Home article Why You Need to Say No…a Lot

Why You Need to Say No…a Lot

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Why You Need to Say No…a Lot

It’s no secret that parenting is hard work.  At times, your children will amuse and endear you with humor, antics, and accomplishments.  You might even gleam with pride.  Other times, they will try to run you down and take over, not only the household, but seemingly the world.

You are likely already aware of this and the need to send clear boundaries, let them know who is really in charge, and say the word no frequently.  What you may not realize, though, is how important the ability to say no is in many other aspects of your life.

Saying no communicates a solid and unwavering boundary.  When a child tries to do something unsafe, we yell, “No!”  When they want something they can’t have or ask to do something that is not appropriate, we similarly say, “No.”  They will try and try again to get their way, but we do not give in.  If we do, we know that we have allowed ourselves to be taken advantage of and exploited.  Most of us find this extremely unpleasant.  Why, then, do we not say no enough in other areas of our lives?

Parents find themselves overwhelmed with work, children, chores and all sorts of other necessary tasks.  Still, though, so many of us find ourselves on every committee, volunteering each and every time anybody needs anything, whether at your children’s school, work or in your community. This only contributes to feeling stressed out and the feeling you don’t have enough time for yourself or your family.  Because, really, you don’t!  Wouldn’t it make more sense to pick and choose which things are really, truly meaningful to you, and devote your time only to those things and people that matter?

Many parents believe that they have to do it all in order to be a perfect parent, perfect partner, and perfect employee.  The truth is, that is an impossible task.  If you seek perfection, you will always be reaching for something that is unattainable.

It makes much more sense to strive to be your personal best as a person, a parent, a partner, an employee, and even a friend. Imagine being able to say yes only to those things that resonate with you and are worthy of your time, leaving more time for you to enjoy your family, friends and hobbies.  Imagine saying no to practically everything else.  I promise you will gain a new sense of freedom and happiness when you do this.

While it may seem daunting, you can learn to say no.  Here are some helpful tips:

  1. Remember that there are only 7 days in a week, with 24 hours in each of them. Ask yourself how you want to spend the available time that you have.
  2. Pick one or two places you would like to give your time, such as school and church, or a charity and coaching your child’s soccer team.
  3. Remind yourself that you cannot, and should not do it all. You are only one person.  There are plenty of people to pick up what you don’t.
  4. Saying no to your kids teaches them that you are in charge, not them. It helps them develop and understand healthy boundaries.  It makes them feel safe and secure.  It helps prevent them from becoming entitled little brats.
  5. Saying no to volunteering for every single thing you’re asked to do isn’t mean. It simply sends a message that you and your time are valuable.  It lets others know that you will only do those things you are passionate about, but you will do them well.  If you overextend yourself, you will not only be doing too much, but you won’t even be able to do it well.
  6. Saying no to your friends or your partner doesn’t mean you don’t care about them. I’m sure sometimes, when it is something you want to do and have the time to do, you will say yes.  You will be there in times of need.  But you don’t always have to do everything your friends or partner suggest.  You’re allowed to be too tired, too busy, or just prefer to spend your time doing something else that you enjoy more.
  7. It is even okay to say no to your boss. I mean, obviously you shouldn’t say no to doing the things your are expected to do.  And sometimes it is even nice to go a little above and beyond what is expected of you.  But this doesn’t mean you have to do every single extra thing that is asked or volunteer for more than you can handle.  It is okay to say no or to pass on certain things, as long as you do it politely and appropriately.

I remember a time when I was managing my son’s soccer team, sitting on the board of our homeowner’s association, volunteering at my children’s school, serving on the board of our religious organization, and raising two toddlers and two teenagers simultaneously.  I was never home and I never slept.  I never had time for the people I cared the most about, and I was completely stressed out.

I am happy to say that I quit everything; every single thing that wasn’t mandatory.  I withdrew from every single committee and position that I held as a volunteer.  I learned to focus on myself and my family, and began feeling so much happier.  Eventually, I went back to volunteering, but only for one or two causes at a time, in ways that I loved, with a time commitment that worked for my schedule, and at places that truly mattered to me.  I am living proof that it can be done.

When you learn how to say no, you will find a sense of peace and calm that you might not even remember exists.  Your marriage, your family, your job, and your friendships will all benefit.  You are not a door mat, and you do not need to do everything for everyone. While you might get some push back from people who are used to taking advantage of you, just remember that it is not your job to please everyone.  Let them sit with their own discomfort.  Eventually, they will learn to accept your boundaries.  As you get better and better at this, you will realize that it’s not as hard as it seems.

Lori Freson Lori Freson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She has been working in the mental health field since 1997, and has been a licensed therapist since 2002. Lori currently works in her own thriving private practice in Encino and Sherman Oaks, where she serves the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas.
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