Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Embrace Your Inner Troll

Don't laugh, I think I have misplaced the definition of the word "no."  I have a really hard time remembering it's intent.  Some people use the word to disagree, some to deny, some to retaliate.  Some people use the word consistently to get out of things, some people use it to be in control.  As a mother of small children I learned that "no" meant "you can't make me."  I am at a loss.

So what does it really mean?  There are a lot of connotations that come along for the ride.  Some people view saying no as wimping out.  There are also expectations. People expect friends to say yes.  Saying no has consequences. I had a friend recently note that saying yes makes you an angel, but saying no makes you lower than the troll under the bridge. I say we embrace our inner troll.

Saying no is a boundary issue.  When asked to do any number of things we have the complete right, and sometimes even duty, to say no.  Just because we can doesn't mean we should.

I am the queen of yes, even when the answer should be no.  It is true, I have a very hard time with this.  I am a smart person with lots of talents.  (That last statement was not bragging, just the mantra my therapist has been at me to embrace for years.) I can do a lot of things, the question is if I should.  In the past I have been a volunteer in many capacities, and I promise I have bitten off more than I can chew on more than one occasion.

I love the success that comes with yes.  Yep, I love it.  I love people looking at me and saying, "Wow! You are amazing, you worked so hard, we love it!"  It is rather addicting. No one tracks you down to say, "Wow, you said no, and did nothing, you are my hero!" Saying yes feels good at the time.  It is the lasting effects which can be the problem.

Why should we say no?  I am sure there are a ton of reasons out there, many of them relating to good mental health and firm personal boundaries.  Here are a few of mine.

My family needs to come first.  I know that statement is as old as time, but it still applies.  Making sure your contribution to your family is solid must be priority one.  I have never run into a volunteer situation which had a longer or more important impact as the impact you have with your family.

Your sanity is important.  That should seem obvious, but for me it is not.  I can do a lot of things if being sane is not a requirement.  I can accomplish mountains of work, coordinate hordes of people, finish piles of housework and cook a fabulous dinner for my family all in the same day.  I cannot do it with my sanity intact.

The spotlight is fleeting if you have no sense of personal worth.  It does not matter how amazing you are in a volunteer position if you do not believe good things about yourself.  You can find a cure for cancer, or hike the tallest mountain and if you don't already know you are good enough inside, it won't matter for long.  Many people volunteer for outside validation.  It is the inside validation which is really important.

If you want to say yes, they say yes.  I don't want you to walk away wondering if you should say no to everything that is asked of you, because in truth your answer can be yes to a lot of things. Just stop and look at your motivation.  Can your family spare the time? Are you well grounded with a good enough support structure to maintain your sanity?  Are you comfortable with who you are?  Are you seeking the spotlight, or are you just sharing your talents? 

Being healthy about your choices is an important step to getting your personal house in order.  When it comes to volunteering to do things, we all need to extend beyond our current reach...a little.  Just don't forget to embrace your inner troll every now and then.

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