Crazy-ass family

You just can't make this stuff up

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Art of Saying No

I have this problem. I want people to be happy.

Huh? Doesn’t sound like a problem, you say? Perhaps I should re-phrase that.

I have this problem. If people aren’t happy, I assume it’s my fault, and I do everything I can to remedy the situation.

This can be bad. It tends to cut into my own happiness quite significantly, see?

The boss rushes in with another project that she needs “someone” to do ASAP. I Can do that!

A friend needs help organizing a group event. I’m your girl!

Jim seems quiet. I must have done something wrong!

That man in the elevator is scowling. Maybe he doesn’t like my shoes!

Why do I do this? I do not know. But I know one thing: it has to change. ‘Cuz it’s driving me bonkers.

“Just say ‘no’!” advises my best friend. Hahahahahaha she is so funny. Because for me, that is the hardest thing in the world.

My first performance review as a government employee went smashingly; the praise was almost embarrassing. But at the end, my boss (who is so wise to do this for me) said, “I have one negative comment for you. You’re a people-pleaser. It sounds good, but it’s not. You’re going to get taken advantage of, and it’ll hurt you in the long run. You have to learn to say no.”

She was right. I haven’t mastered the art of saying no (haven’t even mastered the art of saying maybe, friends), and it’s hurting. At work, I’m seen as the go-to girl; the one who can do anything, and FAST! The problem is, I end up with piles or work that I don’t have enough time for, and it’s not the quality I’d like it to be by the deadline. At home, I’m the girl who’s given up everything – her whole self – for her family. And now I’m unhappy. Everyone around me is taken care of. Relaxed. Secure.

But I am…


I need to learn to say no. I need just a touch of selfishness…just enough so that I can be happy, too. I need to think of me.

The question is…how do I do that without feeling the guilt of letting everyone down?


At 12:12 PM, Blogger MB said...

Let me know if you figure it out... Sorry, I'm no help.

At 1:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh sweet Tree! I know your problem so well. Just remember that you aren't letting everyone down.

If you take care of yourself you will be able to better take care of your family and job.

Trust me it's true--I'm learning this myself--right this very minute!

At 2:17 PM, Blogger LynAnne said...

I could have written this post...not the content but the subject. I think part of the definition of mother is "selfless."

Maybe the trick is in coming up with excuses that involve your family? Such as “I’d really like to help but I promised I’d take my son to the movie that day” etc.

I feel for you, I really do. I wish I knew what to say that would help.

At 2:30 PM, Blogger nava said...

I'm the same way. First I learned to say :"oh, I would really like to, but I don't know if I can. I'll have to let you know." That way they weren't relying on me and could go find someone else 'just in case', and I had time to really think about the request. Now I can occasionally say 'no', although it's still really hard. I love your stories, btw. :)

At 2:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

For me, it's a matter of perspective. How people feel if you say no to them, is their problem. You CANNOT be responsible for other people's feelings. As a mother, you NEED to take care of yourself, cause if you're unwell, or unhappy, your children will feel that. You have to be a role model and teach them that it's ok to say "no".
Saying no doesnt mean you're a bad person, you just need to prioritise what you CAN do. You dont have to say "No, sorry I can't do that" can just say, you know what, I have a few things to do first, and if I can get to it, i'll help you.

You say no to your children when it's 7 am and they want a chocolate bar cause it's "tough love" right? Coworkers and friends need that same treatment.

Don't let people take advantage of you Tree. You'll start building resentment. One step at a time. Practice makes perfect! ;)

At 2:44 PM, Anonymous Alisha said...

A few years ago when my kids were really small and I was on the verge of going crazy, Oprah did a show about exercising your "no muscle". It made alot of sense and has really helped me. If you think about it, It really is like a muscle that is, at first, very weak but the more you use it the stronger it gets and the less you even have to think about it. I am now about the most adjusted person you'll ever hope to meet. I help my friends (and anyone else) who really need it, but I don't feel bad saying "I just don't have time (energy, patience, whatever) right now" if I don't. It has REALLY helped a lot. You've gotta let the guilt go, though. You know the old saying...If momma ain't happy, ain't nobody happy.

At 1:21 AM, Blogger ChristyD said...

De-lurking to say I FEEL your pain. I'm finally saying no, and we're all adjusting well, except for my charming husband who is ready to strangle me for changing. Darn this personal growth stuff! It's something I won't write about on my blog, but it's wreaking havoc in my marriage. Best of luck to you.

At 10:24 AM, Blogger s@bd said...


Create an alternate personality and call her ... Mean Tree. Make Mean Tree do all the dirty work.

ahem. what? it could work.

At 10:38 AM, Anonymous Sheri said...

Try to take a moment, a few breaths, before answering any request - so that you don't go into auto-mode "yes" and you can think about what is being asked and whether you really want to help/participate etc. Its important to keep agreements you make, so don't make agreements you don't want to keep - that's what I've been trying to learn. Good luck! You can do it!

At 9:39 PM, Blogger The Mater said...

The giving Tree is slow to burn
But the giving Tree must now learn
That no matter how many branches she will sprout
Others' demands will wear her out

An unhealthy Tree needs to be pruned
Too many wounded birds will lead to her ruin
A Tree does bend with so much weight
She must spring back, regain her shape

Let the cuts be done with care
Those closest kept, as would be fair
The farther the branch extends from Tree
The more the pruner's blade can free

Keep family and loved ones ever near
For others set boundaries and adhere
It will be hard for such a Tree
Who loves to share her energy

Trees can wither and soon decay
They must keep healthy we all pray
Nourish roots from within before reaching out
From such self love, new growth will sprout

You are allowed to love yourself and say "no".

Here's what Eleanor Roosevelt had to say: "Friendship with oneself is all important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world."

Hugs, E xxoo

At 12:01 AM, Blogger Margaret said...

Maybe some time management? It might ease your feelings of guilt if you can pull out a calendar or planner and say, "sorry, I have three other projects I'm working on right now," or "I only have two free hours on Saturday." It's not the same as a plain "no" or feeling like you are making an excuse. It's there in black and white. Of course not everything can be scheduled neatly--things happen unexpectedly all the time! But, don't forget, you have an obligation to yourself, too.

Good luck with whatever you try!

At 6:11 PM, Blogger Tree said...

Well aren't you all the sweetestest?
Thank you, all, for your understanding, your comments and suggestions.
And Mater, thank you, as always for overwhelming me with generosity.
I loves you guys.


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