I used to be the epitome of saying yes to everything. Can anyone relate to this struggle? I remember being in high school chatting casually with a good friend or an acquaintance, and suddenly the weekend ahead of me was completely booked. I remember going to my mom with stressful tears running down my face asking her how to back out of plans that I scheduled all for the same night. I will never forget what she said to me; it was so simple, yet so profound. Before making a decision, step back and pause. Give yourself time to process if you really want to spend time with that person. Think about if it works with your schedule. Take time to think through it.
I have learned to ask myself why I am agreeing to something. Do I want to fit in? Do I feel bad? Am I scared to disappoint someone? Is there an unnecessary obligation? #realtalk
Over the years, I have become very aware that I used to walk in the pattern of relying on the acceptance of others. Disappointing someone else was my nightmare. Saying no was an even greater sense of the term. I started learning to create space after I exhausted myself time and time again by saying yes too often. My instantaneous plan-making was wearing me down, and I needed to make a change. The real shift started happening after counseling through my problematic people pleasing tendencies, and as I gained more self awareness and confidence in who God created me to be, the need to be accepted by others dwindled.
I read the book Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequiest, and that book turned my life upside down in the sweetest of ways. It talked about the necessity of boundaries, the importance of saying no, and the joy that comes from a balanced life. BUT it takes practice. It stings at first to let down someone’s expectations. Not to mention, it isn’t always fun to say no, especially to something that seems pleasurable and lovely. But what freedom it creates! I love this quote from the book: Just because you have the capacity to do something doesn’t mean you have to do it. Management, organization, speaking and traveling: you must ask not only what fruit they bring to the world, but what fruit they yield on the inside of your life and your heart…be careful how much of yourself you give away, even with the best intentions.
I consistently review this wisdom from Shauna when I practice creating space:
Do you know what it’s like to be rested? Truly rested? I didn’t, for about two decades.
Do you know what it’s like to feel connected, in deep and lovely ways, to the people you love most?
Do you know the sweetness of working hard and then stopping the working hard, realizing that your body and your spirit have carried you far enough and now they need to be tended to? I feel like a newborn in all this, blissful and delighted each time I take care of myself, like a new skill or a present.
What I am leaving behind doesn’t leave me empty: it leaves me full, and powerful, purposed and stronger than I’ve ever been.
Creating space. It’s something I have always desired but never knew how to create, and never had the confidence to create. I didn’t have the confidence to say no. I didn’t have the self-awareness to know fitting boundaries for my own life. Speaking of creating space, I didn’t create the space to think through my decisions. Oh the irony. I must admit, once you get into this mentality of saying no when necessary, your yeses are so life-giving and certain. Your commitments don’t falter and time spent is so meaningful!
Where are you in this journey? We would love to hear from you below!
images: felicia lasala