By Anj Handa

I came across an evergreen blog today, which I wrote in 2014. It’s amazing to see how far I’ve come at protecting my own energy and I’d like to share two pieces of wisdom that helped the process: one from my friend, Jean; and one from spiritual teacher, Eckhart Tolle in his bestseller, The Power of Now.

Jean’s advice at the start of 2014 was to visualise wrapping myself in a pink blanket. It’s become a mantra now. When I’m tired, I take myself off to rest, or head into nature.

Eckard Tolle’s advice is typically German and to the point. It’s this:

…is there something that you “should” be doing but are not doing it? Get up and do it now. Alternatively, completely accept your inactivity, laziness, or passivity at this moment, if that is your choice. Go into it fully. Enjoy it. Be as lazy or inactive as you can. If you go into it fully and consciously, you will soon come out of it. Or maybe you won’t. Either way, there is no inner conflict, no resistance, no negativity.

Both pieces of wisdom help me to check in with myself and determine when I need to say no. If you’d like to read my personal experiences of saying ‘no’, read on…

Learning how to say no – to say yes to myself (July 2014)

“This weekend, I was relaxing on my sofa and idly completed a Facebook quiz. You know, one of those online quizzes, the ‘really scientific’ kind that tell you what colour aura you have or which celebrity you most resemble. Truly insightful stuff (she says, with tongue firmly in cheek).

This one was ‘Which Jung archetype best describes you?’ I got ‘The Caregiver’, with the following explanation:

“Jung identified this archetype in many goddesses and female role models throughout history. You’re the mother figure: the selfless caregiver and helper. Everyone comes to you for advice. You truly love others as yourself and your greatest fear is selfishness and ingratitude. You manifest compassion and generosity. A Jungian psychologist would tell you to be careful not to be taken advantage of and never let yourself play the martyr.”

One of my Facebook friends made a comment about Jungian psychology and it promoted this blog. Don’t worry, I’m not going to be a cleverclogs and launch into an analysis of Jung’s work. Rather, it got me thinking about how I’ve changed and have started to use the word ‘no’ a little more often.

Pleasure and Pain Values

The quiz description fairly accurately describes how I used to be, even as recently as a year ago. I flipped back in my journal to re-read the ‘pleasure’ and ‘pain’ values that I noted whilst doing some self-work with Tony Robbins’ resources. Most of my pleasure (moving toward) values were about kindness, compassion and generosity. The pain (moving away from) values were about selfishness, miserliness, greed and lack of consideration for others.

I’ve always loved to keep myself busy and I excel at time management (tip: everything is broken down into 15 minute chunks of time and I estimate how many chunks each task will take me). As a result, I’m always on time and I’m able to juggle lots of different things.

In fact, a few friends have questioned whether I’ve mysteriously found a way to bend time/space! I’m also efficient at getting things done. What that means is that people have asked me to do things for them that they’d be perfectly capable of doing themselves, but they know I’ll get it done quickly and with the minimum of fuss.

Having people depend on you feels great, but if you don’t find the right balance it can bring about some major disadvantages. It means less time for you. You can feel frazzled, overwhelmed or eventually burnt out. It means less spare time to do the things you love, or see the people you care about. It can mean feeling taken advantage of, or even worse, being a smug martyr.

Juggling Act

Let’s take today as an example. I don’t have a long ‘today list’, but the tasks on it are fiddly and a bit boring – admin and logging my expenses for the tax self-assessment deadline on Thursday. I have to get them done and I’ve ploughed through quickly. In the past, I might have been tempted to chuck in a few extra tasks. My sister couldn’t take leave and my nephew has started his school holidays.

After sports club, he’ll go to my parents’, where he will be thoroughly loved. He will be able to play in the garden with my other nephew or on his tablet. In the past, I would’ve worried that he’d be bored and would rush my tasks to try take him to the park. But he’s fine where he is and I need to say no to myself to avoid falling into old habits.

The other fleeting thought was that I’ve promised to go some gardening for a relative and I could also fit that in. Then I had a word with myself. I will have a little more time tomorrow or on Wednesday. I will also feel better. Since the end of last year, I’ve suffered from vertigo. It’s being treated by a cranial osteopath and as my body has worked overtime to re-learn the correct alignment after years of over-compensating, it’s making me feel very tired.

By learning how to say ‘no’ a little more, I’ve learnt how to say ‘yes’ – to myself. Click To Tweet

Anj Handa is the Founder of Inspiring Women Changemakers. She teaches women how to speak up: for themselves, for others and for social issues.