Learn To Say "No" (Sorry/Not Sorry)

Recently I posted a bucket list of things the general public seemed to think you should try to accomplish before you turn 50. It was an interesting list (check it out here) but after my initial amusement it really got me thinking.

madmumof7 relaxing with hot choclate in Bremen Germany

There were some truly random items on there. I'm not sure "have a driveway" would have occurred to me to be honest although it was something we added to our home years ago.

Another, "welcome your first grandchild into the world" is not something you can really have any control over is it? So even though I haven't ticked that one off I certainly don't feel I've failed in any way.

Quite a few things on the list required having more cash than I am ever likely to have but I still wouldn't swap my large and happy family  or change our decision that I would largely be at home for them for a first class plane ticket. Although if anyone out there would like to treat me that is one of the few things I would like to experience.

One of the biggies on the list is achievable by anyone.

Learn to say "No."

I have always been a people pleaser and on many, many occasions throughout my life, from childhood onwards have agreed to things that I really didn't want to do, mostly to avoid the risk of upsetting anyone.

Sometimes saying yes when I want to say no has been a good thing. Another item on the bucket list was "do something that scares you" and on occasion saying yes when you want to say no to something that scares you can prove to be a positive experience. You could end up with new skills, greater confidence and even new friends.

In my case saying "yes" to a hot air balloon flight even though I'm scared of heights meant I ended up with an exciting memory and a husband. Facing my fears (again the height thing!) and saying yes to riding the (terrifying) revolving cable car up to the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town gave me an immense feeling of pride in myself for being brave and an amazing experience shared with my son.

cable car at Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa

madmumof7 on top of Table Mountain overlooking Cape Town, South Africa

But sometimes saying yes has left me overworked, overwhelmed, stressed and sometimes even angry as I realise I have allowed someone to take advantage of me.

So I learned to pause, think and occasionally say no to things that I don't think I can cope with or will enjoy. I also learned not always to offer myself when people haven't even asked me to help. That's not even saying no, it's just being more mindful about my own mental and physical health.

This doesn't mean I have become completely selfish just more discerning about what I agree to. I believe with all my heart that we are not lone beings, we have a responsibility to our friends, family and wider community. But I cannot do it all on my own so I have to set boundaries for myself.

For example recently I volunteered to join a small group of people from our team Parish ( a group of five Anglican churches) to look at how we could improve inclusivity in our churches and our outreach work. It's something that interests me greatly with autistic children and adults in our family although becoming more autism-friendly is just a small part of what we hope to achieve to be more inclusive.

But this week when an appeal for people to join another committee met with whistling silence I forced myself to sit on my hands and not fill the silence with an offer to step up. I just don't have the time, energy or frankly the desire to fill this particular vacancy. I knew I had to tell myself firmly (and silently) "No!"

I reckon that means I can tick "learn to say No" off the bucket list. I have learned to say it, not always but more often, and already my life is more relaxed and I have time to focus properly on the things I have said yes to, as well as my friends, family and work. My health issues are more manageable too.

Some people may have been upset because I've vowed to keep some of me for me but acknowledging that and being OK with it is all part of the process. I can highly recommend it.

madmumof7 in field