Can you identify with this scenario? You need to say no. After agonizing, practicing a speech beforehand, and finally saying no, you immediately feel crappily guilt-ridden and take it back, then wind up agreeing to do even more than you were initially asked to. The reasons for our difficulty in setting limits are complicated, often stemming from early childhood . Maybe your family was controlling and didn’t allow you to say no, or you had parenting examples of adults who overextended themselves. Adding a new life to your family can bring your “no” problems into stark view, as you’re preparing to set new limits for your growing family, and for your baby, who is obviously incapable of doing so for herself. Here are 15 ways to help you keep your “no” in firm place:
- Remind yourself of why you personally struggle with setting limits (you’re a “pleaser”, you’re afraid of the “b-word”, etc). This will help you rise above the present issue you’re saying no to, helping you separate your strong emotional drivers from the 10 dozen cupcakes you’ve been asked to bake.
- Write down your top three reasons for saying no. Keep the short list close to you for retrieval after you’ve had your conversation.
- Write down three things you’ll have time for that you personally want or need to do, once you say no to this other thing. Keep this list close by too.
- Notice your physical state as you prepare. Does the very thought make your breathing irregular and your pulse race? This is sign that you’re tapping into some old internal issues. Go back to #2.
- Take a few moments before making the call, or sending the email or text to breathe deeply into your belly. Pull in as much fresh air as you can take, hold it for a couple of beats, then let it allllll out. Repeat 5 times minimum. Being physically grounded will help immensely.
- If you’re saying no to someone who doesn’t respond well (is passive-aggressive, frowns, glares, yells, manipulates, etc), remind yourself of this truth, “It’s okay that I’m saying no to this person. I care about her, but her negative reactions to it are not my responsibility.”
- Look down at your two lists. Touch them, smile at them, thank them for being there. If the conversation is in person, have them in your pocket and give them a little stealth pat.
- Take a break. Very little in life is actually urgent enough to demand an immediate answer. If you start feeling flooded and tempted to take it all back, excuse yourself from the conversation, hit the restroom and repeat your five breaths.
- Focus your attention on your two strong, pretty feet. Notice those firmly planted feet on the ground, imagining the guilty feelings and pressure you’re experiencing as wind swirling around you. It’s not strong enough to throw you off.
- Guilt and shame rising up? Consider them growing pains. You’re strengthening a new muscle, and healthy growth is often best friends with soreness.
- Repeat your five breaths.
- Immediately grab your lists of why you decided to say no, and what you’ve gained by having done so. Read them again and again.
- If you feel tempted to take back your no, call a supportive friend or your partner instead, processing it and asking for some encouragement/reassurance that you did the right thing for yourself and/or your family.
- Remind yourself of the reality you’d like to live, in which you could give of your time and resources from a place of generosity and love, instead of guilt and control.
- Listen to this.
Here’s to Sanity and Little Stealth Pats,