Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

“No” is a Complete Sentence

40 Comments

NOI’ve written before about my relationship with a narcissist.  But I wanted to expand a bit more on my role in that – the doormat.  Doormats are magnets for narcissists.  Being walked all over is no fun and it can suck the life right out of you.

Do you have trouble saying “no” to people?  Even after you’ve said no, if pushed, do you have trouble sticking to your simple “no”?  Do you understand that “no” is a complete sentence?  Or do you feel compelled to offer an explanation of why you’ve said “no”?  Do you accept unacceptable behavior from others?  Do you get in a huff about “having” to do this or that but feel you must still perform the task?  Do you take on others’ problems only to become overwhelmed by them?

You don’t have healthy boundaries.  How do I know this?  Because I’ve gone most of my life without healthy boundaries myself and still have a bit of trouble setting them.  At least I’m aware of the problem now.  When I become angry, or feel guilty, or get my feelings hurt I’m painfully aware that it is usually my own fault.  Am I excusing the behavior of others?  No.  They are still responsible for their own behavior. But guess what?  So am I.

When we walk around with this martyr’s complex, feeling like we do all the work in relationships, and feeling exhausted by the weight of these relationships we are not exercising the power we have over the one thing we can control: ourselves.

I had a very hard time learning this simple lesson.  Yes, it is much harder to practice it than it is to preach it.  For me, anyway.  Especially when it involves those closest to me.  The fact of the matter is the word no is a complete sentence.  No explanation necessary.   I’ve begun putting this into to practice and little by little, each time I do it, it gets a little easier.

I’ve always been afraid that people wouldn’t like me anymore or that they wouldn’t ask me to do things in the future if I said no to them.  That’s actually a pretty irrational way of thinking.  If the only reason a person likes me is because I can do crap for them they don’t really like me anyway.  If I always so no then, yes, they might stop asking me to do things because most normal people get tired of one-sided relationships – not because I say no once or twice.   If I don’t reciprocate and ask others to do things they’d also get tired of a one-sided relationship.  But that doesn’t happen either.

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40 thoughts on ““No” is a Complete Sentence

  1. Interesting. The last thing I wrote to the person I posted about this a.m. was: “It’s a no for me.” And just over a year later she returns. I keep thinking if I explain myself . . .

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  2. Hi Ruth, great post. (Can you remove the extra “have” in the 3 paragraph?).
    I wanted to add that some of us men can relate too. While there are probably more women who can relate, there are men too (like me) who are people pleasers. Imagine that at the age of 19, you decide to marry someone because it’s more important to yourself to please the other person. That was me. And the next 28 years were hard. It took a long time for me to figure out what was going on in my own head and in the relationship. I was always walking around on egg shells wondering when the next emotional explosion was coming. I’m grateful for the therapist I first saw some 11 years ago, and a book called Who’s Pulling Your Strings was excellent too. http://www.amazon.com/Whos-Pulling-Your-Strings-Manipulation/dp/0071446729

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  3. I found this interesting. I have come from an abusive childhood and marriage. I’ve written a bit about it on my blog also. No is a very hard word to stick by, especially when you are being coerced and pressured to do things you don’t really want to do. Then you end up doing them for fear of what will happen if you don’t.

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    • Thanks for stopping by and for the comment!

      I’ve written it all out here, too. I can so very much relate to what you’re saying here. The emotional toll that pressuring and coercion takes becomes debilitating which is why I started seeking out ways to cope. I went to a therapist who told me if I wanted things to change that I would have to be the one who changed. She offered the caveat that if I insisted on staying in the marriage and I decided to change that I could expect things to get worse before they got better, if they ever did get better. Boy was she right! And since I was no longer in denial about what was happening I couldn’t stick it out long enough to see if it got better.

      I hope you’re in a better place now. Because I know firsthand how crushing the weight of someone else’s world is.

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      • I am. I have actually been out of that marriage for about 6 years now. I have 3 kids with that man, but rarely have to see him. My fiance is the person who showed me so much support and that everything my ex husband was doing was wrong. I knew it was wrong. I was terrified. I’ve been abused by every standard of the word. Therapy was a tough one. Especially since it was through our church. I had my pastor sit down and accuse me of cheating and taking the ex’s side. I felt so violated. I had no one to turn to. Finally, a friend of mine snuck me out and I filed for divorce. The first year was ridiculously hard. The ex tried to break in to my house several times. I even purchased a fire arm to keep my family safe. No one should have to live like that.

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        • Oh, I’m so glad to hear that you’re out of that situation.

          I, too, was abused in every sense of the word. We went the route of church counseling as well. Pastors, in my opinion, are not equipped to deal with abusive situations because they feel they have to stick to the scriptures. It did not help that even as we were going through the counseling my ex was secretly going to the counselors to tell them I was having an affair – which was absolutely not true.

          I do not have children with my ex, though we were married for 20 years. I did have a step daughter who I protected but that’s a whole ‘nother story. I was advised by the pastor that I shouldn’t leave the marriage. It just got to the point where I was strong enough in myself that I basically said, “screw that,” and left. Because we don’t have children together we have no contact. I may have seen him two or three times since our divorce. Fortunately once I had made the decision he and I went our separate ways. The day I told him I wanted a divorce he took a shotgun and some shells and took off, threatening suicide. My friend had me pack a bag and come to her place out of fear that he would come back. I really did not know enough about abusive situations at the time to realize what a dangerous situations I was in. The most dangerous time for a victim of abuse is when they are trying to leave and the time just after. Thankfully my friend knew that.

          That was the last day we shared a house.

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  4. No is an interesting one. Aren’t we all brought up to please people? Well women anyway, can’t speak for me.

    Went on a women’s course for civil service managers years ago. One of the aspects was about saying no. Not, no, I’m sorry, or no, but, or no, and any backtracking. Just. No.

    Sure, depending on the deal, the negotiation, whether personal or work, it can be qualified. But primarily, this element of the course was not about feeling guilty, or justifying or apologising for saying No. It was a good lesson.

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    • I do think we are conditioned to please people. We want to make everyone around us happy. The problem is we can’t. Each person’s happiness is their own problem. I read a blog the other day that went over an exercise the blogger had been through as part of her course credits. CC related a story about a pink hula hoop and letting people closer into your circle or not. I found it helpful. I could probably use a course like the one you’ve described on how not to feel guilty about saying no. Because mostly it just feels like I disappoint people when I say know, then just sucking it up and dealing with the guilt. With a bowl of ice cream preferably.

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  5. Eek. Meant men not me, in first par. I usually can speak for me!

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  6. I’m learning how to get past this problem in therapy. It’s a long, hard road to travel. My best wishes to you as you build your healthy boundaries.

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    • I am NOT blaming my mother. But as a teenager I had quite a bit of responsibility with regards to my family. None of us really had any boundaries that I can remember because there was mutual respect for individuality. I went from my mother’s home to my husband’s home. I had no idea I was even supposed to have boundaries. I had no idea I needed boundaries. I had no idea I could have boundaries. Religion compounded that for me in that I was created for my husband to do whatever he saw fit, really. To him nothing was off limits. I had no right to say no. Made for a very miserable me. Then it extended to other people as well. I wanted to make everybody happy. Not.Possible.

      I know lots of people suffer from this. I’m glad you’re getting help learning how to be healthy.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I hear ya, Ruth. I don’t blame my family for why I do what I do. It’s difficult to explain sometimes that people can be a part of something without causing something. Everything comes together, and each person has to hold onto their own part of whatever is created.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I for one, had a good teacher, my father and he told me a no is a no whether written in caps, whispered or shouted out aloud. Most times when I say no, it is hard to get it revised to a yes. Pleasing people isn’t my great strength

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    • I’m getting better at it. The realization that other people’s happiness was not my responsibility helped me quite a bit. But I will say that I think that many of us, especially women, were brought up to try to accommodate everyone else even at our own expense. I think this might be part of why there’s so much difficulty in accepting when a woman says no. I am seriously in the corner of the “yes means yes” movement. Because people need to be taught where they stop and others begin.

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  8. Yes, yes! All of this! I relate on many levels and know many (mostly women) that would too.

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  9. I’m terrible at saying, No. I should, I really should more often, but…

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    • It is so freakin’ hard, though. I have a female friend who is great at it. She can so no without hesitation and have no worries about whether it pisses someone off or not. In her view it’s their problem, not hers. She’s not obligated to do anything she doesn’t want to. I sure wish I was more like that. I don’t want to take it quite as far as she does, but somewhere in between total pushover and bitch would be great.

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  10. I feel like a total weirdo, I think I find it easier to say ‘no’ than ‘yes’. I’m going to ponder that because I don’t think that’s likely to be healthy either. 🙂 Glad you’ve got over saying ‘yes’ all the time though.

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  11. Thanks for this post and the wisdom behind it. I try to remember that saying yes to anyone involves saying no to someone else – – often the people who need me the most, but tolerate my poor chooses the most patiently. If I’m to say yes to my bride and yes to my sons (who I claim have priority) then I must say no to a lot of others. Time and attention are the most precious resources I have. Most understand this rationale. Those who don’t likely don’t deserve the yes in the first place.

    Am I afraid that people will stop asking, especially at work? In truth – – yes. Again – – thanks.

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    • While this does totally apply to any area where others are placing demands on our time I was thinking more in terms of having a healthy personal space. I’m not always known for that. I’m sure you read CC’s post about the pink circle. That visual was really helpful to me. I’m sure we all say yes to things we’d rather not do. That’s just part of life. But when there is no room to breathe because you’ve allowed other people to completely dominate you it’s just not healthy.

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  12. Bravo Ruth! BRAVO! 🙂

    One unhealthy doctrine, mental habit the Xian faith teaches — at least in most all the denominations — is the subtle Roman civil policy of control: i.e. Total Depravation.

    Total depravation is the Calvinistic principle that due to the Fall of Man (sin), every person born into the world is morally corrupt, enslaved to sin and is, apart from the grace of God, utterly unable to choose to follow God or choose to turn to Christ in faith for salvation. You, me, spouses, family members, and the list of victims likely goes ad infinitum, now know the utter devastation of swallowing this Xian doctrine hook, line, and sinker. It MUST be true because Epeshians 2:1-3 (Pauline theology) says…

    And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

    Furthermore, the ripple effect this has had over the last 1,700+ years in Western hemisphere politics & society most likely set mankind way behind natural species evolution & progress! It’s one reason why the Dark Ages are called THE DARK AGES!!! Duh. On personal levels, in the home, within families, LOOK what it has done! Codependency is rampant…even still. DISempowerment of women was/is perhaps the most obvious digression thanks to Greco-Roman policies via Saul of Tarsus and Peter (I prefer Penile) doctrines & theology now widely taught in most of America’s churches today! :/

    Aside from my “historical” therapeutic perspective of Xian-born codependency that nurtures those in power & their narcissism, I am excited and moved by stories, “extimonies” like yours Ruth! May the evolution revolution continue with stories like yours!!! *stands in applause!*

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    • Oh wow, Professor, thanks!

      As you pointed out Christian theology demands codependency. We are supposed to die to ourselves and attempt to become a mirror reflection of Jesus/God and rely on Jesus/God to give us our narrative. It is quite toxic.

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