Folks who have a hard time saying No have a deep fear of letting others down, and an even deeper belief that if they disappoint someone, they’ll become unworthy of love.
If this is you, your heart probably just sank a little in reconnecting with that fear, and I hope you’ll read on.
It’s important to understand where our beliefs come from so we can evaluate their validity in the present.
Most of our deeply rooted beliefs are acquired in a pretty straightforward generational enculturation. And, especially as naturally social creatures, we are wired on a primal level to prioritize social acceptance as a survival need. This means that our beliefs about love, acceptance, and emotional security, automatically get programmed early on.
To be fair to our ancestors, many of them dealt with a lot more scarcity than many of us experience today. This activated their competitive drive, as well as a desperately felt need for everyone to “pull their own weight”. True interdependence was much more visceral in generations past. We relied on each other to the degree where failures often meant life or death.
Today, however, many of us are able to enjoy a vastly greater abundance of networked resources. As a result, we’re able to live relatively more independently and actually strive for that high ideal of self actualization.
What this means is that we have a lot of physiological programming that is no longer needed. Fortunately, it can be overwritten to more effectively suit our current environment.
Understanding our impulses can help us navigate them more consciously.
With a healthy awareness practice, we can start to notice what goes on internally when we make decisions.
If you’re someone who rarely says No to requests of your time, attention, energy, or other resources, I’ll bet that your Yes in these situations is mostly reflexive. “Of course! Absolutely. You can always count on me.”
Translation: “Yes, you can have anything you need from me, just don’t shun me.”
You rarely ever pause to consider whether you have the resources for it, or whether it’s an activity you actually want to do. And oftentimes, after you’ve blurted out your Yes, you find yourself either regretting it, or resenting them for asking.
If you never say No, it’s because saying Yes is an ingrained priority for you.
People often talk about “being a Yes” to something, or “being a No” to something. For you, though, your Yeses are so without hesitation, that they feel true for you.
What’s really happening here is you are a Yes to the REQUEST itself, not necessarily to the thing that’s being asked of you. You are an automatic Yes to securing their approval of you, to earning their love of you – because you don’t know that love doesn’t work that way.
You were taught by caregiver modeling and enculturation that love is earned through devotional sacrifice. And you don’t just believe this in your mind, you carry it through your entire body, such that love without sacrifice doesn’t even register as love to your system.
This is not about blame, though, it’s about empowerment. Knowing why we do the things we do, that go on to shape our entire lives, gives us the power to choose differently, and to shape our lives differently.
First, we have to heal the underlying wounds.
If you never say No, and your Yeses are out of obligation to deliver and to not disappoint, chances are, you often feel disappointed in others.
Your deep-seated belief that Love is conditional on self-sacrifice leaves you demanding it of yourself as well as others. Unfortunately, this serves as a major barrier to the flow of Love in your life.
TAKE HEED: Love is unconditional. Relationships are not. That’s what boundaries are for.
But we can’t just decide to change our behavior and have it be so. We have to dig into the beliefs that motivate our actions. We must question the stories beneath them and revise them to align with our consciously chosen values and goals.
And we need to heal our relationship to Love with unconditional self-love.
Let’s try on a new story…
The TRUTH is, you are worthy of Love simply because you exist, not because of anything you do. And as fulfilling as that sounds, I know that it doesn’t feel true to you yet – and that’s OK! You’re still worthy.
And it is still true that relationships (of all kinds) take work. We do have to show up for each other, get uncomfortable at times, and take accountability for how we impact each other.
But we don’t have to take responsibility for other people’s struggles. In fact, it’s often a grave disservice to them. And when you give beyond your means, you become depleted, and aren’t able to provide the greatest aid of all, which is simply your loving presence.
Empower your compassion so that it’s big enough for both of you. Learn to recognize when you’re maxed out, and extend them your trust in their capability to find another way to get their needs met.
You are not their only resource, and they are not your sole source of love. Root your security within yourself, so that you can extend yourself trust, too, in your ability to receive love from a variety of sources – including your own heart.
If you never say No, you’ll never know Love – because true love requires nothing of anyone.