GUEST COLUMN: We need to learn to say ‘No’ without feeling guilty

Marg Johnson

I found the below on Facebook recently and it really hit me, the relevance of how we’re unable or unwilling to give ourselves a break.

THINGS THAT CAN BE EQUALLY TRUE

You are resilient AND need a break

You gave your all AND need to back out

You are independent AND still need others

You were sure AND things changed

You are kind AND have boundaries

Others have it worse  AND your pain is valid

You did your best AND now you know more

These days, many of us have reached the end of our rope and are having difficulty coping with life’s pressures, let alone all the stuff we take upon ourselves.

A good friend of mine was extremely musical. By that, I mean she sang in a university-level opera choir, played the piano, taught instrumental music at school, sang in our church choir, and took charge of the nativity scene at Christmas. On top of that, she was Chair of the Education Committee.

We were out for coffee one day and I could tell she was close to the edge. We were pretty close friends and shared a lot of duties at church. But some things I just couldn’t take off her shoulders. And she had to learn to say, “No, I am over-committed already.”

As her husband told me, every evening spent at the church was an evening away from their boys.

As she tried to relax over coffee, I took the bull by the horns and made a wild suggestion: “What if you start saying ‘No?’ What is the worst that could happen?”

We went through her list, and most were valid considering there was absolutely nobody who was as musical as she was, and nobody as willing to give of themselves. But she finally admitted she was “done.”

So, as a joke and to take her mind off her responsibilities, I said, “So, now we’re gonna practice saying, ‘No, I am over-committed already.’ I will ask you to do something and you will say with me, ‘No, I am over-committed already.’ Now, let’s go.”

By the end of our role-playing she was actually able to do it. And, she later stepped down from the Education Committee, which freed up time to do what she loved, which is music.

Sometimes we just need permission to let loose of the stuff we hate doing but feel compelled to do anyway. Sometimes we need a friend to straight-up say, “It’s time to start saying, ‘No’ and help us learn how to do it, without guilt, without anger, without judging ourselves.

Let’s practice now. “No, I am over-committed already.”

Now, doesn’t that feel better?

Sarnia’s Marg Johnson is a retired Certified Child & Youth Worker who formerly worked with behaviour children as an educational assistant at the York Catholic District School Board.