Just say "No!" (sometimes)
For those of you who remember the Grange Hill anti-drugs message of the eighties, this isn't a piece about drugs! It is, as so many of my articles are, about being true to yourself.
How many times have you agreed to do something only to regret it? You feel you should help if someone asks but doing so might mean you miss doing something else you‘d prefer to be involved with, even if that ‘something‘ is simply having time to yourself to do nothing much at all. You might be thought of as selfish if you decline. Or you might be accused of being boring if you don‘t want to attend an event that all your friends are off to. Perhaps you‘ll tell yourself that you‘re unprofessional if you don‘t sign up for overtime or that you‘re a wimp if you avoid something that scares you.
Sometimes, it‘s good to take the pragmatic approach, to lend a hand, to give up your time, to push yourself beyond the usual routine. It can pay off - someone else benefits, you have an unexpectedly great time or learn something new. You may add to your sense of yourself and that‘s grand. But saying ‘Yes‘ can become a habit - something we do without checking in with our inner selves. Is this really what we want to do? Could it really be beneficial to us and/or the other person? Or do we/they actually need something else?
If we need rest and quiet, it‘s hard to say ‘No‘ when our friends are used to the opposite. If someone frequently asks for our help, are we really helping by always saying ‘Yes‘ or are we encouraging their dependence on us when maybe they could learn a little self-reliance and, in the process, gain some self-respect? I‘m not advocating callousness, of course. If someone is in genuine need, help is essential but it doesn't necessarily have to be you that provides it all the time. Share the responsibility where you can and consider examining your own motivation for habitually agreeing to help. Do you need to be needed? And if you are constantly doing things you don‘t want to, remember that you‘re likely to exhaust yourself and be less able to help usefully. You‘ll run out of energy and start resenting the people you wanted to support.
As usual, it‘s all about balance and careful listening to your own needs as well as the demands of others. And finally, if you say ‘No‘ from time to time, people will know that, when you say ‘Yes‘, you really mean it.