Why I Can’t Say No

I have a problem. Well, I actually have many problems, but you don’t need to know about all of them just yet. There’s one particular problem that I have been struggling with greatly over the past 5 years that is starting to take a toll on my life. It is a self-inflicted problem and one that I have full control over, but I just can’t seem to stop. I have a problem saying no. And boy is it getting old.

Ever since I was a little kid I wanted to make people happy. Actually, I just didn’t want anyone to be mad at me. I hated (and still do) the feeling that someone is mad or disappointed in me. I never want to hurt people; I’ve only ever wanted to bring them some semblance of joy. But of course my efforts are quite futile. It is impossible to make everyone happy. There’s always someone who is going to feel unhappy or a little upset by the things we do. We can’t control how other people feel. We can only control the way we feel. So why do I get so caught up in how people are going to feel about my actions?

I wish that I could simply brush things off my shoulder and keep it moving, but I’ve never had that talent. Because of my anxiety, and I think my overall personality as well, I get stuck on worrying about how people feel about me. Even when I don’t want to do something, I still do it because I want the other person to be happy. This may not seem like the biggest of deals to some people, but after pondering this issue for a long time, I realized that there are some dangerous implications with me not feeling comfortable saying no. Of course there are the many “innocent” requests that people can have of me.

“Can you let my dogs out after work?”

“Can you drop my kids off at practice?”

“Can you water my plants while I’m away?”

But then there are the other requests and actions that have bigger consequences, and it is important for me to not just say yes to them. I have my own thoughts, feelings and ideas, and no one can stand up for them except me. When I just go along with what people want and act complicit, I can’t get involved in something that compromises my beliefs. I have to advocate on my own behalf and not be intimidated by what people say or how they feel. My only responsibility is to stand up and live for myself. If I don’t do that, then I fail myself. And how could I possibly live with myself if I do that?

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