Here’s a dilemma: How do you balance your own needs with others? When does selflessness become codependence and why is saying the big N-O so difficult sometimes?
“Knowing when to stop taking care of everybody else and taking care of ourselves has a cultural and biological explanation,” says Louden. “Culturally, for most of reported history, women have had less power and less choice and have been defined as coming last. Biologically, we love and thrive in relationships.” And sometimes relationships cause us to neglect our own needs.
We all know we need to take care of ourselves. Our own health and our happiness are important and impact those around us. Yet, we frequently dismiss our needs if we determine someone else’s are more important. “We know in our minds that we need to nurture ourselves, but our hearts and our spirits may be living in more of an ‘I want to take care of everybody else’ mode,” adds Louden. “We need to know that we can be in relationships, and we can love. We can also get comfortable with saying no and express our talents and our ambitions in the world.”
When was the last time you sat down and asked yourself, “What do I really want?” It isn’t that we don’t have wants and needs, it’s that we lose them or dismiss them almost as quickly as they come to us. “But,” as Louden suggests, “unless you ask the question, you’ll never really know what you want. It doesn’t mean you’ll get it, but if you don’t even know what it is, you’ll never even come close.”
Tip: “What’s that big fear that’s lurking around between what you want and what you presently have?
Listen to what you complain about. That’s often masking what you most want to do, what you care about. That, in turn, can begin to show you that if you don’t do anything about the thing you’re complaining about, there’s fear behind your behavior.”
Obviously, a private session with a life planner or coach will provide you with the most personal insight, but these general steps will assist you in moving in the right direction: one where obstacles become opportunities, and your to-do list begins to become more in tune with your desires.
Cue cards for help with setting priorities and saying no:Write or print the following responses onto index cards. Scatter them around your house, in your purse, and anywhere you will see them frequently. Practice thinking them and saying them out loud. Own the power of saying no. Setting boundaries can be scary, but the more you practice, the better and more natural it will feel.
“Thank you for the offer. I’ll have to think about it and get back to you.”
“Thank you for the invitation but I choose to decline at this time.” (Yes, your life is your choice.)
“Thank you for thinking of me… But I’m saying no.”
“That’s a tempting offer but right now, it isn’t possible for me.”
When someone gives you a hard time for saying no:
“I realize you would like me to say yes, but I can’t at this time.”
“It is hard for me to say no to you but that is the best thing for me to do.”
“You are making me uncomfortable. I’ve given the matter a lot of thought and I must say no.”
“I would appreciate you accepting my no. I will not change my mind.”
When all else fails, keep repeating no over and over again – without saying you are sorry or making excuses!
Reprinted with permission from Jennifer Louden, author of A Year of Daily Joy: A Guided Journal to Creating Happiness Every Day