Learning No.

I’ve always taken pride in the number of plates I keep spinning simultaneously in life. Blame the perfectionist, OCD-esque personality inside of me, but there’s some sort of satisfaction that comes with mimicking Superman daily.

The slippery slope of perfectionism is that no one, not even Clark Kent, can do it all every day. And for those of us that push ourselves to the brink of human ability to be a multitasking extraordinaire, the eventual realization that we can’t conquer it all can be somewhat defeating.

super woman

When will humans follow the starfish’s lead and begin replicating arms? Surely multitasking would be more approachable.

For the first time, I can genuinely say I have completely over-extended myself in life and I’m none too pleased with the effects. Who would have thought how quickly we have to say goodbye to daily essentials like eating, using the restroom, and sleeping, when we over-book ourselves to a point of insanity?

The worst part of it is, no matter who you are, you feel like a complete idiot even referring to how busy your life is. After all, busy doesn’t always equate to bad and plenty of people are fighting tougher battles. But damn it all to hell, part of being human is being a wastebasket of complaints from time to time. I would love to pout, stomp, and yell my way out of my current overflowing plates.

temper tantrum

But for now, all I can do is accept. Accept that I took on all these responsibilities and accept that I need to learn the word: noSince childhood, saying this word makes my skin crawl with fears and anxiety related to the recipient’s reaction. Will they be mad? Disappointed? Annoyed? Cruel?

In response to every question asked of me, my head bobs up and down like a cheap car dashboard decoration, all for fear of letting someone else down. While I want to believe this is a part of my belief system (serve first, lead second), in actuality I know it’s a weakness in my personality; a flaw that interrupts my daily life as I take on more and more of others’ needs.

Now if only I could channel my inner Wonder Woman for self-serving causes…

Wonder Woman

13 responses to “Learning No.

  1. I love this because of course I can relate. I like the word you used OCD-esque, that’s a good one! So yep I can totally relate. I suppose if we practice our no’s and practice and practice and practice it may start to become a slight bit easier. I’m practicing…it feels weird but I think in the long run it’s the best thing.

  2. I know it can be tough to say no, but people will understand. People tend to be less understanding when things are promised but not delivered.

    • So true. Oddly enough, I always prioritize others’ needs over my own, so they always get what they need and is promised. But my personal responsibilities, like this blog and my writing, suffer. Nevertheless, my struggles with the word no clearly has a negative effect. Can’t wait to fully learn this life lesson!

  3. Aw, Caitlin. I can relate so much to your over-extending ways. It’s hard to say no, but it’s harder on yourself when you don’t. The WordPress gods Freshly Pressed my post when I wrote about this very topic a few months ago. Maybe it’ll help… http://definingwonderland.com/2013/06/26/sometimes-its-the-hardest-thing-to-say/

  4. Ha! Love the Wonder Woman! That is a visual I will be using often to remember to say, Aw Hell NO!

  5. Oh, there’s just so much that I love about this post! First, we’re all allowed to be a wastebasket of complaints from time to time (BTW: “wastebasket of complains” is one of the best phrases I’ve read in a long while), even if it’s from over-booking ourselves. It royally sucks when basic human needs have to be put on the back burner — oh, have I ever been there before too — and when that motif hits, its impossible not to feel some sense of overwhelm.

    Secondly, I can completely relate to the people-pleasing impulse. I’ve done so, so much shit that I didn’t want to do (or, conversely, not done stuff that I really did want to do) because I’ve been scared to upsetting/disappointing people. I’ve noticed that this is something that tends to happen far more often with women, since I don’t know of many men who “sure, I’ll do that” themselves into states of profound burnout. I don’t know if it’s because women and girls are taught to be nice, responsive, and compliant, or if it’s a result of women having more access to opportunities for advancement (or some combination of the two), but it can be incredibly insidious at times.

    As always, thank you for a beautifully written and insightful post!

    • Lillian – I tend to have the type of personality that sees characteristics in myself that aren’t entirely favorable, and I immediately think I’m a horribly flawed person. To counteract that, I work hard to see flaws that we all have, and it makes me feel more connected to society and people I meet day-to-day. In reality, we all have are hard time saying ‘no’ to certain responsibilities, and we’ve all experienced that moment when you think “Oh no, what have I done to myself?” It sucks, but like you said, you just have to push through it! But learning from this mistake moving forward, I know I will never overload my plate this much. Not only am I am big pile of grumps, but it’s affecting every part of my life. At the end of the day, it’s so not worth it! So nice seeing your comments back on the blog 🙂

  6. Good luck with getting yourself back to a more even keel! Acknowledging that we have a problem is the first step, right? I’m procrastinating on a big project right now, and I will get it done, but should have done it sooner.

  7. Pingback: The Balancing Act of Voice & Respect. | The Siren's Tale

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