Saying No

Today I wanted to talk about something that may seem small, but has been huge for me in simplifying life: saying no.

I used to be a people pleaser, and this led to me saying “yes” to a lot of things. Would I sit on this committee? Yes. Would I sign up to bake/make/take x,y,z? Sure. Would I like to play on this intramural sports team? Of course! Would I help with this extracurricular? This ministry at church? This community organization? Yes, yes, yes. Sometimes I really wanted to do whatever I was being asked to do and sometimes I said yes out of a sense of obligation but either way, I hardly ever said no. As you can imagine, my schedule would get quite full and overwhelming at times.

Things changed a few years ago when I read a book called The Best Yes, by Lysa Terkeurst. I feel bad simplifying this book into just a sentence or two because it was full of wisdom on the topic, but since I don’t have time now for a full review, I’ll just say if you’re feeling over-obligated, you should read this book. My main takeaway was this: if I say “yes” to too many things, when something I really want to do or feel called to help with comes along, I am not able to give it my best self because I’m stretched too thin with everything else. I need to be willing to say “no” to things that aren’t a good fit for me so that I can say yes to things that are.

So simple, but so powerful! I felt such a weight lifted off my shoulders reading this. I don’t have to feel guilty for saying no to something because saying no allows me to say a big YES to something else. For example, I recently had to say no to being on a committee at church that would have required regular evenings meetings – as valuable as I know that committee is, it would have been too much for me to juggle right now with our evening routine and LJ’s bedtime. But I was able to say yes to taking a family meal over to the home of a woman in my small group who just had a baby. I had the space in my schedule to do this since my evenings weren’t already full with other obligations and I could coordinate one evening with Justin to make sure he was home from work in time to watch LJ while I delivered the food.

Now I’m not saying you should only do what you want to do. There are things in life that we sometimes have to do even though we’d rather not. I’m just saying that for things where you do have a choice, it is okay to say no to overloading yourself. It is okay, and in fact, necessary, to say no to stretching yourself too thin. I am so much happier when I have a few things that I can give my very best to rather than lots of things that I am spreading all my energy between. If I’m spread too thin, I don’t have anything left in the tank for my family and myself at the end of the day and that’s not what I want. So I need to say no sometimes (and side note: “No.” is a complete sentence. Don’t feel like you have to offer a huge explanation other than “no, sorry I can’t do that right now.”)

As we enter the holiday season, I find that it’s extra appealing to try to say yes to everything. There are so many fun, festive things happening and we don’t want to feel like we’re missing out. It’s also a time of year where nostalgia and tradition reign supreme and we want to do all the same things we’ve always done. All the sudden, in the span of time between Thanksgiving and December 25, we’re cramming in decorating our house, baking cookies, caroling, wrapping presents, moving Elf on a Shelf, creating holiday crafts, taking carriage rides, building snowmen, looking at lights, watching parades, making hot chocolate, using Advent calendars, watching Christmas plays, attending holiday parties, standing in line to take pictures with Santa, sending out holiday cards, assembling gingerbread houses, buying donations for Toys for Tots, etc. etc. etc. While each of those activities can be rewarding and enjoyable on its own, it can be absolutely exhausting to try to do everything.

I know how alluring all the holiday activities are, but I also know that I’m happier when I choose do only do the ones I’m most excited about. For example, I’ve learned that I love going to my friend’s annual cookie exchange, but I felt way too overwhelmed two years ago when I baked sugar cookies from scratch and frosted each individually. It was such a stressful day! This year, I was more than happy to use store-bought chocolate chip peanut butter cookie dough (gasp!) and feel much more relaxed the day of the party. I had a great time and no one cared (or possibly even knew!) that the cookies weren’t homemade.

Yesterday I was talking with a woman in a mom’s group I’m part of. We recently had a Favorite Things party with this group but she did not attend. She told me “you know what, I know it would have been a lot of fun and I wanted to come, but I’m in a Christmas choir and we’ve had practice every Sunday and my weekends have just seemed so busy lately. I needed some time at home with my family so something had to give and I decided to nix the party.” I thought this was such a wise decision! Squeezing in one more party might have pushed her over the edge of happily enjoying the holidays into being crazy stressed and exhausted by the holidays. It’s so important to know our limits and just say no to some things!

One other thing I’m saying “no” to is two blog posts this week. With Christmas less than one week away, I need to focus my energy on enjoying time with family and preparing for holiday travel (we’ll be gone for 10 days). So this is my only blog post this week. And I’m much happier than if I tried to squeeze in two amidst everything else.

I want to hear from you! Do you find that saying “no” to some things helps you enjoy your “yeses” more?


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