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When you don't want to (how to say no with confidence)

Spam Filter For Your Brain - Episode 42

Out here with the wild little notions today to drip into your ears.

I love the idea that "I don't want to" is enough of a reason to not to do something.

And it has taken me years and years and years to feel comfortable with knowing that that is my truth.

Maybe some of it's about getting older, but I think there are probably lot of it has a lot more to do with getting old and tired of the socialisation that leaves us in a place where we are constantly being told that we should bend and reduce ourselves for other people's needs. And to make sure that we put everybody else first and that those around us must always be prioritised or we are not good people. Or we are less than or we haven't quite become the archetypal "well-behaved woman" in the assuming that most people who listen to this are womanish. Maybe socialised as women non-binary folk. I'm guessing there's very few CIS-het-straight men listening to this. And therein lies our problem.

I feel like we are all preaching to the converted over here, I'm guessing.... if you know, you fit into a lot of privileged boxes, do let me know. I'd love to know that you're listening to it.

But I think you lot, if there are any of you listening, manage to hold on to this idea of "I don't want to, and that's enough" better than the rest of us. So maybe this episode isn't quite for you. Maybe you could do with a little bit less of that. We could have some more of it, please.

But for everybody else, for people listening who struggle with over-explaining themselves, with having to over-justify, with feeling like when you say "no" has to come with a whole paragraph about how you "maybe could do something else instead" or maybe you could "do it later". Or "as long as it doesn't inconvenience anyone." Or you're "really terribly sorry, but maybe you could." or "Should you do it? Would they really like you to?" All of that stuff. We are kicking our feet out from under us. But most importantly, I think we are replicating and strengthening the message that "no" is not an acceptable answer for us and for the generations to come.

The little ones coming up watching us look at our behaviour; they copy what we see, and they learn from us. We know that this is not a good feeling. We know that "no" should be a full and complete sentence. And yet, if we know this and we don't act on it because it's uncomfortable for us, we are strengthening the message that even though it feels a bit wrong, we're not really up for it politically, that we are willing to try and bend ourselves into a different kind of shape to try and please other people.

And the extra deeper level of why this is bullshit is because you're changing your behaviour. We're changing our behaviour to try and control what other people think about us.

We can't control what other people think about us. What other people think about us comes from their thoughts. And actually, it's not too cool to be going and trying and manipulating other people's opinions by changing our behaviour, frankly, in the hope that people will like us a bit more. Even though it can feel like a very natural thing to want to be accepted and loved and safe and all of the good things in life. Actually, quite often, when we go into these people-pleasing behaviours, what we're doing is not rejecting, not accepting and not loving ourselves. And there is no amount of external validation that can fill that hole, my friend, you are pouring into a cup with no bottom on it, is the shittiest analogy I ever come up with. That's called a tube. A tube pouring into a tube. It's got nothing there, just flowing all the way through.

It doesn't work. It really does not work. And it doesn't fill your heart, or send your life in a direction that you probably want to be going in.

So my invitation to you this week, is to find something tiny, just to practice with, that you don't want to do. And you can realise that if you don't want to do it, that that itself is enough.

I'll speak to you next week.


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