Is saying “no” difficult for you? I’ve always struggled with being a people-pleaser, so learning to say no has been a hard-won life-lesson for me. It’s much easier to say no when you know your yes. But this past year I have been learning to say no without feeling guilty about it, and it has been a life-changing.
Guilt can be useful when it alerts us to the fact that we have done something wrong: we want a child to feel guilty when he has punched his brother, for example. But people-pleasers struggle with a kind of false guilt that can accompany every instance of saying “no” – even when saying no is the right thing to do.
The difficulty is knowing when saying no is the right thing to do: especially when we are saying no to good things.
Have you ever thought about the difference between creativity and productivity? Or struggled with how to be both? It seems to be a theme that is popping up a lot – perhaps because January is simultaneously a season for nature being at rest, in preparation for the creative burst of spring, while the modern world is trying to be as productive as possible, implementing new habits, losing weight, and finally doing the things they had been procrastinating through Christmas.
On the one hand, pursuing creative work is a worthy goal. On the other hand, it’s hard to look at a day that looks like January — where not much happens with that lengthy to-do list — and say, well, at least I was creative, even though I have nothing to show for it.
Where is the balance? Every great writer seems to offer the same advice about creative work: it’s still work. You can’t just wait for a muse to strike you, you have to sit down at the keyboard every day. But is creativity the same as productivity?
Do you have trouble saying “no” to things? Me too. My natural tendency is to feel like I don’t want to disappoint anyone, so when I would say “no” to a request, I would always end up feeling guilty and yet relieved at the same time. This lasted for years.
I remember the first time I really said a firm “no” to helping someone, and felt free because of it: I was in my mid 20s!
As a graduate student, my study load was quite heavy. A fellow student asked if I could read over his paper to edit it and give feedback. Without thinking I said, “I’m sorry, I don’t have time for that.” It just popped out of my mouth—I was shocked that I had said no so easily.
Later, I marveled at the freedom I had found in saying “no” – but what I realized was that I could say “no” easily, because I had already said “yes.” Continue Reading
I had a recent moment of self-revelation brought on by my hair, of all things.
Have you ever found yourself wanting something, but not willing to go through what it takes to have it?
Wanting to be at the top of your field, but not willing to put in the long years of study to get there?
Wanting to have great arms/ a flat stomach/ thinner thighs, but not willing to work out and cut back on sugar?
Wanting to earn a great salary but not willing to spend decades of your life building a career?
I realized that I always want my hair to look great (who doesn’t? I guess) – but not just generically great. Great like perfectly done great. Not the trendy “messy bun” look, or “beach waves” which can be fudged with a bit of spray. No, I consistently want my hair to look completely perfect, like I’m on a movie set.
But the process of actually doing my hair perfectly every day? No way. Washing it, spending lots of money on hair products, the time it takes to blow-dry and set and on and on… I don’t want the process. I just want the end result! I want the benefits without the cost. Continue Reading
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