Wednesday, October 22, 2008

My Favorite Word

During the summer I agreed to an additional school assignment. My supervisor was so wrong when she assured me that it wouldn't be too taxing for my 2.5 days/week. I'm behind and stressed. The larger caseload is a factor but the main reason that I am struggling to keep up is because my disease to please has turned VIRAL. I am taking on a lot of assignments that aren't part of my job in an attempt to be all things to all people.

I know that this is as common for women as monthly cramps and I need some advice. However, before you get all Nancy Reagan Just-Say-No on me, let me note that I stink at direct refusals and that this is a deeply-seeded problem. Here's an issue summary:

I am a RESCUER at heart. I know that most people will benefit from a natural consequence of their situation but I like to help people avoid even mild pain.

I am thankful for my many blessings. Most of what I do is in the spirit of "where much is given..." I think that every opportunity to say YES is just giving back for what I have been given.

I feel able. I have a lot to give and some of what I do takes on an egotistical flavor. It makes me feel stronger, smarter, better than what I really think I am.

I am last on my priority list. I will rearrange my schedule and neglect even important things to indulge someone else's request.

I love the rewards of saying yes. I am totally addicted to sincere thank yous and statements of awe. "Thank you so much. You really saved my life today." "Wow. I don't know how you can do so much for other people and still take care of..."

I learned from the best. Sometimes my mom would tell us not to answer the phone or yell, "I'm not here!" when it rang because she could not take the chance of having to say no to whomever was needing at the time. She often ran herself ragged doing for others.

I am disappointed in a neighbor who has the opposite problem. She NEVER says yes! She hoards her service for things she wants to do or feels are worthy of her contribution. "I just don't have the time/energy/resources to..." I don't buy it. She has a lot to give.

So, loyal friends and readers, FIX ME.
How do you choose what to say yes to?
When and how do you say NO? How do you resolve or avoid guilt feelings when you do say no?


Amy and Brad said...

Okay, I'm going to be anxiously awaiting the responses to THIS post because I share your affliction. And part of my problem is that I tend to have an unrealistic idea of what I can actually accomplish/handle/manage so at the time I say 'yes' I truly mean it and think it'll be no big deal.

Brad helps me a lot by chiming in when he thinks I'm getting in over my head and that really has helped because, over the years, he has had a front row seat and now probably understands more clearly than I do what is within Amy's limits and what is not. Ugh - such a balance!

I have a friend like your neighbor who rarely says 'yes' and it seems to me that she misses out on a lot of great experiences.

So...I basically have no clue what the answers to your questions are, but I will be taking notes as those more wise than I begin to comment!

Atkin Family said...

Here's my thoughts . . . take them for what they're worth.
Law of Diminishing Returns -- balancing personal/health/family returns v. costs.
Fine to say yes -- if you're not expecting much and it just feels good to give service and help -- and the personal, life, psychological, family costs are not significantly negative. Then, any extra benefits, are a bonus if you don't expect it. Or fine to say yes -- if there's a positive personal incentive (e.g., I manage my sons soccer team, which is a huge pain - but results in a better run soccer team for my boy). However, I've seen tooooo many people give tooo much at the expense of their family and their own mental/physical health.
Being a good person doesn't mean being a martyr or taking on everyone's responsibilities -- in my opinion, nor does it mean you have to save the world.
Being a "yes" person can also be a way to avoid conflict or avoid being seen as "selfish" -- why is conflict pr being seen as selfish so bad, really - who cares. And besides, its human nature to ask and take as much as we can -- and its up to the other person to let us know when its not working out --- so if we don't know, then we can't change, you know....
About 5 years ago, I had a neighbor that I offered to help babysit in the mornings on my Fridays - my only day off -- thinking it would be short-term, and thinking it wouldn't be a big deal. Well, that lasted about 1-2 months -- then I started to get resentful b/c it was harder than I thought, she wasn't as grateful as I thought she might be, and I just plain didn't want to do it anymore even though I meant to be helpful. That was my fault for not realizing my limits and assuming she might figure it out -- I shouldn't have been angry with her. So, I just did a "take back" and said sorry - it wasn't working out for me, but I would watch the kid long enough for her to find a replacement. I didn't like to do it -- but I needed to, and it worked out okay.

I do have to admit, however, I'd much rather be around a "yes" person than a "no" person - so there are worse things to be you know.

BTW- Rita -- I know how good of cookies you make so I was wondering if you wouldn't mind making me a batch and bringing them down to Sandy tomorrow!!!

Atkin Family said...

2 Other Quick Comments -
I didn't feel it was appropriate to share "my favorite word" since I thought it might get deleted!! :)
Secondly, really, why is guilt so necessary for you, just let it go -- just a little, it's very liberating -- I promise I'll like you just as much!

Danette said...

I think I suffer from this to some extent. I have a hard time saying no, but it has gotten to the point (for me at least) that the people who are attracted to me are those who take advantage of my kindness. It's then very easy to say no because there is nothing I hate more than that. Finding a balance is tricky and I think really it starts with saying no once and making yourself not feel guilty about it. Then you can start figuring out the balance of yes and no but it starts with one. Hope you can figure your balance out. It takes some time.

The Bullknitter said...

Sorry, I'm no help. My dream job is to be a tow-truck driver wherein I rescue people in trouble and I help them when they need me the most. Like I said, sorry. I guess we're cut from the same cloth.

Kristen Gregson said...

The problem I found with being a "yes" person ALL the time is that my family suffered from it. Yes, it was good to offer service and help to those around me and it was good for my kids to see that. It also felt good when I was asked because MY talents or abilities were WANTED. But when I got overwhelmed or in over my head, I turned ornery, had tunnel vision, and my kids and husband received the brunt of the negative. You intend to help and save those around you but if it causes you to be stressed and overworked, is your family (who I know is the most important to you) getting the best of you? You're only one person and can only do so much. It comes down to boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. I've had to learn to say "no" on occassion and not worry about what people will think or if the job will get done "the way I would have done it". The world won't spin off it's axis if I have say "no" but I will go mental if I say "yes" all the time. My family doesn't deserve a psycho mom. It's a hard balance but one I've had to work on. Hope that made sense. I feel like I'm rambling...

Debbie said...

Loved your post, Rita. I used to say "yes" to almost everything, but am now a little more balanced. One thing that has helped me a lot is to ask for some time to think about it. Without the person in front of me and with some extra time, I can think of all my commitments and not make a rash decision or say "yes" just to be a pleaser, but like you, I find it's a rollercoaster of ups and downs. Sometimes I overcommit and other times I get a bit selfish with my time. Please share any ideas you get. I admire you and your continual desire to be a better person. Hope you are well!