SAYING NO TO PEOPLE AND SETTING BOUNDARIES: SAYING NO AT WORK, SAYING NO IN A RELATIONSHIP
I think that in every life, there comes a moment when you snap and acknowledge that you are sick, tired, and had enough of being the perpetual losing contestant on the in-person version of “Let’s Make A Deal”.
You’re tired of being the perpetually pliable pack-mule, all-purpose doormat, child-in-grown-up-body who is never seen, never heard, never taken seriously. You’re tired of getting cut down, caving, “taught your place” and auctioning your value in the hopes that the bids are higher than you dare to even hope, despite no reserve.
It’s not that you don’t know what to do, since everyone is proudly posting about how “great” it feels to “be old enough now” to "realize" they can say no, and how YOU should “just say no” too, and how healthy and saccharinely life-changing it is to say no, and blah blah blah
BLAH BLAH BLAH.
Yeah, thanks, GOT IT. BUT HOW? How can you start saying no at work, saying no in your relationship, and how do you even say “no” to the worst parts of yourself? Did you miss the day they were passing around the magic “Ability To Say ‘No’” wands? How do you find the ability to walk away instead of (as James Altucher explained) working out the terms of your slavery? How do you make sure you do it right...AND don’t miss out / become a pariah / ruin your “luck”?
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU TRY SAYING NO, WHEN TO SAY NO, AND HOW TO SAY NO:
0.) Get Ready To Be Shown The Door:
It’s a VERY popular adage to pass around these days: “Just say no...Know the value of your ‘No’”...”You can tell people ‘No’”...”Say ‘No’ to things you don’t want to do”...
And if you are reading this, you already WANT to, hell, you already TRIED…
But what gets me about these glib, cliche messages with their insultingly obvious subtext of “Just say NO, you Mary Tyler Moore-esque pushover dum-dum...obviously, DUH!” is that rarely do they ever bother with a disclaimer of the sheer SHOCK that all-too-often follows...the kind that is so awful and unthinkable that it often blindsides completely and leaves such a painful, permanent mark, it is easy to be convinced to never try again.
When dealing with toxic people, saying “No” usually always feels like an unaffordable luxury, never a God-given right.
I genuinely felt something must be wrong with me and I must be cursed because saying “No” was a sure-fire way to trip the wire on the relational / situational bomb. A bomb that always blew up my life as I knew it.
I can’t tell you how many stories I have where I FINALLY stood up for myself (or tried to), EVEN FOR RIDICULOUSLY MINOR ISSUES, and was literally told, “Then you need to go.”
It’s horrifying, it’s humiliating, it can be heartbreaking, and, depending on where you have to go and who you still have in your life, the aftermath can be very, very hard.
If ever you needed to consider the phrase, "pick your battles", this would be it. Be very, very ready for the possibility that things may look really grim.
But you know what? It WILL be okay. You know how those stories ended?
Half the time, emotions were running high, they were upset and / or bluffing, and I ended up getting asked / begged to stay when I made it clear that I would, indeed, leave rather than concede.
The person who tried to humiliate me by making a scene and kicking me out in front of a room of people? They made *themselves* look bad, untrustworthy, and unpopular.
And the rest? It really did end up being the best time for me to go, and honestly...when the heartbreak finally subsided (after taking its sweet time, I might add)...it became very obvious that voting with my feet was the optimal choice (that lead to better things, as it always does).
It can’t be put better than this:
“It’s scary to experience the first symptom of standard setting which is loneliness.
It’s scary to ACT on ‘I will lose anyone and anything before I will lose my mind.’
But it’s worth it.
Prioritizing my mental health cost me friends I never thought I’d lose and family that I was convinced, would always be there.
And I’m not a failure for still missing them.
If prioritizing your mental health means disappointing them, then, by all means, disappoint them.
You will finally stop being a disappointment to yourself and be able to reclaim this life as your own.”
In a similar vein, be prepared to be labelled with terrible-sounding words that have been secretly re-defined by the controlling, self-interested, manipulative doppelgangers-of-Merriam-Webster in your life:
“Selfish” will mean “Non-Compliant; You Didn’t Give In To What I Wanted; Not Immediately Accommodating, Acquiescent, And Pliable; You Are An Individual With A Mind And Will Of Your Own And I Hate That; You Have Needs And Are Not Simply The Robotic Ego-Stroking Tool I Command You To Be; Etc.”
“Lazy” will mean “Non-Compliant...”
“Greedy” will mean “Non-Compliant...”
“Rebellious” will mean “Non-Compliant...”
“Stupid” will mean “Non-Compliant....”
“Crazy” will mean “Non-Compliant...”
“Negative” will mean “Non-Compliant...”
“Boring / Uninteresting / Unexciting” will mean “Non-Compliant...”
“Foolish / Frivolous / Heretical / Doomed / Wrong” will mean “Non-Compliant...”
And so on.
This (along with the with-holding of love, approval, etc.) is one of many tricks and traps and verbal guilt-trips to make you doubt yourself, your decision, YOUR SURVIVAL, and even your very right to autonomy. Don’t forget you have a right and a duty to choose to say “NO” to these blatant, ham-fisted, and desperate emotional arm-twists and fear-mongerings.
1.) PICK YOUR BATTLES: If you follow the zeroth step and prepare for the absolute “worst” outcome of asserting your “NO”, you have to realize that not everything is worth it (not even “just” a fight...not even “just” resentment).
There are times when it really is best to embrace the suck. There are times when, at the moment, conceding is the behavior that will best serve you. Sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do because it’s the shortest distance to less bullsh*t in the long run. It’s a strategic “YES” when you really want to say “NO”.
So how do you know? How do you decide what to do?
WHEN IS THE TIME TO BE SAYING “NO” OR SAYING “YES”?
Things To Say NO To:
*Anything that will cause more bullsh*t / destruction in your life. It can be anything from finances (like taking on the slavery of debt, such as university debt which can NOT be declared bankruptcy on in the United States and does NOT guarantee higher pay or even a job period), to something dangerous physically, including your mental health (like creating / birthing / raising a child) to reputational health (like sharing confidential information), to the denial / oblivious carelessness of ignoring red flags / warning signs...
*Anything that is a source of constant misery, vexation, spiritual / physical sickness, and grinds your peace of mind and health down.
This can be a job, religious beliefs (Natasha Adamo’s quote is perfect here: “You’re avoidant and you neglect your own truth, voice, and observations because confrontation of any kind triggers a great deal of anxiety in you.” It is NO coincidence that major religions all contain all-powerful gods who threaten EXTREME, TERRIFYING, and completely UNVERIFIABLE punishments for non-compliance / unbelief, but needed equally horrifying punishments in real life (burning at the stake) when they had unlimited political power, and rely heavily on indoctrinating people using FEAR, SHAME, and GUILT (often for entirely normal human behavior) who are either too young or so vulnerable that their judgement, experience, and frame of reference is non-existant or entirely compromised).
It can be a chore, a relationship or person, a place and poor climate, constant negativity, criticism, cynicism, fatalism...ANYTHING.
Everyone has a bad day, gets frustrated, gets tired. I’m talking about unrelenting patterns that feel like “eternity without relief” and cause your soul to have an energetic-allergic-reaction, full-body “NO” that you keep putting off acting on.
*Anything that conflicts with your innermost cherished values and principles (sign up for the Self-Enlightened Enchiridion for help identifying them!).
*Anything that makes you lose your faith and trust in yourself and especially in your intuition--the last voice you ever get the chance to ignore (as I read on a Motifake poster) and the only means destiny has of speaking to you (as Natasha Adamo described it). Or, anything your intuition is begging (nagging in the back of your mind quietly but insistently) that you NOT do. LISTEN AND OBEY.
*Anything Future You will be devastated / damaged because of. Or anything that wastes your time (participation trophy from the Universe notwithstanding). Yes, nothing is wasted on your Golden Path, but some things are less enjoyable and less rewarding than others. How much better to choose the more fun, free, and rewarding route! FREEWARDING, if you will!
Most of all, when you realize what you DO want in life (and most importantly, how you want to feel), when you choose to unerringly point all your being at THOSE things / feelings…
It becomes impossible to consistently choose those things that you DON’T want.
2.) Accept YOUR Decision And Don’t Beat Yourself Up: For once, write your own program (instead of the one coded into you during childhood).
For once, stop feeling ashamed, uncomfortable, and guilty for your power. For once, stop feeling everyone BUT you is entitled to ill-treat, use, dominate, and control you, your life, your destiny, and even your innermost thoughts. For once, tell your mind to stop writing checks for f*cks that your heart can no longer afford to cash. You have to stop validation-seeking from the unworthiest of sources.