Why the best self-care could be saying no

I know there have been movies about how wonderful it would be to say “yes” to everything that comes our way. I think we took that to heart and now live our lives with so much that it’s hard to handle.

Self-care has become yet another thing women are expected to be good at.  Did you use the right filter for Instagram or prepare the perfect food?  Consumerism teaches us that self-care can be bought and sold and even tries to make us feel bad about our self-care.

Actual self-care has very little to do with “treating yourself” and a whole lot to do with making choices for your long-term well-being.

It’s really about:

  • Meeting your own needs so you aren’t anxious and dependent on others or quick fixes
  • Stop trying to fix yourself and start nourishing yourself – the fixing automatically happens
  • Choosing a life that feels good, not just looks good
  • Becoming the person, you were meant to be

What if you could say no to everything that you didn’t want to do?

What if, at age 2, you weren’t conditioned out of saying no?

At Age 2:

  • Did we say no because we really didn’t want to do something? Yes, probably.
  • Did it feel good to say no? Yes, definitely.
  • Did we care if we were polite? No.
  • Did we care what others thought of our decisions? No.
  • Did we care how we felt? Yes.

We often think of self-care as taking baths, getting a pedicure, or eating chocolate. But I believe that your best self-care is a two-letter word – NO!

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!

There was a time I had two kids under the age of five. I was working outside the home as well as growing a side business, putting others’ needs before my own, and not saying no to all of the things I thought I “should” say yes to. I was overwhelmed and trying to do it all.  One day, my body had had enough and the weight of the world I had created crushed my sciatic nerve, causing debilitating back pain and I could no longer go on the way I had been.

How did I get there? I said yes, too many times.

I said yes:

  • I can do it all
  • I can work a day job and take care of my two kids in the evenings
  • I will listen to all the ‘shoulds’ and not give myself a break
  • I will feed my family the perfect foods
  • I will not let my kids watch tv
  • I will drag both kids to every activity like it’s a badge of honor
  • I won’t let others help – believing “I am a strong woman; I can do this all.”
  • To kid birthday parties
  • To school events
  • To all the expectations
  • To all the things my mind told me
  • To all the parenting advice, from everyone
  • I will pick up my child when they are having a tantrum (even if means hurting myself)

My body eventually said – NO…NO MORE! And it took me 6 months to recover. 

I was forced to say NO to so many things I can’t even count them. I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t carry my kids, I couldn’t go on the way things were, I couldn’t go to parties, I couldn’t do it alone. 

We made changes. We had to. My husband had a long commute and couldn’t be home in the evenings, but he switched to a job that was 100% work from home. I hired help. I car-pooled. I said NO thank you to all the ‘shoulds’.

I have done this in my work world as well, like expectations of working on the evenings or weekends even when I had small kids at home.

I wore all these things as a badge of honor. But now I have regret – that I didn’t know how to say NO earlier. I know we all learn from the past, so I am glad I learned now, but I am writing this in hopes that it might spark something in you to do something about it sooner than I did. And to know that it is a strength, not a weakness.

You don’t have to say it in a mean way. You can say NO THANK YOU. You don’t have to attach a bag of excuses to it. You can just say, “no, that’s not right for me.”

Why saying no is the best self-care.

Saying no to things that drain your energy is like putting a plug into your energetic body. It allows you to keep the energy for yourself and it doesn’t mean it hurts the other person. 

  • If we said no more often, we wouldn’t need to take long breaks to recover.
  • We might not get as sick or burned out because we are constantly tending to our energetic needs with two little letters – NO. 
  • It takes more energy to try to live out what others want us to be, than just doing things that are right for us and being ourselves.
  • When you say yes to EVERYTHING, you often end up with no energy for the things that you love.
  • We often get frustrated with the things we said yes to, but didn’t want to do – and then we hold onto that negative emotion and it becomes toxic to us.
  • We might end up with a house full of stuff we don’t want.
  • We might waste time living out other’s ideas or inspirations.
  • We may end up in co-dependent relationships.

Why care about this?

Saying no is the only thing that literally helps me recover – especially from burnout.

I could take all the baths in the world. I could treat my face to a hundred facials or even get massages every day – and it wouldn’t take away my long-term anxiety or burnout.

Saying no helps you keep the energy you need for the things you love, and it helps direct you towards what you really want. It gives you healthy boundaries and also guides you to your authentic path, one step at a time.

What next?

Feeling harmony inside your body is key.  I believe Human Design Authority is one of the most powerful tools out there. It’s how your body tells you when to say yes and when to say no. >> Learn more about Authority here.

It’s about creating a life that you don’t need to regularly escape from. It means letting go of toxic friends, activities and even jobs.  It means setting up self-care sabbaticals so you have a boundary around a whole block of time and then saying no thank you to anything that comes during that time.

How many things have you said yes to that you wish you hadn’t?

Home Play:

  1. Try saying no. Test it out. Seriously. In the next week. Say no thank you to one thing that you don’t actually want to do. How did it feel?
  1. Have someone else ask you Yes/No questions
    1. Write down a list of near-term decisions you need to make.
    2. Have someone else ask you about those decisions in a form of Yes/No questions.
    3. If you hesitate to answer yes enthusiastically – it means no, or not now.
  1. Flip the quarter exercise for DIYers
    1. You have a quarter. Heads = yes. Tails = no.
    2. Write down a list of near-term decisions you need to make.
    3. Flip the coin for each decision
    4. Now, pause. How does your body feel about what was flipped?
      • If the coin says yes (heads). Are you relieved? Or did it make your gut tighten?
      • If the coin says no (tails). Are you relieved? Or did it make your gut tighten? * Note: This exercise is not like a magic 8 ball, where you are looking for some magical answer. It’s actually an exercise in tuning in to how your body feels. It doesn’t matter what is flipped – it matters how you feel about what you flip.

Take Aways:

  1. Saying no gives you power.
  2. Saying no saves your energy for the things you love.
  3. Saying no does not hurt people and it actually can heal you (and them!).

Please comment below your success stories in saying no. What have been your blessings? Ahas? Stories of encouragement for others? I would love to hear them.

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