossible, for me to say no to someone needing or wanting something from me. Regardless of the consequences, of the impact it would have on me, my no always turned into a yes.
While I tend to cringe when saying this, I do think there were times I put myself behind the eight ball and said yes was from a lack of humility and modesty … I was simply too arrogant to recognize my limitations. As crazy as this may sound, having a jam-packed schedule that had my day running 20 minutes late before it even started somehow fed my ego because it gave me griping rights when asked about my day. I could slip into a sort of melancholy martyr serenade of my every move and when it was suggested that I, surely, must be super woman I could look down and say “aw shucks” … but, as you may notice, I didn’t say no!
Mostly, however, I think what made it difficult for me to say no was tied up with a basic human desire – to be liked, loved, needed. I’m not sure how it all began, however, at some point in my life I started tying up my sense of self, my value to others, with what I could do for them. As long as I could fulfill the requests of friends, family, co-workers, the man on the moon – okay, that was just to make sure you’re still with me – but the point is I was forever saying yes to everyone because to my way of thinking it was a validation of my being liked, loved, needed.
Funny thing about being a personality that can’t say no to anyone is the fact that we can and do say no to ourselves without any hesitation. Earlier I mentioned how illness prompted the examination of why I struggled voicing such a simple little word. It was also due to the illness I discovered the veracity in the words of one of the leading ALS researchers regarding the struggle those living with the disease have as they lose ability to take an active part in life thus “accepting they can be loved and/or needed by simply existing.”
The first few years after diagnosis, it seemed there were friends missing from my life – it was almost like they simply disappeared and I, initially, assumed it was just what I had always thought – I couldn’t do anything for them therefore I had no value and if I had no value to them, well then, see, I wasn’t liked, loved, needed. Of course, as people walked away there were others that walked in … and they helped me to not only accept there is still immense quality in life even if “simply existing” but how to be active in the lives of my friends and family through the sharing of thoughts and feelings in conversations and writing.
What does all this have to do with saying yes when the mind is saying no? It was when I became comfortable in my own skin, comfortable with who I am as a person, and I no longer allowed others to define my sense of self that I learned to acknowledge there are times I must say no. While it may seem, in many ways, this is a lesson I’ve learned a little too late that is not altogether true. There are times I have to say no when asked about a visit … it isn’t something I like to have to do, however, it really is necessary and I’ve realized most people completely understand.
Yes, I have finally learned to say no when my situation warrants it – and yet, it hasn’t been easy getting to this point … working through the underlying issues and emotional saboteurs that made it impossible for me to say no … and yet, as strange as this may sound, the impact this has had on my life – my relationships, myself personally – has been quite interesting.
But that is something I will talk about in another post. I know, you’re probably thinking why not the next post, right? It does make sense … but there is this incredible urge to say … um, to say … “N-n-nooo ….problem!” Hey, I did say it makes sense.