Why Practicing Saying "No" Helps You Prioritize


Are you a pleaser? As in, inclined to put yourself out in favor of keeping everyone happy?  Oh, I totally am or rather, I was.  According to PsychToday and most therapists, women have this tendency because of a desire for approval or connection.  The concern about what other people think is something I know I and many of the women featured in our Another Mother Her Way series have cited as something that has evolved in motherhood.  

Recently, I was asked to help someone with a project they had taken on. Historically, I would have happily agreed to help in the moment and then felt annoyed later on when the email back and forth or related to-dos started to chip away at my headspace.  This time, I was protective of my time and direct in declining.  It may have ruffled a feather or two momentarily, which of course never feels good, but it occurred to me that no one besides myself has an obligation to be respectful of my time and energy.  And the other people in this and similar scenarios always have that same responsibility to themselves.  

Energy is something that I've become much more aware and protective of - its limits and its power.  As a mother, one or more little beings are so consuming of your head and heart space, combined with that adult being in your life - your partner - who also wants and deserves (most of the time) the best version of you.  Then come those other priorities.  For me, that's nurturing my relationships with immediate family and friends, both old and new.  Then, growing and investing in Mother Untitled, which lets me feel impactful and fulfilled.  And finally, leaving space for self-care whatever that means in that week - sometimes it's reading a chapter in the book I've been working on getting through for 3 months or getting a neck massage at the dodgy nail place around the block.  

Saying "no" in this particular situation was my first exercise in keeping those needs in the forefront while mildly disappointing someone else. While the project was fun, it didn't contribute to any of my priorities. In any given month, I've been taking a look at that list of priorities and if one thing feels un-tended to, I'm reminded to shift my time toward it.  Honestly, there's never a month where I'm fully content with the state of these - maybe my husband and I could benefit from more adult time or I'm missing one particular girlfriend or I could do with a bit more time to write.  As a result, that monthly or weekly check in keeps me committed to what moves the needle for my personal well-being and more protective the next time someone asks for help that realistically, I don't have the true desire or capacity to give.  

My instinctual worry on the heels of saying no was that I was being selfish.  After a couple weeks of feeling relieved that I wasn't caught up in additional to-dos, I'm uncertain if a certain amount of selfishness is a bad thing.  The most compelling advice I've gotten is that taking care of myself and that precious energy I have to offer makes me a happier mother, wife, and friend.  

Have you done an exercise to identify what's important to you and your well-being? Are you in favor of saying "yes" because you never know what it could lead to or "no" because of the above? I'd love to hear from you in the comments xo