Sometimes a big part of learning to take care of yourself has to do with the ability to say no when necessary. There are so many areas where this comes into play. If you say yes to everyone all the time, you’ll find you have nothing left for yourself. You can only run on empty for so long; at a certain point you’ll need to replenish your tank if you want to have anything to give. If you neglect yourself for too long, you’ll end up feeling resentful and angry, and playing the role of the martyr, as if other people are creating your exhaustion and despair. It could be that you have some idea that your value as a human being, as a friend, as a family member or partner has to do with what you can offer to other people, and that you, showing up just as you are, could never be enough. That unless you’re doing something for those you love, they’re likely to abandon you or neglect you or stop seeing you. One of the best feelings in life is to give freely from your heart, and to give because you want to, and not because you’re expecting something in return, or because you want credit for the good you’re doing, but if a relationship is totally unbalanced, where you’re doing all the giving and the other person is doing all the taking, that’s simply not healthy.
There are times when “no” is needed to create or protect your boundaries. Not everyone is ready to move from and toward love. It’s highly likely you’ll deal with people who are in the grip of fear. When we’re in fear, it can take so many forms; sometimes we try to control or manipulate or manage other people’s feelings or choices or behavior. You can have compassion for people who are scared of being hurt or disappointed, and I hope you do, but that doesn’t mean you want to allow yourself to be ruled by someone else’s inability to deal with their own vulnerability. It’s not okay to read your partner’s emails or text messages because you feel insecure. It is okay and important to talk about what you’re feeling. I hear from people who’ve given over all their privacy, all their passwords, all their free time just to assuage their partner’s insecurities. Playing into someone’s feelings of unworthiness will never help them rise up, and allowing your lines to be crossed is not loving yourself well. If you can’t trust the person you’re with and they can’t trust you, your relationship needs serious work, and you and your partner would do well to seek some help with that. You really need love and trust in the soil if you want your relationship to blossom.
Sometimes family members feel entitled to cross boundaries. I have a friend whose parents came to stay at her house for a week while she was away on business, and she came home to find they’d purchased all new furniture for her living room and dining room. Her parents thought they’d done this wonderful thing, buying her brand new pieces, but my friend has her own style and was very upset to learn her overstuffed couches and antique hutch, her funky dining room table and chairs had all been picked up and carted away. She had a hard time telling her parents how she felt, because she knew they meant well, but she also wanted to make it clear that it wasn’t okay with her. Her father called her ungrateful, and her mother didn’t speak to her for a couple of months.
Standing up for yourself isn’t always easy, depending on your history and your personality and the nature of the situation you’re in, but in order to heal, and in order to create a life that feels good to you, you’ll really need to learn. You have to be able to trust yourself. You have this gorgeous heart, and you have to develop the tools to take care of it well if you haven’t already. Sometimes that means you’ll have to say no to yourself, in order to maintain your own integrity and self-respect. Part of it requires your ability to know when you need to nurture yourself, and to feel it’s okay for you to spend some time and energy doing that.
You may have grown up feeling that love is conditional and must be earned. In that case, saying no when you need to probably won’t be easy, but you just force yourself at first. Your “no” may come out more strongly than you want it to if it’s new to you. If you’re trying to make a shift in this area, telling the people closest to you is a good idea. If they love you, they’ll want that for you. If they love you only when you do what they want you to do, they’ll probably push back, hard. That’s fine, though. You can’t change other people, but you can change your own behavior and your own actions, and that will inevitably shift the dynamic between you and anyone in your life. Those around you may be uncomfortable or even scared at first. They may think they’re losing you, but if the relationship has legs, you’ll learn to dance together in a new way, and if it doesn’t, you’ll figure out if it’s time to take your legs and start walking in a different direction. In order to follow your yes, you’ll have to learn to say no sometimes.
Sending you love,
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