Why is it so hard to say no?

Why is it so hard to say no

To be available for what’s most important, we have to say no to what’s not. 

I don’t know any kind people who relish saying no to requests for their time, help and attention.

It’s a point of pride for me to be available when a helping hand is needed, when a family member calls, when my husband needs a prescription filled.

But it’s impossible to be available to everyone all the time, even if you want to be.

What happens to overcommitted women? They lose their joy. They get stressed and anxious and stop attending to important things like their health.

They consult their checklists and their calendars and tie their self worth to checked boxes. They forget to thaw the chicken for dinner, forget to return the call that mattered, forget to pray.

They start resenting the good things they’ve agreed to. They dream of a nap and a bubble bath but feel guilty indulging in either. They act from their own strength and inevitably burn out.

Acts of service become a point of pride (the destructive kind) and identity. Whenever my identity is tied up in what I do, it’s at stake.

Could there be a more dangerous place to live?

The worst part is that we perpetuate this way of life. It’s like we gaze admiringly at a woman killing herself on the treadmill, and instead of telling her it’s okay to get off, we rush to the first treadmill we can find. We can’t get there fast enough, because we already feel behind.

No, just me?

Even as I write this, I know that I come home euphoric on the days I rush from thing to thing, especially if I’m helping a friend or employer. I feel good when I’m Getting It Done, bad when I’m not.

I’m not writing this from a place of mastery. Like most everything I write, I approach this topic from a place of struggle.

But at least in theory, I know this: If we are to be always growing, we must always be pruning, too. A good thing in one season might not be good anymore.

I’ve learned some things about myself recently. I’ll share them in case you can relate. Responsibility is one of my top strengths, according to Strengths Finders, although I could have told you that without the assessment.

Here’s what it says about working with someone who has this strength:

“Help this person avoid taking on too much…Help him see that one more burden may result in his dropping the ball – a notion he will loathe.”

Combined with my horrible sense of how much time things take, being “responsible” almost kills me sometimes. I lean on Mike and try to never commit to something on the spot. Mike is pretty good at discerning when I’m being crazy.

I’ve also learned that I’m introvert. If I commit to constant social events, I exhaust myself, which means saying no sometimes. It’s hard, because I don’t want to miss out or not be invited again.

I’m sure you’ve heard this before. It’s something I need to be reminded of about every two weeks, so I’m throwing it out there for anyone else who needs to hear this today.

Do you have a hard time saying no?

This post is part of a series on doing less to build more. To read the other posts in this series, click here.

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2 thoughts on “Why is it so hard to say no?

  1. I used to have SUCH a hard time with this. Then I went through and drastic cut back my commitments while I was on maternity leave with my first son, and I do way less now than I used to, just because I spend more time taking care of my kids. But even though I’m not actually doing that much, I still feel totally guilty about not being able to! I’ve actually gotten teary-eyed a few times when they are takling about volunteer/service opportunities at church and I know I can’t do it because I have to take care of my kids. I don’t know what the answer is… this is something I struggle with, too.

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