“You have the right to say no” are some of the most profound words I have heard.
About eight years ago I was sitting in the office of my therapist, with my heart open to what she was reflecting back to me. I don’t remember what it was that we were working on or what our conversation was about. I do remember her getting up from her chair and walking over to the white board on her wall.
She looked at me with empathetic eyes and a warm smile as she turned to write the words, “You have the right to say No.” I recall staring at the words and my heart sank. It’s as if I finally exhaled and a whole world open up to me. Although at first I just sat there and stared at the words as the tears began to run down my face, I asked myself the question: “Me?” I know this might sound obvious to most people or maybe not, yet for me those words were profound and left me speechless.
Something happened that day she wrote those words on the white board. It is as though she handed me back to me—handed my life back to me. Most of my life, if not all of my life, I was never able to say no. I had the belief that if I said no something horrible would happen. Because of my belief, what I thought, believed, or wanted was not important, but rather what everyone else thought, believed, or wanted was important.
I know now that my fear of saying no began when I was just a child growing up in a very dysfunctional and wounded family. Saying no meant I would get punished in someway, and that filled me with fear. Saying no was not something I believed I had the right to say. Having the experience of saying no and being punished for it left a deep wound that would take years to heal.
Throughout my relationships, when friends, family or others would ask me a question or would want something of me, my insides would scream, “NO,” and yet the word that would come out of my mouth would be “yes.” I didn’t have the sense nor believed that my life belonged to me—my body belonged to me, my thoughts, etc.
Today I say “yes” when I want to and I say “no” when I want to. If people in my life don’t like me saying no, it is for them to work through their disappointment. I have learned that by being honest with myself, with my loved ones, and my friends I am giving them the gift that my therapist gave me, that they too have the right to say no.
Saying no doesn’t mean that I don’t love or care for the individual that I am talking with at the time, it just means that I am doing and saying what I need for me. I have the right and the choice to use my voice in a good way today.