The Art Of Saying "No"

Looking at situations in which you say “yes,” to or “no” to can be a powerful unearthing of how you spend your time and energy, where you place your values, and where YOU are on your priority list. In my own personal development and work with clients, examining the ability to say “yes” or “no” uncovers imbalances in personal power, confidence, resilience, conviction and self-esteem.

For example, I’ve been working with a client who desires more energy and more health in her life. However, she can’t seem to find the time for food prep, moving her body, or resting her body. After doing some digging, we uncovered that she suffered from "yes-ism.”  Yes-ism is saying “yes” every request, work offer, appointment, meeting, social engagement, or favor. She says “yes” to everything and everyone but herself.

Examples of how "yes-ism" manifests

  • Yes-ism can also look like validating yourself by your “to-do” list, or making sure you’re a martyr because of your “selflessness.”  Saying “yes” to every work assignment, bake sale, committee, gig, writing assignment, etc. because there can’t possibly be anyone else that can do it correctly.  It is the fear of being judged as imperfect.
  • Yes-ism can manifest as people pleasing.  It is saying “yes’ to people because you don’t want to disappoint, seem like a bitch, let anyone down, or be rejected. It can also be used as a means to be liked and accepted. Yes-ism can manifest as saying “yes” and tolerating disempowering relationships, unfulfilling social engagements, or frustrating work situations.
  • Yes-ism can also be born out of fear that something or someone else better might not ever come along. Or, not feeling worthy of better circumstances.  So, you say “yes” to accepting more work without compensation, taking on projects that don’t pay, or staying in an unhealthy relationship. Signs of yes-ism manifesting out of fear and unworthiness can reveal themselves to you by noticing your statements about your situation. They often begin with “at least.” At least I have a job, at least I have a partner, at least, at least, at least!

Results of "yes-ism"
Yes-ism leaves you feeling ragged, resentful, and underappreciated by your standards. You crave validation from the outside. You blame others for the dissatisfaction or your choices. You infuse your work and relationships with energetic poison and judgment. You feel awkward, angry, defensive, or depressed. You become disempowered and unable to make decisions for yourself because you’re wrapped up in the need for achievement, the need to be liked, or the need to appear perfect.

How to strengthen your personal power muscle (the art of saying “no”)
Truly saying “yes” or “no” takes practice. But, where to begin? How do we cultivate personal power and confidence?  I recommend creating “Yes” lists. “Yes” lists are composed of five criteria for saying “yes.” If the situation meets at least 3/5 of the criteria; then say “yes.” If it doesn’t then, exercise your “no thank you,” muscle.   You can make “yes” lists for numerous elements in your life; work, friendships, romantic relationships, physical health, emotional health, etc.  For example, criteria for accepting an artistic project might look like this: ___ I’m paid what I’m worth, _____ My fellow co-workers (band members, actors, dancers, etc.) bring me energy, _____ I am creatively inspired, _____ I am moved by the audience, _____ It lends itself to a breathable schedule.  Criteria for maintaining a relationship might include the following: _____ Do I feel uplifted when I’m with this person? _____ Am I my best self with this person? ______ Can I trust this person? _____ Do I get a good feeling in my gut or heart when I’m with this person? ____ Is this relationship an energetic two-way street? A “yes” list can be made for almost any situation.

Begin feeling your personal power, energy, confidence, stamina, successes by implementing your “Say Yes” list. Then soak up the benefits of saying “yes” to yourself.

Jessica Sharpenstein