I had a very idyllic childhood, at least in my mind I did. Actually, it really depends on the lens I use to tell my story-whether my childhood was traumatic or idyllic.
But, isn’t that the case for all of us? We can choose to look at the events in our lives that wounded us so deeply and left scars? Scars we spent years trying to cover up, hide from, and pretend aren’t there? And then we finally reach a time where can acknowledge those scars and seek to reopen them and take a deeper look, in the hopes they will heal in a healthier way?
Or we can tell the story of our lives from the perspective of all of the lessons we learned from our traumatic events. How we grew and became the people we are today-because of those events.
Focusing on the positives, the many blessings in our lives growing up.
A close relationship with a grandmother.
A teacher who connected with us and was there at just the right moment, when we needed an adult that wasn’t related to us-to be our guide and support system.
That best friend who filled all of the uncomfortable voids that come with adolescence and showed us a different and more likable version of ourselves.
All of our experiences are a great mosaic of wonderful blessings and traumas that make us who we are today, and the people we continue to evolve into.
Who we become is based on how we have made sense of our childhoods and how we have used the stories of our past-to make sense of the world we live in.
Which brings me back to the title, Live your Life to the Fullest-Just Say No!
I was brought up in a family where manners were extremely important. As a girl, I was told to be lady like and to always consider others before doing something.
The golden rule-treat others as you would like to be treated.
So I did.
I always thought of others before making a decision and spent a lot of time thinking about how my actions could potentially affect others.
I must have spent days of my life going over and over something I said to somebody-worried that they may have taken it the wrong way.
Or, if I didn’t say yes to whatever was asked of me, I worried that others wouldn’t find me nice, caring, or worthy of being liked.
The results of this was that I became a people pleaser and…lost myself.
I put others needs before my own (there’s that golden rule again). And, when people didn’t treat me with the same care and respect in which I treated them-I became hurt, angry, and resentful.
After all, wasn’t everybody brought up to put others first?
Wasn’t everybody brought up to treat others how you want them to treat you?
I had taken being nice to the extreme and had very few boundaries that showed people how to treat me.
If they treated me kindly, great they were a friend. If they treated me in a way that was unkind or disrespectful then I’d feel angry and almost self righteous.
After all, who were they to treat me in a way that they themselves wouldn’t want to be treated? Who does that???
As it turns out many people do AND they’re not bad people.
Because as I learned-we all want to be treated differently. What some of us need to feel loved, respected, and appreciated is very different than what others need to feel these things.
I realized it was up to me to start showing people how I wanted to be treated…
…and that started with saying no.
No, is such an incredibly powerful word. For someone like me who didn’t trust myself or my feelings (because I had spent my life putting the needs of others before mine) saying no felt like it would instantly cause my friends to dislike and disassociate with me.
What I found when I started saying no to doing things that I didn’t want to do, or that I didn’t feel like doing, was that people were completely fine with it. In fact, they seemed to expect it. Like others in their lives told them no also, and it was no big deal.
Those who weren’t fine with it were friends who took from the friendship and didn’t give back. I realized this when I started saying no to those friends and letting my newly found needs be known.
When I realized those friendships no longer helped me grow as a person or had outlived their season in my life, I knew I had to let them go.
And, While letting those friendships go was hard, I realized that the friendships weren’t solid or built on mutual respect and care for one another. And that I deserved more from my friends.
As I continued to say no I saw patterns in things I enjoyed doing and how I wanted to spend my time. Whereas before I waited for others to decide what we were doing, I now started making suggestions for things to do and kindly declined things I didn’t want to do.
Over time, I started to identify the things I enjoy doing and the things I really didn’t enjoy doing.
I began to recognize certain things I wanted to include in my life everyday that bring me joy and scheduling things around those things. I also started trusting myself more.
The things that bring me joy and that I schedule into my life daily are
- Making time to journal/write first thing in the morning
- Reading for at least a 1/2 hour a day
- Walking 3-4 miles daily with my dog and sometimes a good friend or my mom, when we’re in the same town.
- Making time to connect with my husband over coffee in the morning and the family over dinner in the evening.
These are things that I know I value and want to have in my life every day. They bring me happiness, connection, and make every day feel like it’s well lived for me. I’m able to achieve this 80% of the time and I’m good with that. Nothing is 100%.
In looking at how I used to interact in the world and being a people pleaser, I saw how it actually kept people at a distance from me. I was too busy trying to make sure they were taken care of-that I didn’t get to know myself and who I was or what I wanted.
In not knowing myself, others couldn’t truly know me-because the focus was on them and what they needed. I had no idea of what I needed.
Growing to know myself and my needs, what I preferred and how I spent my time is the most liberating and satisfying thing I’ve ever done. And it all started with saying no.
How did I learn to say no?
I began to identify the feeling I had when agreeing to do something I didn’t want to do.
You know that moment when somebody asks you to do something you don’t want to do? The feeling shows up as sadness, anger, exhaustion, resentment or any other negative feeling and is a sign that you should say no.
The feeling is usually followed with a quick thought like “ugh…I’m tired” or “I really just want to stay in for the night” or “I’m tired of my coworker asking me to do his work.” This is your cue to just say NO!
You’ll know you should have said no when you instantly feel regret at saying yes.
In these situation when you have that feeling-say no! Then wait to see how you feel. Perhaps you’ll be relieved. If so-great!
Or quite possibly you’ll feel uncomfortable-really…really uncomfortable.
This is how I felt at first-every single time I said no. And at times I still feel this way, when putting myself first.
If this is the case, just sit with the feeling. Don’t go back on your no-just sit with it and get curious about it.
- Why am I feeling this way?
- What does saying no bring up for me in this situation?
- Continue to reflect on how saying no throughout your day and week has affected your life.
As you you continue to say no to things that really don’t feel right or that you’re not excited about, you’ll find yourself enjoying your time more. You’ll get to know what you really enjoy doing and over time will feel less guilty for doing what you enjoy.
And most importantly, when you say yes to things, your yes will be a “Hell YES!” And you will show up engaged, excited, and fully present.
Your friends, family and coworkers will see this. You will have more energy and feel excited about the things you’re doing.
You will connect with others and yourself in a deeper-more meaningful way.
So, give it a try. Say no to the things you don’t really want to do this week. You will be greatly surprised by the results and the immediate changes you see in your life.
Drop me a note in the comments below and let me know what you want to say no to. And, if you do say no to them-how it works out for you.
I look forward to hearing from you and hope you have a wonderful week!