On saying no

Richard Branson’s blog is a great read. He recently tweeted a post about knowing when to say no.  It was one of those that hit hard just at the moment I needed it.

Sometimes saying no is about taking care of your physical self – keeping yourself safe when the danger is very real. Or saying no to something you’ve done a thousand times before, but for whatever reason doesn’t feel safe this time.

Twice I’ve ignored this feeling in a high-adrenaline situation – once while reaching for a big stretch while leading my first outdoor rock climb, and once while sizing up an overtake in a race. Both times, the choice to say yes was mine and mine alone. There was a little external pressure, not wanting to look silly in front of my climbing partner in the first and wanting to make up a place in the second. Both times, I made a mistake and broke bones (badly, both times) as a somewhat extreme consequence.

Sometimes, though, saying no is less dramatic.

Things are always quite hectic here, and I started a new job recently to add to the mix. It’s quite a change from the old one and it’s going to take a little time to change costume and adapt.

Last weekend I completely and utterly forgot I was meant to be somewhere. This is really unlike me and I was pretty upset about it. It was a chance to hang out with two musicians who I really admire and enjoy being around, working on a big project that I’m really excited about. My input wasn’t essential on this bit but I had been looking forward to our time together.

Then things ran away with me. I woke up on Sunday and I felt utterly exhausted. I had a huge list of things to do. I was tearful, washed out, washed up even and in desperate need of a little breathing space.

A message came in reminding me of where I was meant to be. I messaged back to say I’d be there.

I worried for a while, I knew I’d be terrible company, would spend the time worrying about what else I needed to get done, and most likely the current jumble of emotions would get the better of me.

And then I calmed down, realised they were nice people who would understand and I could catch up with them another time. And then I messaged again to say I was dreadfully sorry but I couldn’t come.

I’ve said yes to a lot recently. I hate missing out and I hate letting others down. But there comes a point when you have to listen to yourself, take care of yourself when your energy is low and say no, despite how much you would have enjoyed saying yes.

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