She Learned The Value Of Saying 'Yes' To Herself

"Some people might say I’ve gotten 'hard,' but that isn’t true. I’ve just gotten strong. I don’t like people less; I like myself more."

"Will you do a favor for me?" someone would ask.

"Of course, I will. What do you need?" I would always answer, agreeing to do the favor before I even asked what it was.

I would never have dreamed of saying "no" to anyone. If anyone asked me to do anything, I'd do it. Saying "no" was never an option. I wanted to be a good person. I wanted to help people. I wanted people to like me. I wanted people to love me.

I was a good, obedient child and grew up to be a responsible adult. I married a dependable, hard-working man whom everyone said was perfect for me.

I had four children, and I was always the "room mother," helping with class parties and taking cookies to every school event. I helped with the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, charities and fundraisers. Nothing was too much trouble.

After my children grew up and left home, and my husband passed away, people thought I needed things to do to fill what they felt was my empty life. I volunteered at the hospital and a nursing home, and I taught a Sunday School class.

I was free labor. I'd drive people to the airport and go back and pick them up when they returned from their vacations. Your mother-in-law needs a ride to the airport at three o'clock in the morning? Sure, no problem.

I was spending time and money I couldn't spare, and I often didn't get thanked. I didn't do things to be "thanked," but I would have appreciated some sort of acknowledgment. I was "busy" being "busy." I was exhausted, but I was afraid to say "no" because I thought people wouldn't like me anymore.

I had to have back surgery, and I told everyone I would be confined to my home for at least a month while I recovered. No one offered to drive me to the hospital or drive me home. I didn't want to inconvenience anyone, so I took a cab. No one visited me in the hospital, and no one brought any meals to me after I got home.

No one called to ask if I had enough groceries or if I needed a prescription filled or if I would like some company.

I'd always filled out certificates of appreciation for people who contributed to the zoo, and when the man in charge of the zoo called and asked if I could prepare 100 certificates, I told him "no." I wasn't well, I explained, and I would not be doing the certificates in the future. He'd have to find someone else. He was shocked.

"Do it for the animals," he said. He offered to drop off the certificates at my house where I could fill them out. He'd come back and pick them up. He couldn't believe it when I said "no."

A lady at church asked if she could drop off her cat for me to take care of for a week while she took her family to Disneyland. I explained I'd had back surgery, and I couldn't take care of her cat. "But you always take care of Fluffy!" she said. "He's really no trouble at all."

The truth was Fluffy was a lot of trouble. I had taken care of him twice while she'd gone on vacation, and he'd gotten hair on everything, climbed my drapes and pulled them down, and didn't always use his litter box. I told her I was sure she'd find someone else to take care of Fluffy, but I couldn't do it anymore.

The church secretary called, not to ask how I was feeling, but to ask when I could start teaching the Sunday School class again. I told her someone else would have to take over. She asked if I had any notes for the classes, and I said "no." I thought whoever took over the class would want to teach it their own way, and I was sure they'd do a great job.

I have the right to say "no," without an apology, explanation or guilt. The world didn't end when I started say it, and much to my surprise, things got done without my help. Other people stepped in and did the things I used to do.

People say I am not the same person since I had my back surgery. They are right; I'm not the same person. I was laid up for a month with a painful back, and during that time I found my spine.

People haven't really missed "me"; they have missed the services I provided. I had allowed people to use me, thinking they would like me, but when I needed help, no one was there.

I don't volunteer for anything anymore. I spend my time doing things I never seemed to have time to do before. I'm taking an art class. I go for walks in the park. My time is my own.

It's hard to say "no" when I've been a "yes" person all my life, but I feel powerful for the first time. I don't have to make up excuses or lies or explain or apologize. "No" is a complete sentence.

My time is the most precious thing I own, and for years I let people steal it from me. I don't blame them; I blame myself. I was a doormat, and I let people walk all over me. I was trying to earn friendship.

Some people might say I've gotten "hard," but that isn't true. I've just gotten strong. I don't like people less; I like myself more.

I saw a bumper sticker on a car that said, "I don't regret the things I've done wrong as much as I regret the things I did right for the wrong people."

Saying "no" to other people is saying "yes" to myself.

I feel so free!

Cover image via  Andrey Yurlov I Shutterstock

Story by Holly English, Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman © 2018 Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC. All rights reserved.

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