When used mindfully and with compassion, No is a powerful instrument of integrity and a way to create healthy boundaries. It often takes a lot of courage to say. It is hard to receive. But setting limits ultimately sets us free.
There will come a moment when you say, “No” without any justification or excuses and really mean it. You may turn down an invitation, turn down’s a friend’s request for a helping hand, or even reject a gift that you know comes with invisible strings, simply because you have goals of your own from which you refuse to be deflected. Whether trivial or tormenting, these moments are an exercise in that poorly understood power, namely, the power of No.
There’s been lots of attention put on the power of Yes. Yes supports risk taking, courage, and an open heart approach to life whose grace is not to be undervalued. But No- like a door being shut between one’s self and the influence of others- is rarely celebrated. It’s a hidden power because it is easily misunderstood and difficult to engage.
It’s likely that we aren’t even aware of the surge of strength and self-empowerment we draw from No, because in part it is easily confused with negativity. It may involve a turning away, a shake of the head, or a firm refusal.
For most of us, especially women, it takes a tremendous amount of courage to say, “I will not sign”- because it is not my truth. “I will not join your committee, review your project, assist you with your work after hours”- because I am committed to some important project of my own. “Count me out”- because I’m not comfortable, not in agreement. “No, thank you”- because you might feel hurt when I turn down your invitation, but my needs take priority.
This type of No says that while each of us interacts with others, and loves, respects, and values those relationships, we do not and cannot allow ourselves to always be influenced by them. The strength we draw from saying No is that it underscores the hard truth of maturity: I am a responsible adult and the buck stops here.
This No recognizes that we are in charge of creating our own limits. And it isn’t always easy. It’s much easier to give in to the loved one, to the bully, to our own urges for another drink or unnecessary purchase. But the more we practice creating this boundary, the stronger we become. This inner strength requires us to say No.
If you are naturally a kind and generous person No can feel unnatural and even harsh. But it is necessary. If you are one of those who really longs to be liked and approved of, this No might make you cringe. This No will feel unfamiliar and completely uncomfortable. But it is so necessary. Because saying Yes carves little slices from you, while No is a rock and a shield. Therein lies its power.
So the next time you feel the urge to say yes because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings when you know in your gut something isn’t in alignment with your spirit, take a deep breath and if you’re not able to say No right away, ask the person if you can get back to them tomorrow. The next morning if you still know that by giving whatever it is that was asked of you, are not honoring your own spirit or commitments, please just say No. Whisper it if you must.
The plus side is that once you get over that initial hump of saying No it may even feel a little exhilarating. There is something beautiful about being in charge of one’s self, to be the one setting the boundaries and the decider. This type of No will give you energy and self-confidence. I promise.