There’s a story that I like to share with friends who are overburdened or overwhelmed. This can be due to family/work/school responsibilities or a combination of everything.
A few years back my daughter was going through what everyone refers to as the “terrible twos”. She was strong-willed, wild and did all those things that two year old’s typically do (sticking things in her mouth, pouring salt on the floor, bumping her head while hiding under the coffee table). You name it, she did it.
I would say to her (in my I’m your mom so you’re going to me voice) “just sit down for a few minutes so I can get my head together” to which she would reply “NO!” It drove me crazy! No matter what I asked her to do, the answer was “NO.” After losing my mind a little bit and her becoming (slightly) more calm and easier to handle, the word that she kept saying was stuck in my head. “No”…”No”..”No”
I had been previously guilty of saying “yes” or “I’ll see what I can do” to friends and family who need my help or money for their own situations. Taking on the problems of others, while having my own responsibilities had taken its toll on me. I’d realized that I was taking on too many responsibilities. In addition to being a mom, I was working, going to school and dealing with family issues. I was that overburdened friend who needed to be counseled.
That word “No” started to go through my mind more and more often and guess what? I started using it! I started saying “No” to requests that were adding extra stress that my body could no longer afford to handle. I said “No” to requests for money from people who squandered their own. I said “No” to babysitting other people’s children almost as often as I had to deal with my own. I said “No” not “I’ll see what I can do” and I felt liberated.
Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t stop helping family and friends completely. But, I did ask myself Do I have to help this person? How would they get through this if I wasn’t an option? I helped, but on my terms and when I felt less stressed. I got interesting reactions to this new me. They ranged from blank stares to “you’re selfish.” These reactions were coming from people I constantly helped and were simply not used to hearing me say “no.”
I’m not gonna lie, sometimes I felt bad for saying “no,” but I slowly realized that when I was saying “no” to them, I was really saying “yes” to me. Saying no allowed me to say yes to spending more time with my daughter, reading a book, or simply taking a nap.
I learned one word that liberated me from unnecessary stress. And to think a two year old had to teach it to me. I will never forget that word. It helped me keep my sanity.