I am a recovering Yes Woman...in training. This post is inspired by an article I recently re-read in the February 2004 issue of Essence called "Learning To Say No" by Pearl Cleage (who just happens to be one of my favorite author/playwrights).
I love to say yes. It makes me feel good to be able to help others, give people what they want, what they need. But when I get stuck doing something that only benefits the other party involved, I'm left with that feeling. You know the one. The same feeling I get when I pay to see a bad movie. Feeling like I lost some valuable time in my life that I can never get back. Now I'm not saying we should all become the Wicked Bi*ch of the West hitting everybody with the booming "(Hell) NO". But at some point in your adult life, you have to start putting yourself first. And when you say "yes" to something you don't want to do, for whatever reason, you're prioritizing yourself second, at best. Enough of that, and you'll wake up one day wondering where you went and when you became so bitter. I'll tell you why. The time you give to everybody else is not, in fact, extra time. You'll begin to realize that the time you have to do the things YOU want to do is disappearing. This can be frustrating. Because who you are now has become who THEY (the askers) want you to be, and who you want to be seems to be moving farther and farther away. Your life isn't yours anymore, and you feel like you're losing control.
In order to reclaim her life, Pearl Cleage came up with six important questions you should ask yourself when someone asks you a question that requires a yes or no answer:
1. What am I being asked to do?
2. Who is making the request?
3. Who will benefit from this activity?
4. What do I want to do?
5. What will happen if I say no?
6. What will happen if I say yes?
She acknowledges the fact that #4 is the hardest to deal with, and I agree; it's difficult when you've become accustomed to being of service to everyone and feeling guilty if you don't. I tried this, and I can honestly say I was amazed at how many things I got done that benefited ME when I was able to say no. I could feel myself slowly taking control over my life again. Now I try my best to refrain from giving away important chunks of my life. You can adapt these six questions to almost anything, even something as simple as deciding whether or not to answer your phone. You have that right. And I promise, it won't make you the Bad Guy...just the Self-Assured Guy that's well on your way to happiness and a new sense of self-worth. Learning to say no is a process that definitely won't happen overnight. But to commit to it is imperative because when you do, the most important person to you will finally be YOU.