Saying “yes” is easy.
Saying “no” is hard.
Except when you’re 4.
Somehow, when you’re 4, you do not give a shit about what everyone else thinks. And there are no apologies about it.
I realize this. Yet again. As I watch my 4-year old daughter in her Tip Toe Ballet class. Hair, wild and untamed, looking like she just spent the last 2 weeks fending for herself in the great outdoors, surviving only on rain water and small rodents that she caught with her bare hands.
I still remember the exact moment I found out I was having a girl. The ultrasound room was dimly lit. My belly was slathered in jelly. And the technician leaned over with an excited whisper. “Do you want to know what you’re having?”
You could hear my high-pitched squeal from several doors down.
And I kid you not. My first thought? My god! I’ll get to braid her hair!
Fast forward 4 years.
My daughter is crumpled on the floor. Screaming bloody murder. Because I even so much as picked up her hair-brush.
She doesn’t want to look like Elsa. Or Anna. Or Rapunzel. And she has no qualms about saying so. Not even to please me.
And as much as it pisses me off, I also admire her for it.
Because I know that I am a recovering people-pleaser.
And for me, saying “no” has always been extremely uncomfortable.
But we’ll get to that.
As a child, I was all about achieving, and doing whatever my parents….my sisters….and my friends valued.
I went to church. I played trumpet in the school band. I went to university. I married my high-school sweetheart. I drank milk. I had 2.0 kids. I baked cookies on Saturdays.
I adapted my life to the expectations of others.
And not because anyone held a gun to my head.
Not at all.
I was simply worried about what others would think about me if I veered off the path. I was petrified of being rejected. And scared shit-less of failing….then having to swallow the words “I told you so” as a chaser.
My identity in many ways was based on the approval of what everyone else wanted.
And so when I was faced with the question…..”what do YOU want?”….it was a bitter pill to swallow only to realize that what I wanted? Was very different from what WAS.
But guys, the craziest part for me? The realization that my people pleasing addiction was actually harming me…..and others…..more than it was bringing happiness.
In fact, it was downright assholery!
To continually say “yes” to what others want (even when I don’t want that thing)…..is patronizing! Because it assumes that other people can’t handle the truth.
Not only that, it prioritizes my own fear of rejection (gasp….what will they say if I say no), above everything else.
And guys, I know I’m not alone here.
How many of us are spending less time getting a good night’s sleep…..working out…..cooking a deliciously healthy meal……reading a good book before bed….because we are trying to keep up with promises we made to others?
How many of us are over-committed, stressed the fuck out, over stuff that simply keeps the peace, rather than makes us happy.
If you ask me, the number one killer of our own health, happiness and fulfillment….is our desire to make other people happy.
Because sure, people pleasers are some of the nicest, most helpful you will ever meet.
But they can also be the most drained, exhausted, and unhappy people you will ever meet, as well.
By saying “no” to what is NOT important, you will have more time for what IS important. Relationships. Hobbies. Your health.
And the older I get, the more I realize that TIME is our most valuable resource. You can’t get it back. And many of us give it away far too liberally. Without leaving enough for ourselves.
And so, over the last year, I have pissed a lot of people off. I have said no, when I normally would have said yes. And I have even heard the words, “I am so disappointed in you,” on more than one occasion.
I am a single mother.
I am an entrepreneur.
I am a vegetarian.
I am not a milk drinker.
I am someone who will ask her parents to babysit, on the regular, just to workout.
And I guarantee you.....one (or all) of those things piss someone off.
[Insert complaint letter from Dairy Industry]
I’m going off-script. I am ditching the people-pleasing mask (although, not perfectly, I might add).
And I am embracing the wild bush-girl spirit. With everything I have.