So, you struggle with the word, “No.” Funny, how that’s the first word most kids learn to shout loud-and-proud. Now it feels like a foreign language. Something no one will understand. And you say, “Yes.” Yes you’ll help throw a bridal shower. Yes you’ll fill in for the 3rd grade Sunday School teacher. And yes you’d be happy to bring six dozen cookies. But that three-letter word (yes) is beginning to be too much for you. Or maybe it’s been too much for some time now. Regardless, I know the feeling because I been there. And here’s the cold, hard truth I wasn’t acknowledging: I can’t be everything to everyone.
Every time we say, “Yes,” we’re taking away the opportunity for someone else to step up. It may not seem that way initially, but that’s only because we have taken on the unofficial role of everything-woman. Our willingness to pitch in tells others that they are not needed. It takes away the opportunity for someone else to learn or for the system to be refined.
Despite what we are led to believe, we are not better for saying yes to every request. In fact, that innocent, little “yes” makes us something quite different from superwoman. It makes us the much less sexy* “burned-out woman.” Instead of flying around with perfect hair and a blowing cape, we find ourselves constantly overwhelmed, exhausted, and three steps behind where we should be.
Our yes is ultimately a no to something else. When this hit me, it hit me hard. Not only was I saying, “Yes,” to something I really didn’t want to do in the first place. It was also saying, “No,” to the important things in my life: my husband, my interests, my quiet time.
It’s easy to lose sight of this truth when we are bogged down by commitments and extra curriculars. We fall into the lie that everything else can be scrunched into a five-minute-window or temporarily be set aside. Sometimes, we even believe that we are doing a great job balancing it all, but inevitably something pays the price. But that’s not how marriage was designed to work. It’s not how parenting should be handled, either. The same goes for your career, calling, and friendships.
Yes becomes a disservice, not a help. One thing I’ve had to come to grips with is the fact that people don’t know everything I am doing. They are unaware of my current stress and that Tuesday the 19th is already committed to something else. They are simply looking for someone to fill a need.
Because our minds are overwhelmed by x, y, and z already, we can’t possibly dedicate an adequate amount of thought to what is being asked of us. Yes, we can show up, do our part and go home. But as long as we carry so much, “doing our part” is really code for “doing just enough.” No knocking the ball out of the park, just getting by and hoping you don’t have a breakdown halfway through. They deserve more than that.
The real casualty to yes is you. When it’s all said and done, the person who really hurts the most in this situation is you. You’re the one who will be so overstretched that you can’t even think about what’s for dinner. You’ll be the one so ready to hit the sack that you forget to have sex for a month. (Believe me, your husband won’t forget!) It will be you who misses your baby’s first steps because you were focused on responding to just one more email. And it will be you who physically suffers when the emotional and mental toll really take effect.
Believe me when I say that I’ve been there. These words are not coming from an outside perspective. I have been to the breaking point, afraid to say, “No,” but so overwhelmed because I said, “Yes.” I’ve been the girl who could have done a fantastic job, but didn’t because there were just too many other things. I understand the fear of disappointment and almost daily I battle feeling like I’m getting left behind because I don’t do more. But those feelings and fears are all lies. Every time I give in to them, I’m missing out on something better. Even if that “better” is something simple like enjoying an evening at home with my husband.
I don’t want to wake up one day and realize I wasted 20 years saying, “Yes,” to things that should have been a, “No.” But the only way to change that reality is to make the appropriate changes now. Yes, it’s a little uncomfortable the first, second, third, and even tenth time of saying, “No.” You may never fully shake the need to please other people, but you will reap the benefits of a simpler, more intentional life.
Saying, “No,” is prioritizing what really matters. It’s understanding our limits and extending respect to ourselves in the process. So, don’t go another day throwing around your yes’s like they grow on trees. Be intentional. Be honest with your no’s. And take it step-by-step from there.
*I don’t usually use the word “sexy,” but in this case I think it’s fitting. We can be led to believe that our extreme juggling skills are attractive, but in reality, they are draining and contribute to wrinkles on our faces. And who really wants wrinkles? (As if that’s the most important thing at play here.)