The Power of No

Two toy figures.

Set healthy boundaries, especially with family and friends.

The holidays are a wonderful time to embrace the potency of saying no.

As I write this we’re putting a wrap on November and heading into the frenzy of winter holidays, American Style.

Just insert yourself into your favorite Hieronymus Bosch painting, dole out a few Santa hats and candy canes and that’s pretty much what I’m talking about.

It’s the perfect time of year to practice saying no. Not an apologetic no, the one where you have to qualify and explain and justify and negotiate (to yourself or to others). Look inside yourself, past the people pleasing, past the lack of personal authority and find that uncompromising no. The no that owes no explanation.

It’s not a defensive no. It’s not a no that contains a subext of “I don’t give a giddy fook how you feel about this.” It’s a no that is so secure in itself, in the authority from which it comes, that it doesn’t need to defend itself, even internally.

Spend money, eat, drink, drive here and there, shop, shop, shop, Secret Santa, obligatory cocktail parties, cook, bake, look for parking, people you don’t like, situations that drain you, what am I doing? Why am I here? Frenzy. One more party. Last minute gifts. Sugar. Booze. Social Media immersion hell.

And yet…for us in the Northern Hemisphere at least…it’s winter! Winter is pure magic. Winter is the depth of the heart’s delight. Winter holds the promise of what’s next, but yet unseen, unknown. Winter holds the whispers of lives past and yet to be lived. Don’t squander your winter magic, people.

Find your no. Get used to wielding it…it takes some skill to do it well. 

It takes time for people around you to adjust to this, perhaps heretofore unknown, no. It can feel really uncomfortable at first, for you and for everyone else. So be patient with yourself and with them. 

Using the uncompromising no internally also takes some getting used to. Sometimes it’s ourselves or our reflexive tendencies we need to say no to. Are you indulging in food or booze that feels good for five minutes and then just makes you sick? Are you indulging in soggy old-era emotions, habits or attitudes? When you say no internally, watch to see if there is any reaction. 

This can range from negotiating with yourself, justifying your no, or even feeling smug and oh so self-congratulatory. Can you say no and then drop the whole thing, immediately? This kind of no that I’m talking about has nothing beyond it — you’ve dropped any possibility of whatever it is you said no to and so it doesn’t exist for you, it no longer has anything to do with you. 

Say yes to everything you love, or to things you truly want or need to do, or even frivolities you truly want to engage in…this isn’t about being grim after all.

But do learn to say no-full-stop. The no that annihilates. The no that is true. And carry this forward beyond the holidays…see what happens!

“It is better for me to offend him once, than myself every day. That would be perpetual slavery.”

Montaigne
Essay: Ceremony of Interviews Between Kings

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