I used to be the kind of person who never knew how to tell someone no. I didn’t want to rock the boat, or upset anyone. I found myself, on multiple occasions, in places I didn’t want to be, doing things I didn’t want to be doing, with people I didn’t want to spend time around because of this fact. I hated it.
I was so worried about what other people might think, feel or how they would manage if I said no, that I didn’t stop to think about what saying yes was doing to me. I would end up stressed and anxious over events I had agreed to help with. I would be full of dread over having to spend time with people I didn’t like. I would be frustrated over responsibilities I didn’t want to have. I would get angry about people asking for my help at the last minute. I frequently just plain felt trapped. My inability to say no or risk disappointing others was holding me back from living my life to the fullest.
As someone who had spent years being a people pleaser, figuring out how to tell someone no wasn’t easy. In reality, it wasn’t even a conscious decision at first. I simply started to love my life. I would make plans for things that I was excited about, like purposefully scheduling time with friends, going to and participating in events, and making time to work out and get healthy. I started living with intention. If I would get asked to help with something, I more often than not, would have to answer that I already had a commitment at that time. It didn’t make people happy, but I am a woman of my word, so unless it was an emergency I wasn’t going to cancel my plans.
And do you know what happened?
The world kept turning.
I realized that saying no wasn’t going to cause a cataclysmic event, and that already having plans was a perfect way to avoid getting wrangled into things. As a result, I may or may not have spent an entire summer constantly on the go, running myself ragged as an avoidance mechanism… To be fair, it was a really fun summer full of new experiences and adventures, even if it wasn’t the best way for me to tell people no.
Luckily, as I have continued to grow, heal, and become the woman I am today, I found my voice. I can un-apologetically tell people no. Sometimes they get an explanation, sometimes they don’t. Either way, I no longer feel guilty for doing what it best for me. I had to learn that it’s okay to say no to things, that it is okay to make myself a priority, and that choosing my own happiness doesn’t make me selfish. It was the most freeing thing I have ever learned to do, and I am happier than I have ever been.
Here’s the thing. Once you start setting boundaries and telling people no, you will upset some people. Anyone who really cares about you will get over it. If they aren’t able to cheer you on when you are taking care of yourself and doing what is best for you, then they aren’t someone you need in your life. If your circle doesn’t inspire, encourage, and support you, then you my friend, have a cage.