Last week, I was clearing out the trunk of my car and organizing it so my in-laws could easily get to the beach chairs when they stayed at our house while we were traveling. I neatly tucked away all of our kayaking gear and yoga mats in the cargo storage, and threw away any trash. This got me thinking about a client of mine.
Sally (not her real name) recently posted a great insight in her weekly check-in. She mentioned how quick she is to clean her car when picking someone up, or to tidy up her home when company’s coming over, and she wants to start focusing on providing that same loving care and attention to herself. I know a lot of you can relate.
Why are we so willing to go the extra mile for friends, family, and even strangers, but not for ourselves? Do we not feel worthy? Are we just used to tolerating the mess/energy drain/pain? Has it become our baseline?
Where do you sell yourself short? Do you add an extra errand to your already busy day to bring lunch to your husband or wife when you’d really rather not? Do you often skip your bath/massage/workout because a family member or friend called with yet another crisis?
Here’s an important reminder: You’re not the victim in any of these scenarios. Each of these sacrifices you make is a choice. If you find yourself rolling your eyes at a request and fulfilling it begrudgingly, let it be a head’s up to think about your reasons behind agreeing to it.
Give these questions some thought:
- Is it too uncomfortable to disappoint someone?
- Do you fear the person will get mad at you/not like you?
- Do you define your worth by what you do for people instead of by who you are?
- Is your tendency to always say “yes” a means of ingratiating?
- Is dealing with others’ needs easier than dealing with your own?
- If you said “no” more often, might you be forced to stop and look at what’s not working in your own life?
- Who would you be if you weren’t the go-to person?
A while back, I challenged a client to disappoint one person a day for two weeks. Although she was terrified at the idea and thought I was nuts, she accepted. Two short days after agreeing to do it, she emailed me to say I’d created a disappointing monster! That she was disappointing more than one person a day. And, (this is the best part!) she wrote, “I feel like I’m living life on my terms for the first time.
Her willingness to accept this challenge taught her a lot. She learned that the consequences of saying no weren’t anything like she had feared. Most people accepted her response just fine. Those who voiced their disappointment simply gave her the opportunity to sit with her discomfort about that.
By knowing she had to say no at least once per day made her take a close look at how she spent her time and who she spent it with. She began evaluating the items in her calendar in a whole new way. She was surprised to notice how many coffee dates she agreed to with people she’s not terribly excited to spend time with (or may even dread being around!)
She also learned that by saying yes to so much was, in essence, saying no to herself. This reality was a bit shocking and eye-opening for her.
It’s true. All those yeses to others send a loud and clear message to yourself that everyone else matters more than you. Pretty shitty, eh?
When your soul feels neglected or tossed to the bottom of your priority list, it’s gonna find ways to get your attention. Things like anxiety, ticker tape of negative messages running through your head, illness, body aches, and heightened stress are just some of the fast tracks it’ll take.
The secret is to hear your soul’s whispers before they become screams, and that’s pretty hard to do when you’re running around taking care of everyone else.
So here’s my challenge to you: For the next week, pause and evaluate each request of your time, knowledge, skills, or resources. Ask yourself, “Is this something I really want to do/agree to?” Try to catch the very first answer that pops up — that’s the voice of your soul.
Even if you don’t yet feel ready to start saying no, this pause alone begins to send a message to yourself that you to, in fact, matter. Cuz guess what? You do!
Now I want to hear from YOU! Are you willing to accept my challenge? Think you may take it a step further and start saying no? What excites you about the idea? What scares you? Let’s keep the convo going in the comments section below.