Imagine a river.
Its source can be found at the top of a mountain. It travels toward the sea; its water supply being renewed by rain and melted snow. The river winds through villages and towns, and along the way, it becomes strong and plentiful.
The people who live along the river banks use the water to grow their crops and sustain themselves.
They are grateful, but soon they begin to take the river and its abundance for granted. They have come to believe that the river will be there forever, filled with cool, clean water for them to use and support their lives.
Then, slowly, things begin to change.
There is a long period of drought, and the river is not renewed. The villagers continue to draw water as usual. Their needs are met, for now.
This goes on for some time until the river becomes a stream, a trickle, and eventually, it dries out. Now what?
What if I were to tell you that you’re the river?
And, if you are the river, is it possible to manage the water level? The river, by its nature, depends on weather conditions, and how humans behave and manage their resources.
You would think the villagers — the same ones who have always benefited from the river’s presence in their lives — would try to change their habits. You would think.
Unfortunately, it isn’t so.
Once you get used to taking, switching to giving becomes difficult. Here and there, some will rise above and try to do something different than their fellow villagers. Will it be enough?
You know what they say. It takes a village.
When it comes to you though, you are a human being able to take responsibility for your well-being and your own renewal.
Do you really want to give up this ability and depend solely on others for your nourishment?
If you are a perpetual and committed caretaker, chances are you are really good at saying yes, most of the time. You consider helping and supporting others an integral part of who you are.
It is possible that saying no makes you feel selfish and self-centered.
What happens though when you ignore your personal needs?
First comes exhaustion and a slow down of sorts. Then resentment and disappointment begin to take hold. Then comes anger.
When you consistently give in to other people’s demands and ignore your personal needs, the well dries out. There is not much to give when you don’t replenish the well. Not only that, but eventually, you begin to blame those who take you for granted. You may even lash out.
This is a pivotal moment when turning our gaze inwards can help us see things as they are. Who sets the ground rules?
When you act against what you know to be good for you, there is a feeling of letting yourself 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 would rather 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. Ultimately, it works best for everyone involved because when you choose to give instead of feeling obliged to, you give with love and an open heart.
Have you ever thought about 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 naturally to many of us, it does not 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 newfound clarity and conviction.
Those who cannot accept or respect your needs may express their displeasure or bow out of your life. If they exhibit disapproval of the “new you,” you can choose whether to respond 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 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 a promise to yourself. It becomes a habit through practice. Go ahead and practice. Find your starting point and make it real for you.
Do you need support in making some much-needed changes?
Or, sign up for your Clarity Coaching Session and explore how to gain the clarity and conviction you need to make mindful life choices.
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I hope you find what works for you and begin your way back to yourself, gently and mindfully.
Here’s to your well-being.