This is the second post in a series called Slay Your Time Vampires, helping you identify and rework time sucks in your life so you can use that time to take care of your health. Read Part I here.
There’s a simple answer to your time management issues
What if I told you that there was one thing that would greatly increase the time you have to devote to your health? One thing that, if you mastered it, would add hours to your week and a glow to your cheeks?
I’ll tell you what that one thing is at the end of this section. Before I do, though, I want to warn you that upon hearing it you will immediately come up with reasons why I am wrong.
In order to apply this one thing, you will have to machete your way through a jungle of convincing resistance. You will think “I’m a special case. This would never work for me.” That’s just your fear talking.
You don’t have to listen to it. You have a choice, even all of your cells are screaming at you that you don’t. I’ll give you a way to deal with those screaming cells later. Just stick with me, okay?
This one thing has nothing to do with strategies, tools, and technology. It’s just a word you have to say.
The word is NO.
I want you to say no to things that don’t make you happy. You know that lousy feeling you get in your body when you say yes to something that puts your happiness last? I want to work with you to eliminate that feeling from your life, one small step at a time.
I’m not talking about non-negotiables like going to work to support your family or caring for a baby or sick relative. I know that life is not one big party and that there are certain less-than-fun tasks we must do, sometimes for a long time. I’m talking about the areas where you do have the power to say no, and you’re not exercising it.
Your tricky areas will be unique to you, but here are some common examples:
- Staying late at work every time your boss asks.
- Taking your girlfriend for happy hour drinks to talk about her breakup even though you are getting sick, and this is the third time she’s broken up with the same guy
- Saying, “Well..okay.” when your boyfriend asks if you guys can throw his best friend’s birthday party at your place.
I’m asking you to look at the areas where you have let your sense of loyalty to others outweigh your sense of loyalty to yourself, and take small actions to restore the proper balance.
The benefits of saying No
If your resistance is telling you to stop reading this blog post right now, tell it these reasons why it’s worth it for you to learn how to say no:
1) More time! By eliminating what doesn’t serve you, you will have more minutes and hours to devote to improving your life.
2) Confident feelings follow confident actions. By saying no, you are sending yourself “I love you” messages even if you don’t quite mean them yet. It will only be a matter of time until all of that love sinks in and translates into improved self esteem.
3) You lead by example. By gracefully honoring your own boundaries, you give others permission to do the same.
4) Your relationships will improve. Your friends and family have a better sense of your feelings than you think. Once you start saying no, you will lose the heaps of resentment for them you’ve been carrying around. Your relationships will become more authentic and trusting as a result.
Why this is so difficult to carry out – my story
I understand the enormity of what I am asking of you.
I am a people pleaser of Olympic proportions. I want you to like me more than I can put into words. I want you to like me even if I don’t like you! Actually, I want you to like me especially if I don’t like you, but that’s getting into extra freaky territory so I’ll save it for my therapist.
I spent the first twenty-something years of my life on a quest to be loved by everyone, doing what others asked of me without question. I defined myself using everyone else’s opinions of me, and the way to ensure those opinions of me were good was to put my needs aside and always say yes to whatever they wanted.
This was especially true for me socially. It never occurred to me that I had the right to filter my social circle; that it was important to turn down a friendship if the potential friend wasn’t very nice or an invitation if the thought of going was a drag. I had such low self worth that I thought anyone who wanted to be my friend was doing me a big favor. I gave time, attention, and money away recklessly.
I couldn’t say no romantically, either. Up until Jonny, my love life was all guys who showed interest in me first. I thought that I had to take what I could get. Once I was in these relationships, I thought my value as a girlfriend lied in having no needs and always doing whatever the guy wanted. I thought I’d lose all desirability if I stopped being a needless doormat.
Years of this behavior translated into an insurmountable weight and overeating problem for me. I had the obvious issue of not having time for my health because I was so busy helping everyone else. Eventually, I saw how the psychological issues behind my extra weight ran even deeper than that. The “I am worthless” message that I reinforced to my very core every time I put myself last created a gaping, painful hole. I turned to food to fill and numb it.
When I decided to address that gaping hole rather than trying a different diet, I came face to face with my self hatred and all of its manifestations. I could not wipe out my low self esteem all in one go, but I could begin to act like a girl who loved herself. It has taken years of practice, and I’m not perfect, but I’ve come a long, long way in being able to say no to what doesn’t serve me. My health and happiness have flourished as a result.
Your reasons won’t necessarily be identical to mine. But if you find that you don’t have enough time to spend on yourself and your health is suffering as a result, now is the time to figure out why.
What you can do about it
If you’ve been a lifetime people pleaser, a sudden switch to putting yourself first feels impossible. Be easy on yourself. Dip one toe into the “no” pool at a time, and submerge yourself further at your own pace.
Saying no to strangers is a great place to start. I once had a counselor who told me she learned how to say no by politely telling cashiers she did not want to sign up for their rewards programs.
Once you’re feeling ready to move on to the people in your life, aim for slow progress rather than sudden change. Here’s a continuum, from least to most self-honoring, that you can work your way through when someone asks you to do something that doesn’t work for you:
If your friends and family are used to you being a yes girl, they are going to kick and scream a bit when you change your behavior. This is a very natural response when one person in a relationship changes. It’s scary for the other party, and they do what they can to maintain the dysfunctional status quo.
It sucks feeling like your loved ones aren’t happy with you. The only way to get it to suck less is to stick with it so they get used to your new empowered ways. I want you to remember that the suckage of feeling like you’ve disappointed your loved ones is a hell of a lot better than the cumulative effects of a life lived putting your needs last. Those that can’t adapt to you tending to your own needs first might be relationships that you’re better off without.
- If you feel too busy to take care of your own health, take an honest look at how you are spending your time.
- Other than non-negotiable duties, identify where you regularly say yes when you want to say no.
- Work your way towards saying no more often at a pace that feels right for you.
- Replace those activities with those that will improve your health and fitness.
- Pat yourself on the back! You’ve done a really hard thing!
I shared my story, now I’m eager to hear yours! What’s the hardest thing for you to say no to, and what do you think is behind all those empty yes-es?