Learning to say “no”

I really suck at saying “no” or “so sorry, I can’t do that right now” or “no thank you” etc.  I struggle because I always want to help, give or do better in life.  For almost 20 years, I have served on dozens of local boards, workgroups, led community service projects, etc.  With my kids in toe most of the time, I wanted them to learn what it means to give back to a community, to be civically engaged, and to understand that others are in need. 

In small communities, it gets hard to tap into new people to serve or give their time, talents, funds, etc. because the population and those willing to serve are often few.  Many others have the ability but choose not to take part.  So, you end up tapping the same people, over and over again.  Which leads to burn out.  Well, with being pregnant, I am there. 

So, I started to say “no, I cannot do that” and the push back at times and the disappointment are hard to swallow but the relief of the stress that comes with getting something off your plate, the weight that is lifted, feels good.  I know that saying “no” is the right choice for my family, my pregnancy, and my mental health.  But saying “no” is like strengthening a muscle.  It is hard and weak to start out with, but I can tell that it gets easier the more you do it, with grace. 

All people are replaceable at work, on boards, in leadership roles, etc.  Some leave more of an impact than others, others may produce higher quality work, or tasks might fall through the cracks at time, but work, community service, and others always carry on with or without you.  I know I am replaceable.  As a younger professional, I worked hard to be non-replaceable but that was very unrealistic.  The work, outcomes, leadership, etc. may look different, but it still carries on.

Learning to say “no, thank you” is hard.  I get it, I am a people pleaser and hate to disappoint anyone but I am at a point in my life, with a very challenging pregnancy, working numerous contracts, taking care of my family and my health, and a new baby this winter (on top of COVID related concerns), it is time to say “no” and hope that others understand.  I know that the good work being done in this community will carry on by engaged, hardworking volunteers and citizens. 

If you find yourself overwhelmed by commitments, or finding it hard to say “no,” keep telling myself the following:

I will not be afraid of saying “no” or stepping back from community work (or work that is in meaningful to me).     

I will put my healthy and family first.

No one will give me time; I have to take it.  This is human nature.

I am replaceable. 

Its ok to take time for myself.

Repeat. Over and over again in your head and in your heart.

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