“No” is the new “Yes!”

indexIn a popular movie called “Yes Man”, Jim Carrey plays a man who attends a self-help seminar that advocates saying “yes” to life in every opportunity that comes his way. I liked the movie because it helps us understand that we should be more open to unexpected opportunities by saying yes to them…

However, unfortunately, sometimes when we say “yes” to life, we are saying “no” to our Spirit or God. This can show up in the most innocuous ways. For example, we may say yes to a request from a friend or family to stay up late and talk on the phone when we should really be letting ourselves sleep, or we say yes to an invitation to an event that we know we do not have time to attend, or even worse, we say yes to a request that causes us to compromise our values or sacrifice our God-given dreams. This need to say yes to others and reluctance to say no often shows up in different ways for men and women. For example Brene Brown, Ph.D. talks about this in “Daring Greatly” when she writes:

“When we asked the group about the process of setting boundaries and limits to lower the anxiety in their lives, they didn’t hesitate to connect worthiness with boundaries. We have to believe we are enough in order to say, “Enough!”. For women, setting boundaries is difficult because the shame gremlins are quick to weigh in: ‘Careful saying no. You’ll really disappoint these folks. Don’t let them down. Be a good girl. Make everyone happy.’ For men, the gremlins whisper, ‘Man up. A real guy could take this on and then some. Is the little mamma’s boy just too tired?”

Unfortunately, when we say “Yes” to other people and “No” to our Spirit, then we really are not helping other people, because on a psychological level, this often breeds resentment and latent anger. This resentment and anger can eventually come to the surface in unexpected outbursts towards others. For example, when we agree to do something for someone else that we really don’t want to do and deep down inside we know we shouldn’t do, then we often develop unconscious resentment and anger for the other person and ourselves, that accumulates over time and then is repressed or expressed in an unhealthy manner.

Learning when and how to say no to other people can be a challenging skill for many. It is something that takes practice, but we can learn this skill over time and the results are well worth the effort. It may feel uncomfortable at first, but eventually it will become easier and more natural. Saying “No” to other people and “Yes” to our Spirit or God actually is one of the kindest things we can do for others and ourselves because that helps us take care of ourselves, which in the long run gives us more energy and time to give to others.