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Just Say No



Do you remember this campaign? Born at the height of the crack epidemic in the mid-1980's, this was Nancy Reagan's work to try and bring awareness to drug abuse, and give children a simple out when offered drugs. In retrospect, this campaign along with anything

that attempts to address issues has been picked apart for both positives and negatives, and rightfully so. But this post is not about politics or drugs, it's about that one word that absolutely is not simple enough to solve a drug crisis, and can be difficult to utter in everyday life as well. And the addiction in this case is our desire to be the thing our ego has constructed as a coping mechanism: the desire to be right, kind, wise, helpful, loved, liked, etc.


Have you ever heard someone say or said it yourself "I'm too nice to say no", or "I would tell them but I don't want to let them down/hurt their feelings." It took me until my late 20's/early 30's to start noticing that this, in fact is not kind to either yourself or the person you have a relationship with, be it love, friendship, work, or family. In fact it is dishonoring yourself and the person to not be brave enough to vocalize the truth. I love the Enneagram, I understand it as a way of noticing and then peeling away the ego we have constructed perhaps as a childhood coping strategy, the temperament we were born with, the place we've come to after work in other lifetimes, or all of the above. These ego constructs through the study of the Enneagram are characterized by 9 "types" that help to offer a path towards your true nature and connection to the universe without a tether to the walls and constructs of your basic fear and thus ego personality. Here's a link to the Enneagram Institute in case you want to learn more and learn your "type".


My type is "The Helper" or Type 2, with traits such as demonstrative, generous, people-pleasing, and possessive. At my best I am altruistic, warm, empathetic, unconditionally loving, and can help to truly heal (animals and the environment?!). At my worst, my love and offers to help can have strings attached, like seeking my self worth externally: through approval, praise for doing "a good job", and what I measure as a suitable demonstration of love in return. I have been doing this work for years now with the guidance of an incredible life coach, and support of a therapist and master reiki practitioner. In the beginning my ego had such a strong reaction to my ego that I was rejecting that Type haha. I have a "1 wing" which is the Idealist and carries traits of being rational, principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic. I thought, that sounds stronger, maybe I'm that. But then I started noticing my people pleasing and allowing myself to be curious about it.


Here are things that I noticed. I would say yes to anything, even committing to a standing Sunday evening gathering out of guilt for almost 2 years when all I really wanted to do was stay home and rest and prepare for a busy work week ahead. I reflected on managers that said they were "too nice" to tell an employee directly about an improvement they needed, instead venting to me or the employee's co-workers, and how that always backfired. My empathy and intuition tunes into people's feelings and even sometimes the reason for it, and instead of keeping it to myself I would ask them if they were okay about xyz, and be surprised and even resentful when they wouldn't be able to articulate their emotions or feel comfortable disclosing information to me. I watched employees that "wanted to do a good job" say yes to everything without having the right time management or tools to scaffold capacity and productivity. And if a loved one hurt my feelings I would not say anything because I wouldn't want to hurt their feelings, but instead I would avoid them or talk about them to others.


After noticing and digging, I began to see that none of those things are "nice", and they also do not lead to authentic relationships. Then some clarity came. It is okay to speak your truth, that is actually most kind! So instead I would strive to be the boss and loved one that honored people enough to leave them to their own journeys and emotions unless they asked for help, or ask permission. I made sure to continue to say no to work or community leadership commitments that I did not have capacity for, so that others did not have to absorb that work or chase me. I work hard to be sure employees feel comfortable enough and are encouraged to self identify roadblocks or capacity/skills needs so they don't commit to work that teammates will ultimately have to pick up or are dropped (this seems to need tweaking in the Covid era, but that can be another post!). If someone hurts my feelings, I honor the relationship enough to let them know so we can correct the pattern.


In doing this, I am gaining confidence in my own self worth. If I speak my truth and someone is offended or angry by that, we likely are not meant to walk together during this lifetime,

and the absence of that relationship feels like a relief! I have moved towards working on gaining my self worth internally vs. externally through therapy and spiritual work, and even have an herbal spray that I use with a mantra of "I am enough, just as I am, and my opinion matters most." During the ongoing pandemic and societal upheaval, our emotional regressions and coping mechanisms are being tested to their max. I am so thankful I began this work and journey to recognize (much of the time, I definitely I have a lot more work to do!) when I dishonor myself, loved ones, work, and other commitments by not just saying no. Have you done work around your ego, or have you noticed when lose boundaries or people pleasing actually hurts instead of helps?? Please share in the comments below!!




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