Imagine a stream of water. Its source begins at the top of a mountain.
Down it travels toward the sea; its water supply renewed by rain and melted snow. The stream winds through villages and towns and soon it takes the form of a strong, plentiful river.
The people who live along its banks use the water to grow their crops and sustain themselves.
They’re grateful but soon they begin to take the river and its abundance for granted. They’ve come to believe that the river will be there forever, filled with cool, clean water for them to use and support their lives.
Then things begin to change.
There’s a long period of drought and the river is not renewed.
In the meantime the villagers continue to draw water as usual. Their needs are met.
This goes on for some time, until the river becomes a stream, a trickle, and finally dries out. Now what?
What if I were to tell you that you’re the river?
If you’re the river, whose responsibility is it to nourish and renew you?
You’d think the villagers — the same ones who’ve benefited from the river’s presence in their lives — would try to change their habits and make sure it doesn’t dry out. You’d think.
Unfortunately it isn’t so.
Once you get used to taking it’s hard to switch to giving. Here and there some will rise above and try to do something different than their fellow villagers. Will it be enough though? Will it be in time?
You know what they say. It takes a village.
Here’s a question for you.
Do you really want to depend on other people for your well-being and nourishment? How has this worked for you so far?
If you’re a perpetual and committed caretaker chances are you’re really good at saying yes most of the time and you consider helping and supporting others as part of your life’s purpose.
Saying no probably makes you feel selfish, self-centered, or both.
What happens when you ignore your personal needs?
You may begin to feel resentful and even angry when you consistently give in to other people’s demands and ignore your personal needs. Not only that, but eventually you begin to blame others for taking you for granted. You may even lash out.
When you act against what you know to be good for you, there is a feeling of being let down, a sinking of the heart, a small voice whispering . . . “Did you have to do this? What about me?”
Every time you say yes when you meant to say no and every time you ignore your instincts, you lose a little bit of your self-respect.
Being clear about your wants, needs, and boundaries, allows you to say no before things get out of hand.
Have you ever thought how saying no translates to saying yes to what’s important to you?
Saying no is an act of self-care and self-respect. Although it may not come natural to many of us, it doesn’t have to be hard.
There is a way to say no gracefully, if you don’t let things go too far. No, coming from a place of solid and quiet conviction becomes a simple answer instead of an emotionally charged response.
People may not like hearing no. They don’t have to like it but they do have to accept it. Some may even respect your newly found clarity and conviction.
Those who can’t accept or respect your needs may express their displeasure or bow out of your life. If they express their disapproval of the “new you” you can choose to reply or not. If you do, make it short and sweet. No apologies needed.
If they choose to bow out . . . remember that all you asked for was their respect and acceptance of your needs. You want people in your life who can do that.
You may find that old habits die hard and they tend to fight back. You may find yourself going weak-at-the-knees and coming up with a thousand excuses why it may be best if you went back to being the way you used to be.
This is how you sabotage yourself. Say no anyway!
Like everything, learning to be protective of your time, energy, and well-being, begins with commitment. It becomes a habit by practice and practice makes better. Go ahead and practice.
My wish for you is to find that one starting point, where you can take what I shared and make it real for you.
You’re the only one who can keep your river flowing abundantly. Sometimes you need people to remind you of this truth.
I invite you to comment on this post and share your experience. Let’s get the conversation going.