Have you learnt to say ‘no’?
Being assertive by saying ‘no’ to friends and family was always such a challenge for me. Even when it was so inconvenient, my normal reaction to a request was to say ‘yes’ because I had been told that I had to put others before me, or I would be considered as selfish. I believed that it was the only way to be accepted. When, eventually, I started learning to say ‘no’, it was just like when I learnt to drive: I was all over the place.
Learning a new skill takes time and effort. We learn by repetition; the more we do it, the better we become. Practice makes perfect, or at least it makes you more proficient. But when we learn certain life skills, such as being assertive, finding the balance as to how and when to apply these techniques becomes essential and fundamental to the success and good use of them.
Learning to say ‘no’ to others is showing competence in the art of caring for oneself. Too often we are taught that someone else’s needs should come first. Selfishness is a flaw while altruism is a quality, we are told. What we are not taught, however, is the difference between caring for oneself, or being ‘self-ish’, and being self-serving or self-absorbed and egoistic. Caring about our needs is showing love towards ourselves, and when you learn to love yourself, miracles happen in every area of your life.
But what happens once you realise the importance of caring for yourself and saying ‘no’ to others?
I remember when I finally understood that I had to learn to prioritise my needs, too, and not just be a ‘good daughter’, or a ‘good sister’ or a ‘good friend’ or simply being good to others. I learnt, finally, that I was worth saying ‘yes’ to, and sometimes it was necessary to say ‘no’ to others.
In my eagerness to change this and show that I could finally care about myself, I started saying ‘no’ to more things than I wanted. I went from one extreme to the other, without realising what was happening. I was keen to practise my new learnt skill; not doing so felt like I reverted to my old self, allowing others to come first at all cost.
I was on a mission! Saying ‘no’ to people was challenging at first, and not a natural way of behaving for me, but I did it as much as I could, maybe even too much. With time, however, I learnt to assess and adjust each situation.
When you learn to say ‘no’, you might be tempted to say ‘no’ to everything. Not because you have become self-absorbed and egotistic, not wanting to help those around you anymore, but because you have discovered that, after years of putting yourself last, you can be kind to yourself. You no longer want to neglect your wishes and desires.
In the process of learning how to apply this skill effectively, you might tip the scale to the opposite direction. You start looking at every situation that arises as a test, and you want to show the world that you are learning to love yourself. But although practice makes perfect, it is vital to understand how to apply this new found art.
You are worthy to say ‘yes’ to yourself.
Somehow, we mistake aggressive for assertive. We don’t mean to, of course, but it is a natural step towards healing. With time we learn to balance this out. We learn that we can say ‘no’ to others, only when it requires a ‘no’, because the other times, we continue being willing to help. We just learn that being assertive is assessing the situation and giving the appropriate answer, in a kind way.
You are a magnificent extension of Source, and you are worthy to say ‘yes’ to yourself. After all, when people around you accuse you of being selfish for not saying ‘yes’ to them, what do you think they are doing? Putting their own needs before yours! Isn’t that being self-centered? So, why would their needs be always more important than yours?
Being assertive is learning to be kind to yourself. When you are able to say ‘no’ to others in a loving way, leaving the door open for future requests, you give the people around you permission to do the same. They will start saying what they mean, and meaning what they say, feeling safe in your friendship. You will be an example, not only to friends but to your family, and your children will be able to learn self-respect and respecting others’ needs.