Reclaiming NO

Photo by  Jason Rosewell  on  Unsplash

These small simple words carry A LOT of weight in life – yet how often do you pause and really consider the method by which you choose your YES or NO? Have you ever considered, when you say YES to something, you are absolutely saying NO to something else? And vice versa? Even if unintentional, it’s an unavoidable aspect of choice.

Our frenetic cultural addictions to busyness, productivity, and the myth of “having it all” leads to fatigue with choice & opinion overload. The immense social pressure for “success” makes it nearly impossible to disconnect from our veil of virtual “connectedness”, hear our own voices, and make authentic choices.

When we forfeit our right to choose in a way that is truly aligned for us, we allow others to choose for us. Both consciously and unconsciously, literally and figuratively.

What hidden beliefs are embedded in your YESes and NOs?

Try this with me.

  • Sit quietly and say the word YES – aloud – with gusto. How does it feel in your body? Say it again. As many times as you need to notice how it feels and what thoughts or sensations arise.

  • Now repeat with the word NO. What happens this time? How is it different?

For me, YES comes with a pleasant lightness. An expansion across my chest and shoulders and a sense of joy. It feels positive and uplifted.

NO, is the opposite. It feels heavy, even my tone of voice is lower, and my shoulders curve forward slightly constricting my chest. It feels negative and restrictive.

Interesting! What happens for you?

For people caught in the dynamics of People Pleasing, Perfectionism, and Over-Achieving, YES comes easily. I am intimately familiar with these tendencies and have been slowly untangling the threads of these habits in my own life for years. Within these dynamics our choices are guided more by external expectations, pressure, and a desire to please rather than anything authentic or soulfully aligned. These YESes often feel loving, generous, and rewarding, but because they are coming from a distorted locus of power they lead to feelings of exhaustion, self-hatred, never-enoughness, and resentment.

DOING becomes a compulsory behavior to soothe a deep need to feel loved, valuable, and purposeful.

There is a lot of satisfaction, learning, connecting, playing, achieving, and contributing that happens in approaching life from a place of DOING. And yet, if all of the YES-ing is rooted in a fear of missing out, not measuring up, being left behind, or not mattering – well, I think you can probably see the issue in that.

It’s a constant seeking outside of oneself for validation, purpose, and meaning.

Over time it leads to burnout and it’s not sustainable. And what happens to your sense of self when the DOING stops? Existential crisis. Ouch. Have you been there? I have.

So for all of the YES people, what happens when you say NO? GUILT & FEAR. Am I right?! How dare you not help, organize, support, attend, engage, make the brownies for that gathering, or get your social media posts done on time?! Who are you to say NO? And what will that mean about you? What will everyone think? How will you ever be successful?

I can attest to how the unraveling of these conditioned behaviors can feel sticky and uncomfortable.

I can also attest that it is worth every ounce of time and effort to build more supportive boundaries, then surround yourself with people who share your values for respecting one’s choices in doing what’s right for


If it’s not a Hell Yes, it’s a No”,

was shared by a brilliant and fiery new friend on retreat a few years ago. While this famous edict is common in women’s empowerment and wellness circles, it was the first time I’d heard it and it blew my mind. What a revolutionary idea!! I made a commitment to myself to take this new mantra home and put it to use.

Fast forward and guess what, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it might be. I had gotten better at recognizing my HELL YES. (I mean, I was already good at saying YES!) I’d been doing a lot of personal work, finding my way through the depths of a divorce, and rebuilding my life. I had begun to hear the whisper of my soul, leaning into saying YES to fear, YES to stretching my comfort zone, and YES to Me in ways that felt more authentic.

Cultivating a deeper sense of my inherent value, remembering my personal power and building healthier boundaries began making my HELL NO more recognizable and easier to enforce.

Between these two very distant ends of the spectrum still resided a whole lot of WELL MAYBEs.

As someone who was already really good at over-extending myself – WELL MAYBE, always meant YES. I was still living from that place of DOING “to matter”. Choosing YES out of fear of missing out versus with mindful focus for the direction of my life. In essence, even though I was feeling more powerful in making my own choices, they were still based on the needs, pressures, and expectations of the outside world.

As I did my year end review recently the themes that lit up across my personal timeline were reminders to myself to “slow down”, “do less”, “rest more”, “get quiet”, “turn off social media”, and “put down your phone”. I’d been trying to get my own attention for almost a decade, saying the same thing over and over again, but I was too comfortable in my familiar (yet unsupportive) habits.

I recalled a nugget of wisdom from another friend. “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should”. While this tidbit landed well with me years ago, it didn’t have the impact it is having now. Simply because I wasn’t ready.

It dawned on me recently that when it comes to “If it isn’t a Hell Yes, it’s a No”, my work isn’t in learning how to say YES. I’ve got that mastered.

It’s learning how to say NO.

What would it be like to really live by this mantra? To commit to getting out of my head and learning to trust my energy body when a decision has to be made. Trusting my intuition and physical sensations. To ignore my ego mind. Even if it’s screaming “What are you doing, you can’t miss out on that?!” If my body isn’t saying HELL YES, then my answer is NO. No more WELL MAYBEs.

It’s taken me a long time to get my own message, but it seems the time is here. I’ve heard in many platforms the power of single point focus. Sticking to single priorities with clear intention, discipline and purpose for maximum impact and outcome. Saying NO to the noise, and YES to what is most meaningful. Until now I could never quite get my head around what that meant.

My word for 2019 is NO. I want to reclaim it. As I move into this chapter, there have been moments of channeling my inner 3 year old as she learns how to exhibit control and screams NO with rebellion and resistance, but I’m paying attention to her, and overall this shift in my narrative is feeling solid and aligned.

I want to learn how to experience NO with personal power, self love, compassion, respect, and the same high vibration I feel when I say YES.

I am going to sit with this word, playing with and molding it, until it feels as positive and uplifting as YES. I am going to pay attention to the shifts in my body as I consider my response to opportunities and choices, experimenting and learning from the process. I am going to continue to deepen my sense of inherent value and “mattering” by BEING versus DOING. And I am going to embrace the idea of JOMO (joy of missing out) over FOMO (fear of missing out), to see what finds its way into my field of view organically.

My NOs are going to create space for more aligned and authentic YESes and, as I’m holding intention for, a greater sense of ease, peace, purpose, and joy in my life. It’s my experiment this year and I invite you to consider how your YESes and NOs are showing up for you. How you making your choices? Are they based in “have to” or “should” or are they based in “I want” or “I need”.

Please share your thoughts, reactions, and experiences! We’re in this together and I’d love to hear.

With love & gratitude