It’s been said that the key to failure is trying to please everyone.
And, growing up, young girls are often taught to be ‘people pleasers’ and then womanhood, plus a lack of assertiveness, equals disaster; women often find themselves super-stressed after taking on way more than they can handle.
Let us not teach our daughters to believe that it’s ‘nice’ to please others rather than thinking about what they want themselves! Assertiveness is vitally important and lacking in a lot women, I believe. And I’m guilty of this myself, on occasion, as are many of my friends: it seems that saying no can be very hard indeed.
There are family, work and social commitments to juggle for starters, let alone some precious alone time, which we all so desperately need for our good mental health. Women can feel so stretched in all directions, you can lose your head, if you’re not careful. No is such a tiny word – so, why is it so hard to say?
But say no we must in order to protect our best interests – why do something you really don’t want to do? And, if by saying yes to something you’ve compromised yourself in any way, you know you’ve made the wrong choice. Maybe learning to say no comes with age; you start to care less about what people think of you and start pleasing yourself a lot more. And, importantly, we all have limits on our time, energies and capabilities: learning what our top priorities are each day and saying no to all else accordingly is a vital life skill.
Relationship experts say personality characteristics such as insecurity, low self-esteem, lack of assertiveness or fear of disapproval can make it very hard for women to say no. Someone for whom it is important to be approved of and liked and who lacks confidence can find it difficult to challenge a partner, friend or boss who attempts to use them and makes unreasonable demands on their time, generosity or values.
But ladies – it’s terribly important you realise that you can never please everyone and to be strong enough to receive some negativity and criticism without falling apart. Love and nurture yourself enough to set yourself safe boundaries and both accept and deflect any disappointment or disapproval from the person you are saying “no” to. Don’t put everyone else’s interests ahead of yours!
So, how do we actually say no in actual practice? It’s a small, but mighty word that packs a punch. But you don’t have to deliver it in a nasty way: I prefer a “thanks so much for asking me, but no thanks” approach. I love this quote from US educator and author Steve Covey: “You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage – pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically – to say ‘no’ to things. And the way to do that is by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside.”
Relationship experts also say if someone is asking you to do something that you don’t feel comfortable doing or which is clearly not in your own best interests, you need to be assertive even if this feels difficult. Assertiveness is about having your own needs met without impacting on the needs of others. Give a clear and decisive “no” and a brief explanation as to why you are unable to fulfil the request. Perhaps give a brief apology, but don’t overdo it; remember that your needs are every bit as valid as the other person’s and ain’t nobody got time for whiny apologies.
Being assertive gets easier with practice, so give it a go. You may even learn to love it because sometimes it feels really good to say no. Finding your voice and asserting yourself are both very important life skills; seek help from a psychologist if this is a problem for you.
What do you think? How do you say no?
Images via the Telegraph, Live Free Blog and Living Brilliance Now