Life is for living, that is true. Let’s just put it out there, though, that sometimes life gets so damn hard. Whether you are faced with a crisis in a relationship at home or at work, or perhaps the illness of a parent or a child consumes your time, or you are facing some ugly demons all on your own, saying no is all you can do to stay afloat. You say to no everyone and everything because you can’t share one more single ounce of yourself.
What happens though, when ‘no’ becomes the habit that you hold so closely you never want to let it go? When after so long, you only remember how to turn down invitations for help, friendship, partnerships, or opportunities to enjoy something new?
There are endless articles online about learning how to say ‘no’ and stopping the endless cycle of being available for every playdate and meeting and event and school function on the calendar. But there are very few articles about learning to say yes.
When you have someone who says yes to everything, there may be some things happening under the surface that you can’t see: feelings of loneliness, inadequacy, lack of boundaries, fears of exclusion, or control issues. When you have someone who says no to everything, however, there can be just as much if not more happening under the surface: feelings of hurt or betrayal, inadequacy, lack of control, pain, suffering or fear.
When you build the walls and shut the door and cut the lines, you think you are keeping yourself safe and happy and protected, but the emotional cost of being your own island can be quite high. One of my children has become a permanent no-er. New foods? New activities? New friends? New ideas? No, no, and no! Every time there is a first time for anything, and sometimes even a second time, we need to have a conversation about what is different, what is the same, and why she wants to pull away. For her, her withdrawal from active living started for one reason (a child’s taunting at recess), but after some time it became her new normal and she was terrified to say yes. She would say, “what if I mess up? What if I don’t do it right? What if they laugh? What if… everything?” Yes, my dear darling, what if? What if you mess up? What if they laugh? But, what if you shine? What if you help one other person brighten her inner light? What if your song brings joy and laughter? What if can go both ways.
I know there is room in life for both yes and no, doing and not doing. Balance doesn’t mean 50/50 all the time under every circumstance, but it does mean that both sides of a decision can be represented in your mind and the better option in that moment can be selected with confidence. In our family, we have developed some strategies for getting to yes, or even maybe, when we think she is saying no out of habit. In every case, there is no ultimatum, no pressure nor threats, but we have open conversations of possible positives and negatives in trying it out. Life is for living, yes, but living isn’t defined in any one way and that is the beautiful thing!
In your own life, do you find it harder to say yes or no?