I am taking part in this year's Blogging from A to Z Challenge. This is my submission for N ...
I'm nearly 60 and I'm still struggling with this one. I recall sitting in a pub with a couple of friends where one of them was telling us both off for being too nice. Just say "no" she kept saying "... and mean it!" Others pitched in to the discussion to say we were too well brought up. So we left that evening with a nice warm glow that we were unable to say no because of our niceness and our good breeding. Well let me put paid to that by saying "bollocks!"
Gels with good breeding can say no perfectly well - there's nothing ill-mannered in it after all. Nice girls say no too - in all sorts of situations. No, not being able to say no is symptomatic of people pleasing behaviour and a lack of self-esteem.
You want people to like you so you say yes to their suggestions and ideas. You don't want to sound <insert negative adjective here from a range of stuffy, stuck-up, uncool, no fun, boring, whatever might push your particular buttons>. You believe yourself to be in a lower social or professional situation than the asker and so feel you cannot decline. But you can. Ideally, have good reason for saying no, but it is never necessary to expand. As I keep being told: no is a complete sentence.
I decided to review my life to see if it would throw any light on why I had such trouble with saying no. I was brought up in India with a strict ayah who we had to obey. We also had to obey our parents, aunts and uncles (even those we were not related to), grandparents, teachers and other figures of authority. In India, being respectful, obedient and polite is obligatory. Shortly after, we were sent to boarding school where you really did have to do what you were told, or pay the consequences. During this period, I also discovered that authority figures weren't always right nor were their instructions for your good. But still they maintained power and so, saying no wasn't an option.
I moved into the world of work and was a secretary/PA for many years. One was generally expected to say yes in this role, except when no was actually true. I ended up taking on too much work and sometimes sank under its weight, rather than saying no. I really didn't like admitting I couldn't do something. I learned how to assess my capabilities better and to give more accurate responses to 'can you get this done by ...?' But even if getting it done meant staying late when I had other plans, I always stayed late and got it done. I put it down to having pride in my work. But I think I rather liked being regarded as superwoman.
That all led rather neatly into the 80s and the birth of my lovely daughter. Of course I was going to bring her up alone. Why did anyone think I couldn't? I did a damn good job, if I say so myself, although I did have the very best support in the world (thanks Mum). Then, tired with being on my own, I settled down. I should've said no, he was wrong for me, but I did my usual - work hard until you fix it, or get broken. So, I got broken ... and therapy resolved most of the issues around saying no, except for not wanting people to think those negative adjectives about me.
So I had to go back and do a bit more therapy - and now I make sure I practice saying that little word.
How do you feel about saying no? Are you one of those people I so admire, or do you find it a struggle too?
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