It was around 10 p.m., 20 degrees outside, and I was in my pajamas and curlers (yes, curlers!)
The last thing I wanted to do was go out to a bar, so of course, I said “sure.”
Heaven forbid, I didn’t want to make him mad or hurt his feelings. I was too invested in being “nice” and agreeable in avoiding conflict. After all, I wanted him to propose to me, and so half my life was spent saying “yes” to things I didn’t want.
Thank God I got over that!
And double thanks that he never proposed to me. I might have thought that my warped strategy worked.
The ironic part was that in dragging my feet to get to the bar an hour later, by the time I got there he had already left. The next day, he told me that 1 hour was his limit for waiting. He had no idea the angst I went through to avoid saying no.
Saying no meant that I was creating a potential conflict, risking that people would be angry with me or think badly of me.
I was also overweight, because as Oprah said – “I would rather eat my stress than feel it.”
It wasn’t just that people would be angry with me. That alone would make me uncomfortable, but I also had this deep down feeling that I wouldn’t know what to do or be able to handle it. And that all of these catastrophic things would be set into motion as a result of saying a simple 2-letter word.
And I was partially right – I DIDN’T know what to do – it was a skill I needed to LEARN.
I came to realize many boyfriends later that NOT saying “no” got me in a lot more trouble than saying “no” and risking the wrath of others. In fact, I realized that assertiveness was one of the skills I needed to stop stress eating. The stress and resentfulness created by saying “yes” to everything and everyone wreaked havoc in my life.
I’ve had to learn many skills in the process, such as –
- How to know what I actually DO want, and not just going along with others because it’s easier and less stressful than figuring out what “I” want.
- How to buy myself time to make decisions by using phrases, such as “let me think about that and get back to you . . .” (essential in raising teenagers).
- Realizing that I don’t have to give a reason – it’s OK just to say no . . . without having to justify it . . . and standing firmly in that decision.
- Giving others permission to say “no” and being OK with that.
- Learning that saying no to someone I love does not negatively affect that relationship forever – if it did, there’s something wrong. In fact, it can deepen your relationships.
One of my favorite coaching questions is –
By this action, what are you saying yes to?
By going to the bar on that cold night, I was saying that my needs didn’t matter.
Now, of course there are times when I choose to do something for someone else that doesn’t serve me. But at least I know that it’s my choice. And that is a whole world of difference!
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