Like so many woman, I’ve run myself ragged taking care of other people and their things, all while the things that I wanted and needed to do fell behind. It got to where it actually effected my sleep- and I had to finally admit I couldn’t keep up with everything.  Something had to give, but what?

Me, I had to give.  I had to take an inventory of what wasn’t getting done and think about what needed to happen to fix it. After looking at it closely, I had my answer, but I didn’t like it.  I had to learn start telling other people NO so that I could take care of the things that were import to me. 

It’s a lot easier said than done.  I reached out to Gina DeVee  because I liked what she has to say in her book, “ The Audacity to Be Queen: The Unapologetic Art of Dreaming Big and Manifesting Your Most Fabulous Life about taking care of YOU, and  knew  that she would have some great advice. Here’s what she told me.

  • Be Clear on Your True Desires & Values. Being able to say NO begins with a strong sense of self. You must be clear on what your priorities are, what your goals/intentions are and what your values are. Otherwise, it’s very easy to be swept up into other peoples’ agendas.  This is precisely what happened to me. I was spending a lot my time taking care of others and running myself ragged. I was putting other people before my family and I knew it had to stop!  It didn’t mean that I had to stop helping people, but it meant I had to start taking care of ME and my family, first.
  • Be okay with others’ disapproval. People struggle with saying NO and maintaining boundaries because of codependency: the need to be liked and approved by others. That’s how we were taught to feel safe in the world. Until you release codependency and create your own source of self-worth, you’ll always be tempted to violate your boundaries, decide they don’t matter and move back in the direction of always accommodating to others’ needs, so that you wind up last on the list.  The first time I told my neighbor no, that I couldn’t help her, I went home and cried.  I wanted to help her, but the amount of time I spent helping her was affecting MY health.
  • Calendar what matters to you and always honor your boundaries. Another reason we fall behind is we feel like we always need to be available to everyone else at any given moment. I had to learn to live by MY calendars and make sure everything that matters to me is allocated the proper time in my calendars and catered to. For instance, I was booked 3 days a week taking my son back and forth to school.  I blocked off those two days, and one day for myself to get my own stuff done. I offered up one day a week that I would be able to help- and I stuck with it.  When I was asked to do something on one of my busy days, I said no- that I was only available to help on Fridays. It was hard, but it is what is helps me “get it all done” and not feel overwhelmed.
  • Ask: Who Else Can Do This? To be able to say “YES” to what truly mattered to me and get to where I need to be, I had to release the all too common thinking that “I have to do everything myself.” I started saying “NO” to the things that other can help with.  For instance, I HATE to drive in the snow, and when a snowstorm as forecast on a day when my neighbor asked for a ride an hour away, I told her simply that I wouldn’t be able to help her. She ended up having her husband to take a day off and drive to her.  I knew how frightened I was to drive in snow, and she had other options that maybe were not so easy for her, but still options. Delegating didn’t come easy to me. I had to, quite frankly, give up control at times and pass things on to other people. My husband and kids are recipients of my delegation- and the world didn’t stop turning.   Things still got done, including the things that I wanted to do.
  • Stop asking for permission. We often have trouble sticking to our “NO’s” because we approach them with permission-seeking, sweet talking energy. Our desires are much more likely to be respected and honored if communicate them clearly and directly, without tiptoeing around.  This was one of the hardest things for me. Learning that “No, I can’t.” is a full, and perfectly acceptable sentence.
  • Understanding that sometimes NO is the most loving response. Loving others and wanting to please others is not the same thing.  Saying “YES” when you really mean “NO” is not loving to yourself, and the ultimate ripple effect will be more hurtful to everyone involved.  This is your opportunity to be compassionate yet unapologetic about honoring yourself. Saying NO does not have to fill you with guilt and shame, nor does it need to be considered a “bad” thing. I’m inching up on my 50th birthday and the biggest gift I have decided to give myself is permission to love me. I’m working on letting go of all the stuff from the past 50 years and LOVE MYSELF for who I am today, and that means putting myself first. Its foreign to me, and I’m still working one it, but taking care of ME if a great thing to do.

So, YES, saying NO isn’t an easy thing to learn to do, and it sure isn’t comfortable at first, but it’s important.  It’s an integral part of learning to take care of yourself. It’s another takeaway I got from the book- that I deserved to treat myself as a Queen when I had spent much of my life behaving like a servant step-sister. I think that taking care of others is ingrained in a lot of us, and I’m learning how to take care me ME first, for a change.