More than likely, you are too.
Give it a try: N-n-n-n-n-ooooooooooooo.
Can't say it, can you? Like me, you are probably over-extended, over-committed and over-booked. Which makes me wonder: Why is it that we can't give ourselves permission to ever respectfully decline? And, while we're at it: Why do men have an easier time with saying no? Are there, for example, any show tunes about a guy who can't say no? Right? Are they the more evolved of the species? (I'm sure we'll find out in the comments section.)
This comes up because, as I write this, I am looking forward to a toxic tomorrow, when I have three major commitments that, had they been on three different days, I would be gladly anticipating. And, to be sure, each is a case of my, a while ago, saying: Yes, absolutely! But then calendars were rearranged. Life intervened. The calendar went haywire. And here I am. Wondering how I will make it through the day. Or put all those miles on my car. Could I have declined anywhere along the way?
Of course. But I did not. Which is why, as Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote -- albeit in an entirely different context -- I'm in a terrible fix.
This whole issue of saying no came up in class today, when one of my students, talking about the over-extension of today's college students, talked about an invitation to participate in something (probably spectacular -- she's that kind of kid) where she had just said no. Can't do it. And the response from her friends was disbelief.
Part of this is the fact that as women we are raised to please. It starts early. When writing our book, we talked to a counselor at a prestigious all-girls high school, who told us that when she talks to many of the girls in her school the main topic of conversation is stress. They admit that a lot is self-induced, but when she asks them, "Well, do you really need to take six honors courses?" The answer will be "But I want to." What they really want, she told us, is to please:
"Studies show girls have so many more problems than boys -- depression, eating disorders, migraines -- because girls will stick with the craziness a lot longer than boys will. Girls are hard-wired to please, which makes the pressure even bigger. They won't give up, because to do so would be a failure. And they don't want anybody to feel they're a failure, because then they'd be letting people down."
Shouldn't she have made the big ask? Probably, yes.
Maybe it's we haven't yet learned that it's okay to be ourselves. To be true to our very own wants and needs. To be authentic. To ditch what we call the iconic self. To live up to no one's expectations but our own. And sometimes that means to, well, just say no.
But what the hell do I know. Here I sit, eating my dinner (burned the crap out of the organic carrots, by the way), finishing this post. I'd have another glass of wine but, you know, tomorrow is a big day.
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