Wanting to say “no” is enough

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You want to say “no.”
You want to say “no,” but you feel like you can’t.
You want to say “no,” but you feel that you shouldn’t.
You want to say “no,” even though… even despite… even if…

Yet saying no seems wrong, somehow. Especially when you don’t have an excuse, a prior engagement, a socially acceptable reason for saying no.  Saying no seems selfish, disloyal, unsupportive.  You think that if you refuse, people might not like you, might not respect you, might think you’re a terrible person.  You think that because you strive to be a kind, generous, thoughtful person, you must say “yes.”  You think that being a kind, generous, thoughtful person means you shouldn’t say no.  You think that if you love someone, if you’re the only one who can help, if the cause is a good one, you’d be wrong to refuse.  And so you ask yourself the question:

“When is it okay to say ‘no?'”

This is the answer:

When deep inside, in that most essential, core part of you, you want to

When you have evaluated the needs of the person asking, and you still want to.
When you have considered the alternative, and you still want to.
When you have examined your motives and those of others, and you still want to.

Because wanting to say “no” is reason enough.

Wanting to say “no” is reason enough because how you feel matters.
Wanting to say “no” is reason enough because what you want matters.
Wanting to say “no” is reason enough because what you need matters.
Wanting to say “no” is reason enough because you are responsible for your own emotional well-being.

Wanting to say “no” is reason enough because – ultimately – loving, honoring and caring for your deepest self is the only true responsibility you have in this world.  And it’s from that place, strengthened and liberated by radical self-care, that truly loving care for others can flow.

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(Inspired by Cheryl Strayed’s essay entitled “The Truth that Lives There” from her advice column Dear Sugar, and an article entitled “Wanting to Leave is Enough” by Caroline Garnet McGraw.)

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