Once upon a time, I was a little girl. I read fairy tales about knights in shining armour, who came to rescue the helpless princess. What attracted me was not the hapless woman, but the knight who seemingly had it all sorted. I wanted to be that guy. Confident. Knew what he was doing. Had a purpose. And just managed everything. Did not need to depend on anyone. Was the one who took action. Honestly, he really has it all figured out. I decided, that was it. When I grow up, I want to be that guy. Definitely not the princess. I am blessed to have been raised to be independent like that guy too.
Except, I forgot to factor in a few things. That despite working towards being the ‘knight’ my whole life, I was still a woman. And eventually biology would catch up.
Ok, no problem. We can change the definition of having it ‘figured out’ slightly. It means I need to do some more stuff too in addition to having a career that is going places and being financially independent. Manage a house, be the primary caregiver to my children (my husband is fantastic, but I think it is a 70-30 partnership), my parents, my in laws, other friends and family, the staff, school projects. This list is more than I envisaged. But I cannot be seen as anything less than someone who has everything figured out all the time. What do I do?
Start saying NO. Yes, you heard me.
No. No is not just a word. It is a sentence. We have all heard that before. But it is the irrefutable truth. Having too much on your plate at the same time is definitely setting you up for disappointment, a less than excellent performance or burnout. We need to learn to recognize when the load is too much to bear and say ‘no more’. It comes for a position of strength and not weakness.
Saying No becomes a tool that helps you negotiate and navigate through tricky situations as well as help you assert yourself. This form of control gives you time and mental capacity to actually devote your time and energies to what is important to you. Offering detailed explanations for why something is not possible for you is counter-productive and will only fuel guilt which is unnecessary and unproductive. A constant need for validation and gratitude from others for time that you have spent on solving another person’s problem is another common reason we hear women weren’t able to say No.
You can say No. Everyone can. Be committed to what you think is important to you and what brings you joy. Everything else is secondary. Anything that is not a Yes!! Is a No. There should be no “Maybe” or “Perhaps” or “I’ll try”. They are unnecessary and cause avoidable guilt-mongering. Try saying No. Own your choices. Feel the power.
This is your Second Act. let’s begin.