This past year has been a huge journey in understanding my capacity. A very humbling journey, I might add. I’m guessing I’m not alone. Do you ever feel like your capacity for what you can do and what you can handle doesn’t line up with our culture’s expectations or the length of your to-do list? Overextending yourself can lead to crazy amounts of stress, and if you’re like me, constant feelings of frustration and that I’m “not enough.” Today I want to discuss why saying no is life-giving, and why it’s important, even if you feel like it’s impossible.
Realizing your capacity is smaller than that insta-famous person’s, your sister’s, or what you want it to be is humbling, but freeing. It can be a welcomed open door into a better life. You can only overextend yourself for so long.
Why Saying No is Life-Giving
It’s not rocket science. If your schedule is full, quit something or start turning opportunities down to give you some more time or space – Moms, you can do this on behalf of your kids or family, too. The idea is simple, but the follow-through can be tough! We need to dismantle the lies our culture has taught us before we can see the light. Let us begin!
Full Schedules Do Not Equal Full Hearts
In this day and age we are overwhelmed with so many great choices and opportunities. FOMO, the fear of missing out, is so real, and now it’s much more than missing out on a night with friends and inside jokes. It extends to missing out on opportunities to further your career, or your kids’ counselor says the more extracurriculars the better to get into a good college…
Just because your schedule is full doesn’t mean your heart is. Busyness doesn’t mean you’re important. You exist, therefore you are important. You don’t need to prove it by overextending your capacity and being frazzled and stressed every day! Start to guard your schedule like you’d guard the last Thin Mint from your stash of Girl Scout cookies. Just because an opportunity presents itself doesn’t mean it will add to your life. In some instances, saying yes to everything – even if it’s just another coffee date – can take away from the things that really matter or feel life-giving to you.
Saying Yes to Something is Saying No to Another
We need to come face to face with the reality that saying yes to something is saying no to something else. We often look at our “yes” like it’s just for that one thing. Do I commit to this thing every Saturday for 8 weeks? Or do I turn it down? But the truth is, if you say yes to yet another commitment, you are saying no to something else.
It’s important to ask yourself what am I saying no to?
Oftentimes the things we say no to have to do with prioritizing our health, happiness, sanity, important relationships, and our stress levels, which can only be elevated for so long before they wreak havoc on your body and hormones.
Be Protective of Your Time
Start to view your time with protective eyes. So many “obligations” (read: things we feel like we have to do but don’t want to; not necessarily the same as responsibilities) fill our schedules. Determine what is important to you and what you want to say yes to, even if that means saying no to something good.
Maybe this looks like guarding your time with your family, protecting the 30 minutes you have to workout a few times each week, or viewing your meal planning time as sacred. Prioritize whatever fuels you above “obligations” whenever possible, whether it’s time with your girlfriends, being out in nature with your pup, date night, etc.
You could also find yourself on the other side of the spectrum. You might be saying no to everything by saying yes to Netflix or social media every night. In that case, it’s time to chat with a friend about what you’re really saying no to by choosing to tune out every evening.
If you take time to pour into yourself, your health, and your most important relationships, you should find yourself less frazzled and more fulfilled.
Take Back Your Life and Relationships
Mamas, the same applies to your children, too. Just because you’re providing them with every opportunity doesn’t mean any of you are happy, content, or even in good relationship. Say no or for goodness’ sake quit something and get more time with them. This will have a bigger impact on their lives than another soccer league or extracurricular. If saying no to something makes you a better mother or wife, friendlier, more present, more attentive and intentional, then I’d say it’s 100% worth it. (On the other hand, if sending them to piano lessons allows for a long walk or bubble bath for you then you have my blessing!)
Eye every so-called opportunity carefully. Life comes at you fast. Maybe you need less opportunity and more time around a table with friends and family. Be diligent about saying no or quitting something so you can pour into what really matters. Take back your life.
Identify Unhealthy Boundaries and Use the Power of No
Establishing healthier boundaries and saying no can increase your peace and amount of time to do what you love! Maybe you’re not saying no to activity or event, but instead you’re quitting the bad habit of being someone’s crutch, picking up your co-worker’s slack, or procrastinating on establishing healthier boundaries with your boss.
By saying no to another coffee date with that draining friend who never even asks how you’re doing, you could have time to read a book or workout! And by establishing healthier boundaries at work, you can go home on time for once and finally cook a real meal.
You are worth the discomfort a tough conversation brings to allow more joy and peace in your life. Boundaries = freedom!
Setting Boundaries + Tough Conversations
If you’ve identified anything in your life that needs to go or should be saved for another season, next up is a humbling but freeing conversation with someone where you admit to overcommitting or overstretching yourself, or that this just isn’t a good time for you. This is not always well-received, but you have to do what’s best for you, your health, and your family.
People will respect you for setting healthy boundaries in your life, even if it’s frustrating or inconveniencing them. It shows to others you have value, you are honest, and thaat you’re taking control over your life.
You might be sweating just thinking of this. Trust me, as someone who hates confrontation, these conversations have always been worth it!
You Don’t Have to Say No to Everything!
My apologies if I sound like a Negative Nancy, saying every opportunity is evil. Some are great; it’s all about discernment.
Here’s what you can do: Look at your schedule and identify what is draining you and what you feel is worth the sacrifice. Some activities are good things that we feel like we should be involved in. Others are perfect for your time and season of life.
I’ve shared before that I try to follow the teachings of Jesus, so when I look at something that’s a big time commitment, I find out if it’s a good thing or a “God thing.” Is this what I feel like I’m supposed to be devoting my time to right now, or will it extend me past my capacity? Is this something good but just not for me, or maybe not right now?
Even if you don’t share my faith, I have a hunch that either a trusted friend or your good ol’ instincts can tell you something similar.
If an opportunity is something you’ve been waiting for and it seems perfect, go for it! I’m not suggesting you say no to everything; I’m suggesting you guard your schedule and realize you can say no, even if it’s just to keeping up with appearances on social media. Some things are just not worth your time and stress, while others really are! And you get to decide.
I hope you’ve identified some things that might be draining you if your schedule is too full. And if you’re saying no to everything, I hope you’ve thought about something to say yes to that adds joy and relationship to your life! If you’re unsure, or swear that everything you’re doing is 1000% important, bring a friend in to give their opinion. A fresh set of eyes can often give us the friendly reality check we need. And smile. Having the freedom to say no is a sign of blessing. Not everyone is able to say no or even think about free time right now.
Busyness can steal our joy, our intentionality with those we love, and the things that give us life get pushed to the side. It’s good to find out where your time is going, where you feel depleted, and see how you can get your life back.
Join me in
- saying no to good things to make room for life-giving or great things
- to always be checking on what you are saying no to when you say yes to something else
- and to looking at what you could gain by quitting an obligation.
I’ve written this in response to challenges in my own life and my daily conversations with women about making time for healthier habits and exercise. I encourage you to take care of your body so it can take good care of you! Message me if you have any questions about living healthier.
Best of luck! I’d love to hear what you want to quit in the comments!