I’m going to let you in on a little secret that changed my life. I have always been a people pleaser, and I think as women, most of us are taught to be from a young age. While going the extra mile for someone or something you really care about can be an amazing and rewarding experience, I think most of us will agree we’ve taken on more than we needed to at one point or another. (Like the time I got roped into being a chaperone for the 5th grade sleep-away camp, or staying up until midnight stuffing hundreds of Easter eggs!)
So how do you learn to say “No,” and not feel like an awful, garbage person? It took me years to finally start saying NO to things that didn’t serve me and start saying YES to myself. The first thing is figuring out why you’re saying yes in the first place. Are you afraid the person asking will be disappointed with you? Are you the only one who can do it? Chances are that you are NOT the only person who can host the class party or help with soccer sign ups.
Let’s just be honest for a minute, as busy as everything has gotten, especially if you’re a parent and/or working full time, your time is so, so, so precious. The day I was able to walk into my kid’s school on back to school night, skip the PTO sign up and not feel guilty about being a total slacker mom, was the day I realized how over-committed I had really been and it kinda shocked me.
Juggling three kids (even one, can we just all agree raising kids is hard freakin’ work y’all) is a challenge. Looking back on when my kids were younger and first starting school, I thought I had to do everything to show them that I loved and supported them at school. PTO, class mom, literally anything that asked for volunteers. Somehow my kindergartner didn’t get the memo the he was obviously loved and adored because I had spent hours calling moms and dads to put together a class Christmas party. All he really cared about was getting to eat Cheetos in class.
Before I get any hate mail let me just say that I am still an active participant in my kids school lives, but learning when to say no lets me narrow it down from everything, to just the things I love. (Like helping out with Santa and Easter bunny pictures!) Here are the questions I ask myself before I say “Yes!”
- Am I the only person who can do this?— If you’re absolutely the only one who can possibly fulfill the task you’re being asked to do, well you’re caught. You will probably have to do it, but see if you could teach someone else how to do it for the next time. If the answer is no, this is easily a task you can say no to and not feel guilty about because there is always someone else they can ask.
- Will it take less than 30 minutes?— This is the quickest way to decide yes or no. If it can be done in less than 30 minutes, say picking up snacks or art supplies while you’re at the store, no problem. Anything more than 30 minutes is a serious commitment of your time, proceed with caution.
- Is this how I want to spend my time?— Does the thought of doing this fill you with excitement or dread? It took me entirely too long to realize that there are things that I just don’t have to do because I didn’t enjoy them. Unfortunately laundry is a necessary evil and and I can’t cop outta that one with this because I really, really would.
So, now that you’ve decided you just can’t/won’t/aren’t gonna say yes, you have to say no. There are dozens of ways to let the hammer down easy, here are the ones that have helped me:
“No thank you,”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t.” Notice I put a period and no further explanation. You don’t have to explain yourself.
“Thanks for thinking of me, but I have too much on my plate,”
The better you get at saying no, the better you’ll become at predicting when you’re going to have to use it. This is a REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, important step when it comes to managing your time and setting boundaries. It’s all self-care in the end, not taking on too much and overwhelming yourself because for everything you have to say no to, there are probably a dozen things that you have to get done. (Laundry, you win this time).