Reflections at 40 – Saying No – 18/40

To celebrate turning 40, I’ve challenged myself to blog for each of the 40 days leading into my birthday. This is post number 18. You can read all the posts here.

To kick off my year of saying no, I created a manifesto to guide the year (I was really into manifestos back then!) It said:

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Beware of Bright Shiny Objects.

(BUT, if you can’t stop thinking about it, JUST DO IT!)

NURTURE: your funny, your family, your friendships, your SELF.

PRACTICE: mindfulness, meditation, imperfection, saying NO.

LIVE a life less frantic.

These words were the background on my laptop for the whole year and acted as a ‘pause’ button, every time I was asked to do something.

The final line was key.

By that stage I’d identified that ‘being busy’ wasn’t the cause of all my woes. It was all the rushing.

Why was I rushing? It was because my days were over-scheduled and I was existing in a state of perpetual overwhelm.

What was the fastest path to reducing overwhelm? Saying ‘No’.

Of course, I never said a flat out ‘No’ to someone’s face. That was a step too far for me, someone who was addicted to people-pleasing. Instead, my default response to everything became:

Let me get back to you.

This would remove me from the immediacy of the situation, eliminate the knee-jerk ‘Yes’, and allow me to get back to the person via email with:

Thanks so much for the opportunity, but it’s just not right for me at the moment.

Or some variant of that.

The effects were immediate:

  • Suddenly, I had pockets of time in my day where I could move slowly. (I can’t tell you how divine that was!)
  • Unexpected things no longer sent my whole day into a tailspin.
  • My creativity, which had been lost for years, returned in a rush.

Probably the most important thing that made its way back into my life, however, was my sense of humour.

Anxiety and depression had become such a part of my life, I hadn’t even realised I’d lost the ability to laugh.


Image credit: Pan Xiaozhen