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  • Writer's pictureMary Johnson

The Art of Saying No: Prioritizing Personal Time

As a Nova Scotia native born into a life of constant change, I quickly realized that 'yes' was my secret weapon for survival. Life was a whirlwind of new cities, new faces, and new challenges. My father's job made us perpetual wanderers, chasing opportunities from one Canadian city to another. To adapt, I learned to be a chameleon, blending into new social landscapes. My strategy was simple - 'yes'. A yes to every request, an affirmation to every demand, a positive nod to every favor asked. I became a 'yes' woman, a people pleaser, a favorite amongst friends, family, and colleagues.

However, in this continual effort to please others, I stumbled into a trap. I realized I was spending all my time fulfilling others' expectations and needs, leaving no room for me. My life was a tapestry of obligations, commitments, and responsibilities. I was always running, always catching up, always tired. The small joys of life - a quiet evening with a book, a peaceful walk, an hour of introspection - had become luxuries I could hardly afford.

One evening, I sat down, exhausted and restless, staring at a book I'd wanted to read for months but never found the time. I was too worn out to even read a line. That moment was a wake-up call. I realized I was spiraling down a pit of perpetual 'yes'. I was losing myself, my identity, my interests, and my personal space in the race to please others.

I started to introspect, deeply and critically. Where was all my time going? Who was I serving? What was left for me? The answers were daunting and painfully eye-opening. I was at the serving end of every relationship, every interaction. And there was an alarmingly little fraction of 'me' time left in my daily life.

From that day on, I decided to change the narrative. I pledged to reclaim my time, my life. I started to create and honor dedicated spaces in my day just for myself. It felt strange at first - I was so used to being 'busy' all the time. But gradually, I realized the importance of these tranquil moments where I could be myself without any pretenses, roles, or duties.

Saying 'no' became a newfound strength, and I discovered five key reasons why this word should be a staple in our vocabulary:

  • Prevents Overcommitment: As a reformed 'yes' woman, I know the toll overcommitment takes. You end up stressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted. Learning to say 'no' allows you to control your commitments, giving you the time and energy to focus on what's really important.

  • Promotes Self-Care: Every 'no' to something that doesn't serve you is a 'yes' to something that does. It's 'yes' to a bubble bath after a long day, 'yes' to reading that book you've been excited about, 'yes' to taking care of your physical and mental health.

  • Honors Our Values and Priorities: It's easy to lose sight of what's important when we're too busy saying 'yes'. But when we say 'no' to what doesn't align with our values or priorities, we're honoring our true selves and our personal growth.

  • Increases Self-Respect: Every time we say 'no', we're setting a boundary. It shows we value our time, energy, and wellbeing. Saying 'no' to others often means saying 'yes' to self-respect.

  • Improves Quality of Life: Prioritizing our needs leads to a better quality of life. When we say 'no' to unnecessary tasks, we're able to focus on the things that truly enrich us.

Learning to say 'no' felt like a fight against my people-pleasing instincts. It was a challenge, yes, but with every 'no', I moved a step closer to self-care and self-acknowledgement.

Setting boundaries was another crucial aspect of this transformation. I started to define and express my limits to friends, family, and colleagues. It wasn't easy. It took courage to assert myself and patience to explain my stance. But slowly, people started to respect my boundaries. I saw a sense of balance, of harmony, seeping back into my life.

Initially, I was afraid that my relationships would suffer. But, quite surprisingly, the opposite happened. I could now offer genuine, stress-free attention to the people who mattered most. I was no longer spread thin. I was present, engaged, and truly myself.

Today, I am no longer the 'yes' woman I once was. I have learned to value my time, respect my needs, and assert my boundaries. I have realized that saying 'no' to others often means saying 'yes' to myself.

As I share my journey, I hope it inspires someone who might find themselves in a similar situation. Remember, it's okay to say 'no'. It's okay to prioritize your needs. Your time is valuable, and it's essential to spend it on what serves you the best. Life is to be lived, not merely survived. Every moment counts, every breath matters. So make sure you're living life on your terms, stress-free, and true to yourself.

By sharing my story, I want you to understand that you are not alone in this struggle. We all grapple with the demands of life, the expectations of others, the pressures of society. It's essential to remember that in this whirlwind, you are your priority. It's okay to take a step back, to say no, to protect your personal space. This is not selfishness; it's self-preservation. Remember, the key to a fulfilling life lies in balancing what we give to others and what we give to ourselves.

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