In the past couple of months, I’ve been returning again and again to the difference between saying yes with a full heart versus doling out a half-assed yes with a side of resentment. The topic has been coming up in meditation, in interactions with other people, and in my internal dialogue and thought processes.
To pull the issue apart a bit, here are a some of the things I’ve been exploring:
- Discerning between when I truly want to say yes to something versus when I feel like I should say yes or am caving in to pressure from the other person.
- Learning new tools for saying no with love and handling the situation with grace.
- Exploring the feelings that come up when I speak my truth versus when I slip into people pleasing.
- Recognizing that deciding whether or not I want to say yes often requires time, and I’m free to respond on my own time table, even if the other person is feeling a lot of urgency around the decision.
One particular hot spot has been in the area of friendships. For most of my life, I struggled with feelings of low self-worth, and I was operating under the premise of, “Well, if someone wants to be friends with me, I’ll take it!” Even if “it” was crappy behavior, or just plain ol’ mismatched personalities.
Over the past couple of years, I have been on a slow but steady mission to release friendship connections that no longer light me up, and that brings up a whole new set of opportunities for growth, aka awkward challenges.
Part of the journey has been recognizing when I am letting go of a friendship because I truly want to be as far away from it as possible, and when I am letting go of it because I am afraid to risk asking for the changes that would make the friendship more fulfilling to me.
For example, I recently had a conversation with someone from whom I had been pulling away for years, because I often felt judged in our interactions. There was a moment in our current conversation where I felt this deep resistance welling up inside me, and I knew that I didn’t want to continue talking about a particular topic.
My initial reaction was, “Oh god, if you say something, it’ll be super awkward and rude,” but when I checked in and asked myself, if my only guide is “Is this an act of self-love?” then I knew I wanted to speak up. And I did.
It was momentarily awkward, because it brought the whole conversation train to a halt, but my friend was able to gracefully hear my request that we not continue with this particular topic, and it actually opened the door to both of us being able to express our needs for updating our “friendship rules” that had been established back when we were in junior high.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I had been having an ongoing interaction with someone else, and I could feel myself getting more and more uncomfortable as the conversation continued. In the past, I would find any excuse to invalidate my experience so I wouldn’t have to deal with it. Better to tolerate than rock the boat, said my subconscious.
But this time, I decided to tell my subconscious to go out and grab lunch while I dealt with this in a different way. I had no idea how it would turn out, but I knew that I wasn’t being loving to myself by not saying anything. And interestingly, to go back to what I wrote in this post about the question “Does being self-loving mean you sometimes have to be non-loving to someone else?” I felt like the Universe was delivering a situation where I could see this question in action.
I chose to tell this person that I no longer wished to communicate with them, and I told them quite honestly that I am very sensitive to energy, and the energy of this situation, for reasons I cannot explain, made me uncomfortable.
In the past, I would have demanded of myself that I submit “hard evidence” to back up my experience, but this time, I chose to accept that my experience was all I needed to take care of myself, even if the other person did not agree, which they didn’t.
I dealt with the uncomfortable feelings that came up (“Oh god, am I being really rude?”), and continued to ask myself, “Am I acting out of self-love right now?” (And I also tapped on the feelings that came up, which was immensely helpful). What came through loud and clear once my strong emotional response had calmed down, thanks to the tapping, was that forcing myself to engage in an uncomfortable situation was not only unloving toward myself, it was very unloving toward the other person.
Think about it: Would you want someone hanging out with you because they felt like they had to or because they genuinely wanted to? I think we can all answer that question without thinking twice. By releasing this connection with clarity and kindness, I was helping to create space in my life for people whom I genuinely want to connect with, and I was giving the other person the opportunity to do the same. (And whether they see it as an opportunity or an affront is not something I can control.)
I know I’ve only explored the tip of the iceberg with this issue, and I already have ideas for a guided meditation that I’d like to create on the topic, so I’m sure you’ll be hearing a lot more on the blog about saying no, clearing out things and relationships that you’re merely tolerating, and creating space for what you actually want in your life. Stay tuned.