Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The power of No

Blue got me thinking again (darn it! And so early in the morning, too, pre-coffee, not good!). Her latest post is about one's favorite word. Although I am an avid reader and I love words and language, the first word that came to mind was No (kind of as a joke at first, but then I thought about it and, yeah, that is right), not just because as a mother/parent it is a life-saver: short, simple, to the point, and easily understod when trumpeted in an athoratative, no-nonsense tone across the room to one offending child while the parent is in the midst of detaining another offending child. But also, because I used to be a person who had a problem saying No. I would double, triple, quadruple book myself because I did not want to let anyone down. And more often than not I would only end up letting myself down. I would feel guilty or frustrated or stressed that I couldn't make it all work, make everyone else happy, especially if I said No to put one of my needs first--that was the worst, guilt-wise. Who was I to want, to need, when others had demands of me? Didn't I love them? Oh, the guilt trips I gave myself. Pathetic, actually, now that I'm thinking back on it.

As I had more kids, as I aged and hopefully gained some wisdom and perspective, I started learning the power of telling others No. There were times I absolutely could not do all the things people asked of me. So I started saying No to people. You know what? The world did not crumble. No one was struck dead. And my friends and family may have been disappointed temporarily, but they managed without my presence/assistance. They may have even forgiven me. And those that have not, were they truly my friends to begin with?

Know what else? Saying No, I started to respect myself. Those times I said it, it was right, it felt right to me. I learned that No is what you have to do, what you have to say sometimes to be right with yourself.

Isn't it funny how kids learn No as one of their first words, then as women we seem to unlearn it? I think that as women we want to give too much and we somehow think we are bad people to say No, to let someone down. We are programmed to live for others while our needs take a backseat, if they are not completely neglected. We don't want to be bad people. We want to be loved. So we say Yes. To everything, to every request, to every demand, to every person. We give all of ourselves up because we think it makes us Good and Worthy of Love. It is better to give than to receive, we are taught. So we give and give and give until we are empty husks, retaining nothing, limp and dry and wasted.

The wisdom I gained is that others' happiness is not my responsibility. My own happiness is.


That is why No is a mandatory word for a woman's lexicon. It stands for limits. It stands for self, what you will and will not do, what you can and cannot do, just how much BS you will take. A simple two letter word can mean all that.

I think that learning to embrace the word No, to say it and mean it and not feel guilty or bad about it, is essential to a woman's happiness and well-being. It was esential to my happiness. It doesn't make you a bad person. By saying No, you learn to respect yourself, to love yourself. When you respect and love yourself, you hold something back. You are whole. You have definite limits and boundaries. You retain a sense of self. Only then can you truly be loved. If you don't love yourself, if you are giving it all away like, how can you truly expect someone else to love an empty shell?

I say: No. Set your boundaries, set your limits, define yourself: your needs, your desires. Tell them No if you want. Put yourself first for a change. Be You.

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Of course, when the kids learn No and start using it....well, that's a different story! Then I don't like the word so much.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Motherhood Uncensored said...

I concur. No is powerful. I didn't learn to use it well until later in life. Now I use it all the time. And sadly, I hear it all the time too.

30 May, 2006 19:06  
Anonymous sherry said...

No is a great word. Although definitely not my favorite, it's up there.

30 May, 2006 21:50  
Blogger Mom101 said...

No is also the best kids album from They Might Be Giants. Just for the record.

01 June, 2006 01:04  
Blogger wolfbaby said...

Yep your absoultly right no is great right up until the kids learn it then well it aint so great:)

01 June, 2006 08:46  
Blogger Sharpie said...

Beautifully written and perfectly correct. Bad rides those guilt trips.

01 June, 2006 11:54  

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