“No” is not a four letter word

“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..     

 

Breath of Life – How Do We Engage In Self Care?

Originally written for the New Moon Women’s Circle website

How can I help? Can I help you?  I love helping people and giving of my time and energy to lift people up.  In fact, I could easily give all of myself at anytime to be there for the people I care about.  And I have.

And I became exhausted.  And sick. I had nothing left to give.

After years of therapy, I have begun to learn what was missing:  I wasn’t giving anything to myself. It doesn’t have to be anything big, but I need to give to myself so that I am able to serve others.  Whether it is taking myself to see the latest “chick flick,” getting an ice cream with rainbow sprinkles, or sitting enjoying nature, these little gifts that I give to myself energize me; then I help others and as long as I continually treat myself, I do not get completely worn out.

Sometimes the gift is rest.  What yoga has taught me is that we need to be mindful of where we are and act from that place.  Sometimes I might want to go out, but I only have enough energy to watch tv. Sometimes the gift is saying “no.”  My friend recently asked me to go to an open mic. But I was running low on energy and had a busy weekend, so I said “no.”  It was incredibly difficult, yet at the end of that evening I felt my energy return, and I was able to give my best to my clients, and then I was able to be social with my friends.

This is a practice that I still struggle with.  When I ignore myself my body, my mind, and my spirit will shut down when they have no energy left.   We wouldn’t go on a trip without filling our car with gas, so why do we expect to go on life’s journey without filling ourselves up.  And we wouldn’t ask our friends and family to join us to get stuck in the desert.  If we want to take care of others, we need to take care of ourselves, first.

Book Recommendation: The Gifts of Imperfection

Originally written for the New Moon Women’s Circle website

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown, Phd, LMSW

by Becca C. Kidwell

As I get ready to write this book review, I begin to look at my background as a high school teacher and having a master’s in English education and begin to worry about what will be the response to this review and will it be good enough, and then I remember what I just read in Brené Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, and I am able to write this.

Brené Brown is a shame researcher, and in this book she explores how her work led her to embrace compassion (particularly for herself) and wholehearted living.  Brené discusses the struggles she’s had with perfectionism and offers suggestions on how to let go of the expectations that we hold for ourselves and for others.  She speaks about this compassion for ourselves, which leads us to be more compassionate, and loving to others. She differentiates between guilt and shame and how guilt is feeling bad about your actions while shame is feeling bad about who you are. Continue reading “Book Recommendation: The Gifts of Imperfection”