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Do you find it difficult to say No to the needs and requests of your partner, family, friends, colleagues, and others? Maybe you feel obligated to say Yes to everyone and everything, or maybe you’re not bold enough to say No.

You want to live on your own terms, but you can’t seem to break free. And so you keep saying Yes only to end up feeling regret and resentment.

“When you say Yes to others, make sure you are not saying No to yourself.”

—Paolo Coehlo

Why it’s so Hard to Say YES to Yourself

Imagine for a moment there are two doors. Behind Door Number One is the choice to say Yes to everything but you. Behind Door Number Two is No to everything, and a hell Yes to You.

I want you to pick a door to open, and enter the room and shut the door behind you. You have to stay in the room you choose. You cannot change your mind. You do not get this time back, ever.

I’m guessing you chose Door Number Two, with Yes to You, right? But what’s astounding is the choice most people make is Door Number One.

Most of us struggle to say No. Matter of fact, whether you’re consciously aware or not, every time you say Yes to something, you’re also saying No to something else—and often, it’s to what is most important to you. That is your opportunity cost.

There are plenty of reasons why we do this. We’re taught from an early age to be of service to others placing their needs above our own. We want to be needed, agreeable, and liked. We don’t want to disappoint anyone. And we surely don’t want to appear selfish. Our motivations are endless.

This is not to say we shouldn’t support others. There will be periods in life when it’s essential and fulfilling to care for and support others. But these periods are for a season and not the pattern for everyday living.

So how can you break free from saying Yes?

Discover these four practical strategies on how you can get started on saying Yes to you, an essential step in our lifelong journey of personal growth.

Strategy #1: Know Your Yes

Everyone has a purpose waiting to be uncovered and honoured. You may have wondered, “Who am I?” and “What on earth am I here for?” When you have clarity on who you’re meant to be and what you’re meant to do, each day is pursued with a sense of purpose. And when you’re clear on your purpose, that Bold Yes burning inside is ignited—making you unstoppable. It will direct every step on your journey. It defines what you do and won’t do. Every decision, choice, and action is consistently aligned to it. You’ll focus solely on the opportunities that move you closer to bringing your purpose to life. It helps you discern if what you’re about to agree to will propel you forward, delay your journey, or steer you completely off course.

 “But you have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, nonapologetically—to say “no”’ to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside.”

—Stephen R. Covey

Strategy #2: Keep Your Commitments

You may have experienced this before. You put aside the well-intentioned commitments you make to yourself in exchange of helping others or committing to things you aren’t passionate about. What you may not have realized is you broke a commitment with yourself. In truth, when you abandon the commitments you’ve made with yourself it can diminish your self-worth, increase your self-doubt, and downright disempower you. What’s more, it creates a habit of not following through on your own goals and plans. On the flipside, when you keep the agreements you’ve made with yourself first, it develops and strengthens your integrity, trust, and confidence. So the next time you’re about to agree to something, remember to get on with your goals and finish up your incompletes first before you set out to help someone with theirs.

“Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.”

—W. Clement Stone

Strategy #3: Choose Yourself First

Nourish the relationship you have with yourself first. If you try to do it all, you’ll likely run yourself into the ground. It’s impossible to do everything people want you to do. When you take care of your needs and desires, you’ll have more energy and vitality to be of service to the people and things you care about. Create a personal resource plan that you can draw upon to sustain you and help you thrive. For example, what activities fuel you, make you joyful, and give you meaning. Is it spending time outdoors, practicing yoga, journaling or simply resting? Whatever it might be, prioritize those things. Loving yourself well first is by far the most loving act for the health of any relationship. You’re a precious gift to this world—treat yourself as such.

“The love and attention you always thought you wanted from someone else, is the love and attention you first need to give to yourself.”

—Bryant McGillns

Strategy #4: Delay Your Response

It can feel disorienting and overwhelming when confronted with a myriad of demands. The next time you’re asked of something, delay your response. Take a moment to pause and check in with yourself. What are your thoughts and feelings about this request? How are you feeling in your body and what are you sensing? Take the time to reflect and understand what specifically is involved in the request. Are you clear on the time and effort you’ll need to commit? What are you giving up by agreeing to this request? Once you’ve considered your options, you can respond with a decision that is best for you.

“Every choice moves us closer to or farther away from something. Where are your choices taking your life? What do your behaviors demonstrate that you are saying yes or no to in life?”

—Eric Allenbaugh

Final thoughts

For some, hearing the word No is debilitating, so having to utter the word No can feel uncomfortable. Learning to say No takes daily practice. But to do that, you need to get into the habit of saying Yes to You. Remember: When you’re saying Yes to others, you are saying No to you. Only you have the power to use these four strategies to create the internal shift to boldly say No so you can say a hearty Yes to the life you were gifted to live.

Will you be bold enough to tell someone today:

“I need to say No to you. And I’m doing it because I want to say Yes to me.”

About Sabrina Damato, PPCC, ACC

Sabrina is a corporate professional who helps organizations and their leaders stay ahead of the rapid changes in the digital landscape by solving real challenges with innovative solutions. In the last two decades, she has acquired a well-rounded background in business and information technology with solid experience in business analysis, consulting, customer experience, project management and product management. Sabrina believes intersecting diverse backgrounds and fields with creative problem solving to push the boundaries of what’s possible and spark change within any aspect of life.  As someone who has an entrepreneurial spirit with vision, Sabrina is also a certified professional coach and the founder of Awaken Boldness. Her aim is to empower women to awaken the boldness within so they become who they’re meant to be and live the life they want. When she is not pursuing her missions, she’s a dedicated mom to her son and partner to her sweetheart. She loves being outdoors, reading and painting.

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