This word slips off my tongue far too easily.
Yes, I’ll be sure and get all those reports finished by Tuesday (even though it’s Monday night).
Yes, I’ll be happy to pledge to your disaster relief/homeless shelter/mission trip/fund for wayward pandas.
Yes, I can come to extra rehearsals on Sunday afternoons (even though that’s my only free day all week).
Some years ago, a friend of mine gave me a promotional pen he’d received in the mail. It was from a local anti-drug coalition, and it had the words “Just Say NO!” imprinted on it in big red letters. “Keep this by your phone,” he told me, “and when someone calls and asks you for something, read this to them!”
You know, it actually helped. This was back in the days when telemarketers were calling all the time, and I was a huge wimp about saying “no.” Anybody with a programmed sob story could get money out of me. But I started gripping that pen tightly in my hand and screwing up my courage. After the first few times of saying “sorry, I can’t donate right now,” it got easier and easier. Pretty soon, I was grabbing the phone and saying “I’m sorry, we aren’t making any donations on the telephone” before firmly hanging up the receiver.
The yes word still gives me trouble, though, especially when authority figures are involved. “You’ve got to start telling her no,” my husband told me the other day, referring to my boss. “She has to learn that you’re not going to accomodate her unreasonableness.”
Well, easy for him to say.
However…the other day she made a rather unreasonable request, and I don’t think my response was exactly what she’s come to expect from me.
“We can make that a goal,” I responded in reference to the new deadlines she was requesting. “But I think it’s going to be very difficult most weeks to actually make it happen.” I had several solid reasons to back me up, and she (grudgingly) allowed that we should “just do the best you can” toward achieving it.
Being a people pleaser is just part and parcel of my personality, and it’s the thing that makes saying “yes” so easy. It’s not even so much that I want people to like me, it’s that I want to feel important and approved of. I genuinely want to help people, I want to be seen as the kind of person who gets things done. When I complete some of these tasks, even though they may have cost me time or money or considerable effort (or all of the above at once!), I feel good about myself.
It means I really can do it all. Mission accomplished.
But, at some point I’d like my mission in life to become more about saying yes to the desires of my own heart. After all, charity begins at home.
Yes, I’ll take two weeks off at Christmas time so I can spend more time with my family.
Yes, I’ll stop bringing work home so I can spend Sunday nights reading or meeting friends for dinner.
Yes, I’ll ask my husband to do the grocery shopping even if I’m not working so I can get my hair done or have a pedicure.
But will I be able to stand firm amidst the continuing onslaught of demands for my time and effort?