It was time to start respecting my time and my space
A few years ago it was my answer to everything.
Making Plans? Yes of course, why would I need any time for myself.
Dating? Yes, of course, even if they aren’t worth my time or effort, I should give everyone a chance.
Relationships? Yes, I will be a shoulder to cry on even though you never seem to have the time available to be mine.
Constantly saying yes had become a habit that I didn’t even realize that I needed to break for the sake of my mental and emotional health.
It was my complete exhaustion that finally forced me to face the issue. I had to make a choice because this was never going to stop.
Either I prioritized my time and started putting my needs first or I would continue to let everyone else have their say in what I did.
Here is what I did to reclaim the power of “no” in my life.
I forced myself to take a pause before committing
Let me ask you if this sounds familiar. Someone asks you to do something. You say “Yes!” without even checking in with yourself to see if you want to do the activity.
Five minutes later, you’re already plotting how you’re going to get out of the plans and you stress for the next few days leading up to the event. Usually, at the last minute, you explain that you have a family birthday or a work even that you had “forgotten” about.
Now, when someone asks me to do something, I don’t respond right away.
If it’s in person or over the phone, I tell them that I need to check my calendar and loopback.
If it’s over a text, I wait to respond until I have checked in with myself to see how I feel.
I have found that by checking in to see how I feel, I not only make better decisions with my time, but I also feel like I have regained control over my life.
I stopped overexplaining
In the past, I could only get behind saying “no” if I had a great reason because I was terrified of offending someone or hurting their feelings.
If I couldn’t make it to an event, then everyone would know exactly why, down to the nitty-gritty details.
If I didn’t want to do something, instead of simply saying I didn’t want to do it, I would fumble through an awkward explanation of why I couldn’t do it.
No one wants to sit through a never-ending stream of consciousness and that’s what overexplaining is.
I began to practice simple responses and learned that not only did it save me time, people usually didn’t press further because they also wanted to avoid hearing a rant.
I accepted that my new boundaries would anger some people
Now, even though most people won’t press further when you start using your “no”, there are others that are going to press further. Much further.
When I said, “No, I’m good” to the second glass of wine at a friend's house, she rolled her eyes at me.
When I said, “No, I need a night to myself” to a dinner request, my friend said she didn’t understand how I could stay in on a Friday night.
It makes sense why some people were disgruntled and confused by my new boundaries. After all, I had said yes to everything for so long that changing my tone was a complete shift.
It took some time but the people in my life began to adjust to my new way of approaching plans and realized that my taking time for myself was nothing personal — it was simply for my mental health.
I realized that most people respected my “no”
Although there were some off-cases where people didn’t respond well to the new verbiage I was using, most people were very understanding. After all, when you have a good relationship with someone the two of you should be able to communicate honestly.
I realized that most of my friends would completely understand if I needed time for myself and vice versa.
Often, saying I wasn’t feeling up to plans was met with complete relief because my friend felt the same way I was feeling… but didn’t say it. The people that I want in my life are the ones who respect my boundaries and want me to put my physical and mental health first.
Only you can reclaim your “no”
I want to emphasize the fact that shifting my behavior was not an easy change.
While growing up, I was encouraged to be agreeable, kind, and always put the needs of others first. It took years for me to find the confidence and willingness to put my needs first because that wasn’t the dialogue or the norm that I had ever known.
Although it didn’t change overnight, I slowly made changes and slowly, those changes evolved into habits.
Everyone is going to be different but I shared what worked for me in the hopes that it will help you reclaim your voice. Remember that only you can decide what your boundaries are, and enforce them to ensure that they are respected.