Women: The Ultimate Multi-Taskers – Why We Owe It To Ourselves To Learn To Say “No”

As women, we are the ultimate multi-taskers and multi-pleasers. We want to DO and BE everything for everyone at every time of the day. But how realistic is this?  Especially with Christmas right around the corner – many of us fear the pressure of not being enough. Sound familiar? 

Why does it seem so difficult to say “no”? Can we really learn to start saying”no” gracefully and not feel guilty about it?

Well, the answer is YES, we can… and more importantly, we SHOULD.

First, it’s important to understand the underlying reason why we just can’t seem to say “no”, even when we really want to.

According to Judith Tingley, M.D., author of “Say What You Mean, Get What You Want: A Business – Person’s Guide to Direct Communication”, the biggest barrier to communicating assertively is FEAR.

If we turn down a request, we fear being judged, criticized intimated or rejected. And this doesn’t just hold true in the workplace with our colleagues – it also happens at home in our intimate relationships.

Of course, as Dr. Tingley clearly points out, we want to be liked, accepted and acknowledged for all that we are and all that we do, but there has to be a point where we get honest with ourselves and with others about our boundaries.

To remain sane, we need to learn to say “no” to others and start saying “yes” to ourselves!

How do we do this? One of my favorite motivational speakers, author of Speak Your Truth and friend of mine, Colette Carlson, reminded me how to actually put this into practice. Truly, she has mastered the art of saying “no” with ease and grace, allowing us to set healthy boundaries.

In order to do this, new habits and behaviors need to be implemented into our daily lives. To help remember these new behaviors and anchor them in our brains, she uses the same words we would use for children crossing the street.

Stop, Look, and Listen… before crossing GO.

Stop: Instead of rushing to make a decision, simply stop and take a deep breath. Give yourself some time to think over the request and remove the pressure to reply immediately. Do you really want to volunteer for that Holiday function or planning committee? If not, try the following tips:

  • “That sounds interesting, let me get back to you”, or

  • “let me check my schedule and I’ll let you know”.

Simple and straightforward, using words like these will buy you a little time to really think about whether or not committing to this request is really the best use of your time. 

Look: Take a long hard look at your current commitments and calendar. Put your focus on your highest priorities and schedule them into your calendar first.

You’ll want to be clear about your internal goals, like going to the gym, scheduling a massage or coffee time with your friends. Time for yourself comes FIRST – not last! As women, we often neglect our personal needs for others – leading to anxiety, depression and a sense of feeling overwhelmed.  

Listen: Listen to and acknowledge YOUR feelings. Do you truly want to do what is being asked or is it something you feel you “should” do? “Should's” come loaded with guilt, but you really need to honor your true feelings for long-term sanity and happiness.

Go: Go across with integrity. Let go of your fears and simply speak your truth. No need to give excuses – just a simple, “no, my calendar is full but thank you for thinking of me” – is sufficient. Then, let it go without further discussion or chatter. Even with all of the holiday parties and obligations, there is only 24 hours in a day – and you need to listen to your needs. Take off the Super-Woman cape, slide into something comfy and put your feet up. You don’t have to do it all. It’s okay to say ‘NO’!

I’m using these tips to help balance out my own expectations and “SHOULDs”. I’ve decided not to feel guilty when I need to leave when visiting my mom. As many of you know, she is suffering from dementia and lives in a nearby Board & Care facility. I see her every week and it’s difficult for me to leave sometimes. Yet, I’ve realized that it’s the quality of time spent not necessarily the quantity that makes a difference.  Whether it’s 2 hours or 4 hours – it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I go and visit with her, seeing her bright smile when I arrive and her teary eyes when I leave, saying thank-you for visiting! And then I breathe and let go of the “Should's”. It’s not saying “no” per se, but rather yes, to me and my Mom.

What boundaries will you set this holiday season? Please share with our Amazing Over 40 community!

In health and happiness,

-Dr. Diana