Learning to say No

no is completeLast month, I was part of an event with the Willow Creek Association. During the one-day event, 7 segments were recorded, different facets addressing abuse and harassment within the church. On Thursday, I received the recording of my portion, in which I gave practical advice for preventing harassment within the workplace.

I was specifically asked to review it and give feedback on any changes prior to the release to over 800 churches and non-profits this week. I felt my stomach knot up, major cringing. Let’s get real here. I was confident about the content, but it meant I had to watch myself, for thirty minutes! In normal circumstances, that’s a hard pass, but I had no choice.

So, I watched it. And I didn’t die. In reality, I was surprised, encouraged even. Speaking in front of people isn’t a challenge for me, it was having to watch myself that was a nightmare.

My favorite part was during the Q&A at the end where our host, Liz, asked me questions from the audience. In response to one of her questions, I simply said “No.” Of course, after a beat I added more, but the simple answer was no. Honestly, I burst out laughing watching it, I don’t know why it tickled me so much, but it did.

And I was thinking about that answer this morning, reminded that, in fact, “No.” is a complete sentence. We share an inherent tendency to add more, as though explaining our No, is a requirement. It’s not. And it’s that word that we need as we discern our way through our own lives.

It’s beyond easy to say yes, constantly, and find ourselves entrenched with more on our plate than is reasonable. I listen to the “For the Love” podcast with Jen Hatmaker and on this week’s episode, she interviewed Emily Ley, an author and creator of The Simplified Planner! At one point, Emily was talking about the process of simplifying her closet and how hard it is to let go of what no longer serves you. My ears perked up because since I started watching The Art of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix, I’ve been one step away from using her method. But the mere thought of piling all my clothes on the floor and holding each one to determine if it brings me joy…brings me no joy. Anxiety is what it brings me.

Emily shared that she has someone in her life, a helper, who is her “No mentor.”

Ok, wait, she’s on to something. A “No mentor?” Think about it. You have someone who you trust, but who has no attachment to your stuff. Whether it be your clothes, your interests, your pursuits… someone who is objective. She explained that she calls her No Mentor when she’s, for example, weighing two career opportunities. Her mentor can remind her of the path she’s on, and of what aligns with that. And as a bonus, can help in the closet.

I 100% love this idea. Not only for my closet, but to sort through the wide variety of topics that pull at my attention. Life truly is a balance of holding on and letting go. If we hold on to everything, it becomes unmanageable to pursue the important areas well, the areas that bring us the most joy and allow us to maximize sharing our gifts with others.

While I don’t have a No Mentor (but am going to think more about that idea), I think being able to prioritize for our self is an important skill. Like any skill, you must practice, but it can be improved. Maybe my amusement watching myself give a simple No was simply because I had actually let No being the answer for once.

Is there somewhere, something you need to let go of to focus on the right thing? Where  can you say no – without any further explanation – to an ask, a path or choice or relationship that no longer serves you? It’s an act of self-love to prioritize and preserve yourself, your time, your energy. It’s bold – and I’m all about being bold this year. So, without fear or remorse, where do you need to say No today? Do it, and remember, you’re loving yourself in the process.

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