“No” is not a four-letter word; literally, it’s not. But that’s not how I treated it most of my life. I wanted to give to everybody; I wanted to do everything–but I kept getting short-changed in the exchange. Why can’t I help everyone? Why can’t I do everything? And yet–when do I get time to rest? I’m so tired. I have nothing left to give.How did I get out of this never-ending loop? I learned to say “no.”
But it wasn’t just the act of saying “no” — although I started to learn how powerful it could be — it was that by saying “no” I was acknowledging both my worth and human-ness, and both have made me stronger and have allowed me to be able give more wholeheartedly.
First, the human part. Yeah. I’m human. I’m not perfect. I’m far from it. I’ve had adrenal fatigue and other physical ailments that have always made me tired a lot of the time. In the past ten years or so, I came to accept that I just don’t have as much energy as other people do. When I was in college, I could sleep for up to twenty hours a day on my days off of working on plays. There have been days in the past 5-6 years where I just had to shut down. I had nothing left. That’s about when “no” started entering the picture. I wanted to attend a singing workshop this September, but between work and feeling run-down and having a show to sing in — something had to give; it was a “no” to the workshop, so that I could be the best I could be at work and in the show. I had to say “no.” There’s only so much of me to go around and I want to put the best I can into everything I do and I can only do that, if I prioritize what I need and want to do, I’m able to give more to the things that matter the most to me. And rest is one of the top things so I can do all the other things.
So, that leads to the things that matter the most to me: how could I possibly know what I value if I didn’t know my value? How can I know what is worth my time and energy? Isn’t everything worth it? Will people think I’m lazy if I don’t do everything? Will people think I don’t care if I don’t use every ounce of energy helping out? I don’t know exactly when I realized it, but one of the things that helped me to recognize it was the realization that I deserve rest. There’s nothing wrong with recharging my body and mind so I can function — not necessarily even at my best — but even function properly. Really, don’t try getting into a deep conversation with me when I’ve had no sleep because I can barely string two thoughts together. And the projects I do when I have no energy? I’d give myself a C/ C- , (I’m a recovering perfectionist, that’s basically an F, but I’m accepting that I have done the best I could at those times). The other thing was that: I work hard. Several people told me this, but it was hard for me to take as truth because I was always told I was lazy growing up (which was a lie, but you’re not my therapist, so that’s all you need to know about that). I started to realize that I really do work hard; and because I work hard I deserve to treat myself some times: get vanilla soft serve, buy that Kate Spade bag I had my eye on, get a mani-pedi, or just rest and do nothing. It’s like the old L’Oreal commercial: “because I’m worth it.” Because I am worth it, I choose when I say “yes” and when I say “no” and I’ve learned that people don’t see that as lazy; that’s a person who has her boundaries and knows her worth..