No! By Carlie Kilduff

"The bigger and more important shift comes in deciding to love and nurture ourselves, and this I highly encourage you to consider."
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If I had just one wish for you in 2014, it would be for you to embrace the word “no”. Learn to love using it as a form of self care and preservation. How can one small word be so hard to say? Not that the word itself is particularly difficult in theory, but for many, especially women, practicing it on a regular basis can be a challenge. As a mom, I can assure you that this tiny word is often a favorite with toddlers. Young children love to assert themselves as a way of gaining individuality and autonomy. So, why is it that we begin with a comfort, even a delight, in shrieking “No!” and then grow out of love with it?

I was recently on a radio show on Salt Spring Island called The Beanstalk, speaking on the topic of “Becoming Your Own Mother”. The idea of saying “no” came up and it was evident that exploring this topic on its own could be of great value. Perhaps this will be my next radio speaking engagement, but for now I will attempt to share some wisdom with you in written form.

For me, learning to say “no” was really quiet fun. I now look back at this time in my life and jokingly refer to it as my “F You Stage”. I was knee deep in the process of radical self healing and I was blessed to be surrounded in wise mentors. One wise woman in particular, my chiropractor, really struck a chord when she said that we were not born signing any social contracts. She urged me to consider that I did not actually owe anybody anything. This was very different from the belief system that I was following until that point. It opened me to new possibilities. As my life circumstances were swirling out of control, and I was on a wild ride, I had the power to use “no”, both directly and indirectly, as a way to create space for my own self. Seeing that I was working on loving myself and taking very great care and nurture, there was huge potential in learning to assert my desires and choose when to open a door and when to close it. I jumped on board the “no” train and found it to be amazing. Years of self deprivation melted away and I had reclaimed my own authority. It was truly empowering.

As I gained a comfort in declining from many things that were asked of me, I examined why it was that I had lived so long in fear of saying “no”. As women, many of us were raised to be “good girls”. We endured a long and persistent training in how to give, serve, and do for others, tirelessly. The message seems to be that we must not be selfish, and our culture tends to label assertive women as “bitchy”. Prior to my shift in perception on this matter, I had very little self value and esteem. I saw my identity as being a giver and a pleaser. I somehow thought that I gained my worth by how much I could do for others, as if there was a prize for who could give the most and I was going to win it. Unbeknownst to me, as I said “yes” to everyone and everything, I was actually saying “no” to myself.

I learned how to take myself and my own needs very seriously. If I wanted to do something, I would, but if not, “no” became my new best friend. Agreeing to do something is fine as long as it is something that gives you positive feelings. One of my favorite authors, Martha Beck, explains it in terms of shackles. If the thought of doing something leaves you feeling like the shackles are on, consider saying “no”, or exploring why it is making you feel this way. Perhaps it is something that you have to do, but you can adjust your perception or experience of it. For example, I don’t like folding the laundry, but I can’t say “no” to this chore. I can, however, choose when I do it and how I feel about it. If I see it as a drag and something that I hate doing, then it won’t feel good. I can crank up the tunes and dance while I do it, being careful to feel the sensation of each garment. I could even think loving thoughts about each person as I fold their clothes and now I have created different experience with laundry. If you really feel badly about something, when you allow yourself the time to take it in and feel your response internally, then don’t do it. Say “yes” to things that give you a feeling of joy, happiness, peace, and excitement. All of those things to do really can wait and I found that many of them did not need to be done at all.

I learned that saying “no” is not nearly as hard as one might think. People actually accept it well. Consider that when you ask for something, you are prepared to be declined. I think that when we decide that we are valuable and have the right to say “no”, doing it becomes natural. The bigger and more important shift comes in deciding to love and nurture ourselves, and this I highly encourage you to consider.

A good first step is requesting more time. We tend to respond too quickly to requests. In a hurry, we find ourselves agreeing to do something, only to feel burdened by what we have just taken on and unsure how to back out. Rather than offering a quick “yes”, you could say that you need to check your agenda. This gives you more time to formulate your “no” response. In time, you will feel comfortable with giving a “no” right away. It can even become fun! When we say “no”, we don’t need to give a detailed reason why not, as we can easily come across as unsure, leaving ourselves open for that dreaded “yes” to come back into play. A short, but firm “no” is best. It is very hard to resist when “no” is followed up with something like “I am working at creating more time and space for myself and this won’t work for me this time”. Having the courage to say “no” is not only healthy for you, but it can empower others to learn to use it for themselves too. This isn’t being selfish, it is being self-full, and self-full should be a goal for us all. We, as mothers, want to model this for our children.

Your life is just that: yours. In 2014, I wish that you would live in a way that brings you joy. Love how you spend your time. Your only mission should be to enjoy your time here on earth.

Life is short and precious. Find your value from within. It is there, I promise, for every one of you. When you connect with your own value, you can stop trying to find it somewhere out there. Say “no” to honor yourself, your health, and the things that are special to you. Fill your own cup first...and then, you just might find that you have even more to share with the world from this place. It starts with you being healthy, rested, peaceful, and happy. Nobody is going to give this to you, no matter how much you give or do, it’s inside of you. Unlocking this power, one person at a time, will bring great results for all. Are you ready to make yourself your biggest priority in 2014? What is your new favorite word? No!


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