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When Saying “No” is Enough


The beginning of back-to-school week usually signals a cyclone in my busy mom schedule. But not this year.

“No” is my new favorite word. 

It hasn’t always been this way. I’ve always been a “yes” girl. So over-committed that I couldn’t find a calendar capable of color-coding & syncing all of my social, work and ministry engagements with my  husband’s commitments, not to mention our three kids and the caravan of complications that accompany a shared custody schedule. But did that stop me from saying yes? Why, of course not. I thought if I said no, I’d lose a friend. I’d hurt someone’s feelings. People would think I’m selfish. And I kinda liked the challenge of trying to be Superwoman. I worked outside the home, I did most of the cooking, cleaning, and scheduling inside of my home, I played an active role in three ministries, I enjoyed an active social life…but deep down inside, I was struggling to keep it altogether.

One bitterly cold morning in March, I just couldn’t peel myself out of bed. I hadn’t slept well in months but it was especially bad that week. Stacks of adoption paperwork and bills lined my room, my email and voice mail inbox flooded with unanswered messages, loads of dirty laundry littered every room in the house…I was undone. My sweet son bounced into my bed and slipped under the covers to give me a good morning hug. I cried. And cried some more. I had no energy or desire to keep going. The pressure to keep performing, to keep giving until I had nothing left to give…left me feeling like a rag doll. I clung to my son and thought, “He deserves so much more than this.” The resentment from being pulled in so many directions for so long brewed until it bubbled over…and burned the people I loved most. I knew I needed to make some changes. Those changes started with asking myself some tough questions like:

Why do you really keep so busy? While I love people and enjoy investing in causes that connect me to a greater purpose, I often said yes to things not because I loved the people or believed in the causes…I just couldn’t say no. That’s a pretty weak positioning point. And really spoke to my lack of self-respect.

What are you running from? When I was being brutally honest with myself, I had to confess that being busy kept the blinders on in some areas of my life I simply didn’t want to deal with. Busyness became a crutch…a convenient excuse when I sensed an awkward situation approaching. Instead of dealing with the root of what made a particular situation so painful, I just busied myself elsewhere.

What is the best use of your time right now? My time, like yours or anyone else’s, is a finite and precious resource. How I choose to spend that has become increasingly important to me. I want to be a great mom, a good friend to my good friends, and use the gifts God gave me to become the woman He created me to be. I don’t have much time for anything else.

But I have made time to reach out for help. Years of living at a manic pace and constantly  reacting to multiple stress triggers left me in a state of high anxiety. While I’d never consider myself a “depressed person” per se, I’ve definitely struggled with bouts of the blues. My theory is that anyone who engages life with great intensity and joy also conversely experiences great sorrow. My husband said he was most drawn to my passionate pursuit of life…but that also has a dark side. And when that dark side is consistently engaged, it can be hard to climb out and see the light.

While I’ve always resisted the thought of taking mood-altering medications, my doctor convinced me to give an anti-anxiety prescription a try. I’m so thankful I did! For the first time in a long time, I’ve been able to re-engage life with a clear head. Rather than a sign of weakness, I consider this God’s provision for me. I’ve worked up the confidence to re-evaluate my life to make choices I’m certain are good for me and my family. My life feels very full right now with four kids and sometimes the balancing act of it all is still out of whack…but it’s not out-of-control crazy like it once was.

Do you have difficulty saying “no”? If you’re a recovering people-pleaser, I’d love to hear about it!


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