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Mastering the art of saying no to empower yourself

It's time to find the freedom to say no!

I heard a great quote this week that got me thinking;

When you spend so much energy keeping the peace for everyone else, you create a war within yourself.

I have a friend who I love dearly, she has the kindest heart.

But she is the biggest people-pleaser I have ever met.

She treats her fully grown children who are still living at home like they’re toddlers. She does their grocery shopping, cooks for them, cleans their rooms, does all their laundry, drives them everywhere they need to go.

She took on almost all of the care for her mother when she got ill, despite the fact she was two hours away and one of my friend’s two siblings lives around the corner.

She recently had to take a pay cut at work because the company is in financial trouble. She’s contracted to work 12 hours a week but in reality works 25+, with no extra pay.

The word no does not exist in my friend’s vocabulary.

For the last five or so years, she’s had problem after problem with her health.

Symptoms and issues the doctors can’t explain, only muttering something about “a mystery virus” or “too much stress”.

She’s so unhappy and it breaks my heart to see it.

We need boundaries around the way we spend our energy.

Boundaries that are a struggle to put up as working mums, daughters, sisters, wives.

It is inherent in ourselves to do for others. It’s how we are brought up, it’s the behaviour most of us have seen modelled growing up.

And it’s so destructive.

Like most of you reading this email, I’ve spent most of my life as a people-pleaser.

Children, husband, bosses, co-workers, even a few friends – I’ve bent myself backwards so many times to make things easier for others.

Worried that I would be seen as selfish, as manipulative, spending my time feeling too guilty to say no.

When the kids were little, I would joke about being so low on the totem pole I came under the cats.

And what did that do for me?

It made me miserable. Resentful. Passive aggressive.

I had a massive martyr complex.

Watching my friend get sick was a big wake-up call for me. That coupled with the fact that I started to hate myself, I couldn’t bear the whole passive-aggressive thing.

The other thing that helped me was my healing journey, understanding that I had never developed my voice as a teenager and that was affecting me today by stopping me from ever standing up for myself.

People-pleasing is a destructive trait when it comes to our business as well.

As a service provider, you’ll take on more work than you have time for. You’ll accept tight deadlines and work yourself into the ground to meet them.

You’ll over-deliver to your clients and they’ll always expect you to perform like that even though they pay you to do waaayyy less work.

You’ll burn out, spending your weekend on the sofa too exhausted to do anything other than disappear into a Netflix hole.

You’ll hate your business.

You’ll want to burn it all to the ground.

How do we stop that from happening?

First of all, knowledge!

Most people who are people pleasers are the most amazing people (and I’m not just saying that as a reformed one!!).

You’re empathetic, caring, altruistic and thoughtful.

So step one is to accept these amazing traits and realise that you give so much just by being you that it’s ok to hold back what you need for yourself.

Step two is that magic word that sounds so easy but in reality is so hard – boundaries.

You need to draw your boundaries. Start with expansive ones and gradually pull them in. But be very clear on what you’ll accept and what you need to say no to.

And practice how you’ll say that no so that it comes easily when you start saying it.

Step three – start small. Say no via text instead of in person. Practice saying a polite no to people you don’t have a relationship with – salespeople, waiters, shopkeepers.

Saying no is a learned skill and like all learned skills, the more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Step four – set goals and priorities. Get very clear on where you want to spend your time and energy. Then look at what you need to say no to in order to allow you to do that.

And here are a few tips for making it easier to say no:

💪 Recognise where you're at war with yourself. Are you tired from overly extending yourself or has it gotten so bad it affects your relationships because you're sick and tired of feeling taken for granted?

💪 Stall for time – when someone asks you to do something you don’t want to, ask for time to think about it, check your diary, see if you’re free. This gives you the time to decide if this is something you want to say yes or no to and you’re more likely to say no if you do it in your own time and not when you’re feeling put on the spot.

💪 Assess the person making the request – time to get a bit ruthless my lovelies. Is this person someone who only speaks to you when they need something? Is the relationship one-sided with them getting more from you than you ever get from them? Is this someone who knows how to push your buttons? Do you feel you’re being manipulated or taken for granted? If you’re answering yes to these questions then ask yourself why you want to say yes to this person who doesn’t value you properly.

💪 No excuses – you don’t have to make up a reason to say no. No more sick kids, diary clashes or apologies for double-booking yourself. Accept that you have the right to say no just because you don’t want to do it and remind yourself that sometimes “no” is a complete sentence. I haven’t quite gotten to that one-word answer yet, but I do find a “Sorry I can’t do that” works incredibly well!

💪 Remind yourself that saying no is vital for your business. Not only does it keep you healthier, more energetic and engaged with your business, but it ensures you can always deliver to the level you want to and keep your clients happy!

For the people pleasers in my audience, why not spend some time today recognising where you tend to say yes when you should be saying no and where your boundaries are leaky (or non-existent!!).

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