You probably remember that big Oprah moment about a decade ago when she declared that, "No is a complete sentence." It was a big moment and one that struck a chord with many of her viewers. As with most things, she's not wrong. But also as with most things, she makes something that takes a whole lot of hard work and dedication seem easy. Oprah is amazing.
Believe it or not, saying no comes down to skill building. Actually a lot of mental health, progress, and change, comes down to skill building. Even the really deep psychoanalytic, major change stuff. What can seem like it was recognized in a singular moment, is in reality a series of moments, sometimes within yourself, other times with the guidance of a skilled professional who has been creating more and more space for an acknowledgement, until finally the right words are presented at the right time. This is all to say that none of this process happens over night. Hence the word process. And none of it happens in the same way for everyone. The phrase, "my therapist told me," means exactly that. MY therapist told ME. Not you. Not your friend. While advice to someone else from someone else can be helpful (I'll take inspiration from wherever I can find it) none of this is a one size fits all. To think that way means you are not honoring your own experience and emotional depth. Additionally, when we assume that there is a one size fits all approach to mental health, personal change, and growth, we fail to recognize the hours put in by licensed professionals. (The minimum of face to face work with clients is 3,000 hours, which can take anywhere from 3-6 years to complete. And that's before you can even sit for a licensing exam).
In short, saying no, is no different. It takes work. And a lot of the time the rewards of that work shows up in very small ways before you nail it 100%. But 2% is better than nothing. For real. We share a little more than 98% of the same genetic material as chimpanzees. That 2% makes a pretty big difference. Don't you think? So be patient with yourself as you try out these daily practices. You won't see results right away. If you do, you are a unicorn and should be part of Oprah's next tour.
I'll share three different NO based daily practice ideas with you today, along with a more standard These Three Things prompt related to saying NO. Choose whichever gives you the feels. Just start somewhere.
1. Stat at the very beginning. Make a list of all the things in your life right now you want to say NO to. GAWD. Maybe that's too much. How about you start with just one day. If you can take a wider focus, go ahead. But if that is overwhelming, stay in the more immediate present. Here's an example: when my kiddo suddenly needs something while I am in the bathroom, I want to say no. Also, shut up and go away. But really all those feelings come down to just wanting to calmly say NO. Acknowledgement is the first step toward growth, change, and healing. The list will serve as a noticing of when you want to say no and what you want to say no to. Make a list everyday, or put one thing on your list each day. Break it up however you like. This is just the beginning.
2. Say NO to one thing a day. You can pull from the list in number 1, or start here and keep track. Start with the little stuff. NO, I will not stop what I am doing to get you a banana. NO, I do not want to watch that show. NO, I am not interested in following that plan, here's what I think. It might take a while to have a 100% moment. But, there is tremendous value in getting close. Even in noticing when you could have said no, wanted to say no, but didn't. The noticing is important and gets you a high 5.
3. A YES for every NO. I've written before about the importance of knowing what you don't want and how that often leads us to understanding what we do want. Saying NO is a similar process. As you build your NO skills, throw in some work on really understanding what a YES is for you. Are you more able to clearly feel a NO over a YES? Maybe it's the other way for you? As I like to remind readers, progress is big. It's seldom about a one sided aspect (read my prompt on GRATITUDE). So saying NO, has a lot to do with saying YES. Record one NO and one YES each day. Analog or digital. Keep track and look for patterns. Hint, there will be some.
NO Related Prompt
Name three instances where you said NO or you witnessed someone say NO where you thought, DAMN that's good. I'll begin.
1. My kiddo's default is NO. This is normal and most kids go through a developmentally appropriate phase around saying NO a lot. This is usually around age 2 or 3. My daughter is 9. So, this is part of who she is. It makes being her mother super annoying sometimes. But her ease with saying NO is pretty admirable. It's always a matter of fact, and whether the final word or not, she certainly says it with strength and clarity. It took me most of my adult life to get there. So, there's a feather in her cap.
2. About a year or so after I finished my BFA, I applied to graduate school programs. They were all MFA programs, as at the time I couldn't imagine myself pursuing anything else (life is surprising sometimes). I applied to a few in the Bay Area and NYU. I got into NYU and said NO. I wanted to stay in California. I didn't realize how badly until I was faced with the opportunity to leave. That was a big fork in the road moment and I sometimes wonder about that path.
3. When I was working on my hours to sit for my licensing exam, I was in training at a practicum with a rather large group of colleagues. It was brought to my attention by my supervisor that several of my male colleagues did not take me seriously because of the way I dressed. I should say that during this practicum I was also working as a counselor at a fashion college. My work attire on days I had meetings and was not seeing patients at the practicum, and then went to work at my job at the college was fashionable. Really really fashionable, actually. I had a closet full of Marc Jacobs dresses and really incredible shoes. Nice. Anyway, when this was brought to my attention and it was suggested that I dress differently I said NO. If they weren't going to take me seriously because of the way I looked, they never would and I didn't simply didn't give a shit. I already had a job in my chosen field. I didn't need their approval. The end. I'm still proud of that NO.
What did you learn today? Join me by using the #thesethreethings and commenting below with your own These Three Things. I want to hear what you are learning, laughing about, and living through.