The word “No” is a complete sentence.  It doesn’t require explanation or some long rant about why.  Simply“No”.

It makes me think about Nike’s slogan, “Just do it.”

No.  Just don’t do it.

If you are feeling tired, there is likely a variety of reasons why.  Maybe you’ve had some recent setbacks with the pandemic – job loss or financial issues.  Maybe you’ve experienced the loss of a loved one.  Perhaps you’ve been trying to juggle too many hats trying to help others in your life.

I get it.  I’m a helper.  It genuinely fills my heart to help others.  I love seeing their faces full of appreciation and thanks for doing something for them.  And, sometimes, it fills my heart just as much to do so.

But then there’s the other times.  The times the helping feels unappreciated.  These are the times I start to feel the weight of the world crushing down on me.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t need a thank you every time I help someone.  But after some time, doing things for other people without a thank you can be exhausting.  Worse yet, we can start resenting the people and things in our life that used to provide us with much joy.

There are two ways that we can feel better.

1. Don’t insert your behavior when it isn’t invited.

What does this mean? 

When you are babysitting your grandchildren at your daughter’s house, babysit the grandchildren.  Leave the dishes in the sink.  Leave the laundry piled up.  You have been asked to babysit, not be the household maid.  Enjoy the time with your grandchildren and do what’s asked. 

When you are listening to a friend complain about her love life, don’t offer advice.  Simply listen.  If she asks you for an opinion, give it.  Don’t be a know-it-all.  If she wants your opinion, she will ask.

When people in your life are struggling, simply be there.  All too often, we try to fix situations for other people.  Don’t do that.  Be there.  Listen.  Encourage.  But, please don’t fix.  You aren’t being asked to do that. 

We need to be willing to let go of what we think other people should be, have or do.  If your daughter’s sink is full of dishes, do them only if you feel like it would be helpful and it leaves you feeling at least neutral.  If you do them and it upsets you that you did them, you will begin to feel resentment.  This is when we start to feel exhausted.  Keep your behavior in check.  You are the one in control of what you do.

2. Embrace the sentence “No”.

Here’s where our minds create whole bunch of drama.

  • “I can’t say “No” because it will make them upset.”
  • “I can’t say “No” because no one else can do it.”
  • “I can’t say “No” because I want to help.”

Please.  What about your feelings?  If you died tomorrow, you’d be replaced or they would have to figure it out. 

If you ever find yourself wondering if you should say “No” to something, ask yourself the following:

Do I really want to do it? 

Does it make me feel excited and joyful?  Or do I feel resentful already?  Is it something I genuinely want to spend my time on?  What is your knee-jerk reaction?  What does your gut tell you to do?  Don’t spend a lot of time on these questions, you will know almost immediately if you are a “Yes” or a “No”.

If yes, then ask yourself the next question:

Am I doing something for someone that they can do for themselves?

This is the golden ticket of questions that can help you determine if you are helping versus enabling.

Oftentimes, we use the term enabling with people in active addition or recovery.  We really need to start using it with everyone in our lives.

Consider a few examples:

Your son asks you to grab him a bag of chips for a snack as he sits at his computer, playing a game.  As long as he is able-bodied, he can get those chips for himself.  If you say yes to this request, it becomes an unconscious habit – he’ll ask you without even realizing because that is what he has always done and you have always complied.  This habit will follow him into adult life where it will do him no favors.

A past client of mine had a nephew that was struggling with active addiction.  In the past, when he presented any sort of interest in a treatment program, she would call around and secure him a spot in the program.  After working together and implementing this question in her choices, she decided that she wouldn’t make those calls.  She would allow him to do the call the centers and if he decided on a place, she would help by driving him there because he didn’t have a car.  This made her feel helpful, yet not resentful towards her nephew.  It’s a small yet powerful shift.

In both of these examples, the son and the nephew might be upset with a “No” at first.  This is because we have conditioned them to a “Yes” response by always doing for them.  There may be some frustration or anger in the beginning, but I can say confidently that they will come around to the new behavior you are illustrating and their frustration will ease.  Over time, saying “No” builds respect from others and for yourself. 

Respect and peace are beautiful gifts that are available any time you are willing to use the word “No”.