Almost all of us are constrained by ‘rules’ that we don’t even know exist – that aren’t actually written down anywhere but were drummed into us as part of our social conditioning as a child. When we were young, we were taught which behaviours were deemed acceptable and which parts of our character were to remain hidden from the world in order for us to be accepted.
In our hearts, we are all born with kind, generous and loving souls. It is only once we are exposed to the world around us that greed, fear and a relentless search for more are introduced to us.
History tells us that it’s the victor who writes the story of what happened during the battle. However, history very rarely documents the rules that were broken to win the battle.
Why? Because if everyday people realised that rules can be broken, then power and control over them would be lost. If only we knew the truth: that every single day, there are millions of rules being broken all over the world.
To some extent rules are needed to assist in keeping people safe. Can you imagine if there were no road rules … and it was fine to drive as fast as you like, weave all over the road with traffic coming at you from all directions, change lanes without indicating, drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol and pay no heed to killing anyone?
I think we can all agree that there are some rules in our lives that are necessary for the greater good.
Here’s the thing: most of us are so conditioned to obey the rules that we’ve never stopped to think about whether or not there might be some rules that we need to break free of … for our own greater good.
For example, how many times have you said ‘Yes’ to doing something … when you really didn’t want to do it, and in fact it was detrimental to you to have said ‘Yes’?
Being caught in the mould of being a perfectionist, I found myself trying to be everything to everyone and feeling like I failed every single time. I never, ever put myself first, and I had no concept of how to consider what I needed – for me to be OK. I also didn’t ever stop to consider whether my actions, or whatever I was doing, was detrimental to my own health.
I was caught up in the ‘system’ and felt compelled to continue on … when what I really needed to do was say ‘No’! What I actually needed was to stop and call out the fact that what I was doing wasn’t working for me and then step away to something that matched my values.
Instead, I worked for almost two decades in situations that clashed with my personal values. I told myself stories about why I had to stay there and I had a million reasons why I couldn’t leave. I ran around after everyone else and made sure they had what they needed to be OK. It wasn’t until I was recovering from a breakdown that I realised I did that completely at my own expense.
We often create a version of ourselves that we believe is the most acceptable to those around us. We become chameleons – changing and moulding ourselves for the different situations in our lives.
So, after those aforementioned nearly two decades of saying ‘Yes’ to everyone and everything except myself, I collapsed. I was totally and completely exhausted – mentally and physically – and my body and mind conspired against me to create a situation that I couldn’t get back up from. I had pushed too far, too hard … and for too long.
One of the most liberating moments of my life came not long after I was in pieces on the floor and I couldn’t get back up again. I was given the tools that helped me to realise that I needed to take the time to examine each of those pieces. Then, I could choose whether to pick up a given piece again and make it a part of me. Or, I could conclude that the piece in question no longer served me well and I could thank it for its contribution and let it go.
When you are able to say ‘No’ to a piece of yourself that you no longer need moving forwards, you can say ‘No’ to anything.
We find ourselves in time-poor situations of high stress simply because we said ‘Yes’ when we should have said ‘No’. Can you count how many times you’ve said or thought something like this: ‘I really didn’t feel like I could say no’?
The only person suffering through this situation was me – and it wasn’t until I was on the floor and couldn’t get up again that I realised that I had been miserable for almost my entire life.
Removing guilt and obligation from my play book, and refusing to bow to the ingrained conditioning that says that I must serve everyone else at the exclusion of myself, has allowed me to create a life where I can choose to participate in those things that are kind to me.
One of the greatest pieces of wisdom I can share with you is this: that ‘No’ is a complete sentence. Saying ‘No’ to something is enough. You don’t need to elaborate, or explain, or contextualise … or embellish in any way at all.
Why? Well, because we’ve been programmed to be so helpful to others that it is excruciating when we have to say ‘No’. To ease the pain of this experience, we attempt to explain to others why we have been forced to say ‘No’. We work overtime to make the story as convincing as possible to make sure that our ‘No’ is accepted by the other person.
What I’ve discovered is that roughly 99.9 times out of 100, saying ‘No’ is all that is needed.
Getting comfortable with saying ‘No’ and resisting the urge to tack on an explanation can seem really hard. What I know, is that saying ‘No’ confidently and with easy comes down to practice – the more you say it, the easier it becomes.
Why not give it a try? Create a little experiment for yourself. Make a commitment to say ‘No’ to things at least three times a day. And when you do say ‘No’ … leave the ‘No’ as a complete sentence and see how often someone actually asks you for an explanation. I am willing to bet that there will be very few occasions where you are asked for any further information.
It won’t take long for you to be saying ‘No’ more often than you say yes. Get used to ‘No’ being a complete sentence and watch your world open up!
Want to chat? Email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or call me on +61 438 624 868 and we’ll set up a time!
Bronwen Sciortino is a global thought leader who empowers simple connection and the author of ‘Keep It Super Simple – Tips from a Recovering Perfectionist’. Join the conversation by subscribing to the tribe at www.sheiqlife.com; Facebook; Instagram or LinkedIn.