Most of us like to be seen as helpful and generous, but for some people, saying ‘no’ can be especially difficult. If you’re anything like me, days can go by before you’ve realized that you have not done anything for yourself. You do and you do and you do for others and in the process, lose pieces of yourself along the way.
It’s hard to say no. It’s hard to not do something for someone that you love, especially when you’re suffering with mental health issues. Being able to distract yourself with someone else’s needs/problems seems like a great idea… because when you’re thinking about their needs/problems, you’re not thinking about your own. In reality though, this can be a particularly harmful habit to make. Pushing your needs/problems to the back-burner can cause them to fester… grow… and cause you to gain a lot of resentment.
In working with my Psychiatrist, one of the things she’s lead me to realize is that I don’t say no when people ask things of me. I just don’t. And this, this has created a giant storm cloud that floats around above my head, following me in every aspect of my life. I’m resentful of those who ask me for things and I’m resentful that I don’t spend time on myself. In all reality, it’s my own doing. So, I’m responsible for fixing this.
To combat this, she’s given me homework to help me be more cognizant about what is requested of me, how I should respond and how I set limits… especially when it comes to those that I love.
Consider the following when you’re trying to set limits:
Won’t people dislike me if I say ‘no’ to them? They may be annoyed at first because they are used to you agreeing to everything they ask. Most people who learn how to say ‘no’ find that in time they actually get a lot more respect from others. Saying ‘no’ is for everyone’s benefit.
If I say ‘no’, won’t I become a selfish person? Setting limits doesn’t mean saying ‘no’ to every request, just balancing things so that others don’t depend on you all of the time for everything. This gives others a chance to learn how to manager their own lives as we all strive to live in balance.
What is the price for always saying ‘yes’?
- You get completely overwhelmed and over time your health is likely to suffer
- You have less time and energy to spend with your family and friends
- You become irritable, exhausted and perhaps depressed
- You feel unappreciated for what you do
- You begin to resent the people for whom you do so much
- You put your personal needs, plans and dreams on hold, perhaps forever
- Others expect more and more, even take you for granted
- Others don’t learn to solve their own problems
- Others don’t learn to become independent
- Others learn to take advantage of helpful people
- Others fail to become helpful themsleves
How do I start setting limits with others?
- Choose a small request someone has made that you know they can manage for themselves.
- Decide what, when and where you will tell them.
- Rehearse what you will say, and practice using a strong assertive voice.
- Stay firm. Don’t argue or become defensive.
- Use positive self talk.
- Repeat this exercise with other small requests before move on to more difficult situations.
Whatever you end up doing, however you end up doing it, just remember that if you’re ever going to work through your own needs/problems, you need time to do so. Set some limits with your friends/family/coworkers to ensure that your needs are met and you don’t let things fester.
Don’t let things fester! Set limits and stop using other’s lives to distract your own. Give yourself the time to relax, give yourself the time work through what you need to work through. There’s nothing worse than resenting others because you’re too afraid to say no.