No. <–That single work is a complete sentence.
Yet too often we feel like we should or must say yes. Not only do feel like we have to say yes but that we must say yes with nearly Mary Poppins perfection. Yes, I would love to attend your bridal shower. Yes, I would love to work late tonight. Yes, I would absolutely love to work this weekend. Yes, I would love nothing more than to babysit your 10 kids. When deep down inside we just want to say “No, thank you.” Or “No, I’m not available.” <– Also complete sentences.
Please note that I’m not talking about saying no to showering or other required things in your life such as paying your water bill.
Growing up I was conditioned to never say no. No was the devil. We were told to say yes to every chore, to every request, to every demand no matter what. Somehow within my child’s brain I kept wondering why say yes when I really wanted to say no. I wanted to say no so I could rest, play with friends, and do kid stuff.
The desire to say no started to manifest when I was a hair stylist. Working with the public has its challenges but nothing is worse than a boundary less, psycho aunt that thinks they are THE hair stylist and if I just listened to them, then their hair would be perfect. Let’s call her Psycho Suzie. Psycho Suzie would cut her own hair, call me in tears, and I would squeeze her in for a haircut because I was conditioned to never say no. This cycle went on for about 5 years.
One day, Psycho Suzie showed up at my apartment while I was having dinner with friends because she just needed her hair fixed. Finally as I moved further and further away (mentally, not geographically) from my toxic family, I finally felt that I was ok to say no. Was I scared? ABSOLUETLY.
I practiced almost daily for the next time Psycho Suzie called for another “hair fix”. She finally called. I remember the day very clearly. I was driving my old white car and Psycho Suzie called me in a panic asking if I could cut her hair. To which I replied “No, I’m not available.” She then cried and tried to lay on the usual guilt trip. I responded to her that her hair problems are not my problems. Psycho Suzie hasn’t spoken to me in 15 years and counting.
I share this story because regardless of your connection to a person you are entitled to set your own boundaries. I started to realize that once I set up boundaries, the people that needed the boundaries the most were the ones that fought back the most. They got nasty. They were mean. Were they jealous? Probably. Maybe they wished they could have done the same thing as me. Yet many others nodded, smiled, and accepted the boundaries without even a hint of a problem. Those are the people that are still in my life today.
But saying no and standing up for myself hasn’t been easy. There have been times when I just wanted to cave and give in. Then I realized that my badass grandmothers would have been mad at me for not standing up for myself and so I continued through with the boundary. I have read so many books about boundaries and saying no. At this point in my life, I might be near rock star level.
Just this past weekend I declined a bridal shower of my husband’s cousin’s wife. Here is the funny story about receiving the invitation to my husband’s cousin’s wife because they technically got married last year. I stood in the kitchen and stared at the invite for a good couple of minutes before I finally figured out who it was for. At first Mr. BMM was insistent on me going to the bridal shower. Claiming that I really didn’t have a conflict.
Thankfully I was in the middle of reading Sarah Knight’s F*ck No book so I was armed with some great responses. I kindly told him that I have a personal policy against attending bridal and baby showers. I also reminded him of the great presents I recently sent for his friend’s baby shower that I didn’t go to. I promised him that I would send a gift and kindly RSVP no.
Yesterday I ordered their mixer, had it shipped to their house, and left a nice voicemail for the random number on the invitation. Here is what I said.
“Hi this is Mrs. BMM calling about Mr. BMM’s cousin’s wife’s bridal shower. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to make it. Despite this whole quarantine thing going on I actually have something already scheduled for that day. Target should be delivering her gift shortly. Take care.”
Once I ordered the gift and left the voicemail, I shredded the invite. No need to keep that piece of paper laying around. Maybe Mr. BMM was worried that I would embark on explaining my personal policy to the person on the other end of the phone. I get it. But he was happy with my response and gift choice.
All of this to say, that it’s totally ok to say No. And if you struggle with boundaries, consider reading all of the books by Sarah Knight in her No F*cks Given Guides. Maybe see a trained professional. Whatever you choice. Remember that “No” is a complete sentence.