When I was a kid, my no was legendary. I was generally obedient, well-mannered, etc… all the things a good girl ought to be. However I was also often described as contrary and had a strong will that was not easily shaken. 

In my 20s, through the course of self-development workshops, I redefined and owned my no powerfully as a young woman. 

Over the past years, as motherhood, partnership, and a desire for peace above all else has shaped my daily life, my no has given way to nurturing and putting others first. I like to call it “everyone wins”–their needs are met, I have peace. My days are also full, too full, of no: “no football in the house,” “no TV after dinner,” “no fighting”… aka, parenting.

Today however, I realize that it has gone too far. I feel overwhelmed, over-extended, unacknowledged, and taken for granted. 

A familiar path

I talked with the spectacular blood moon Friday night and looked into my own heart. I asked for guidance and listened to my gut. The message has come back, first as a whisper and then in my own strong voice: NO

Today I reclaim my no I am empowered by it and love myself and those around me with it. 

No, I will not spend days resolving your chaos while my own work falls behind. 

No, I will not be shamed for my professional interests, my personal choices, or my tongue’s inability to navigate umlauts.

No, I will not tolerate boundary transgressions, making excuses for others because they’re stressed. Sorry not sorry, I’m stressed too. Here’s the thing: we are all stressed. It’s an epidemic. It doesn’t give any of us license to be jerks.

No is a kindness

When I say no I respect my time, my limits, and my needs. I take on the projects I can do and want to do, and I make time for them joyfully without any sense of guilt or overbearing obligation. When I step up to support someone else, I do so responsibly and within my capacity.  

When I say no, my kids have to sort out their own problem (usually well within their capacity, like finding their own socks) and they are empowered by realizing they can do it. They don’t need Mom to rescue every bowl of cereal. Over time, their independence, confidence, and capacity for self-care will grow. Do I still help them when they need it? Absolutely. 

With my lover, no is essential: No, I’m not ready yet. No, this doesn’t feel good—could we try this instead? 

No teaches others how to treat us. We learn about each other’s needs and limits through no. When we can give no and receive no we open ourselves to intimacy and relatedness and make a space for deeper connections, greater respect, and ever-expanding love. 

My no is given to the world with love. Powerful, affirming no makes yes stronger as well. I invite you to participate in no. Say no to those things that don’t work for you, that suck your energy, and leave you feeling empty. Say no and make space for yes to emerge!