"Self-preservation is not selfishness." - Peter Anthony
We’ve been told repeatedly by self help books, magazines and talk show hosts: “Learn to say No.” Forbes agrees, it’s a skill that will benefit you greatly in life. Saying No makes time and space for saying Yes to what is important.
But setting up boundaries and protecting our time can be difficult. There’s a fine line between being generous and being a doormat. So how do you know where to draw that line?
Guilt & Obligation - First off, saying no is not necessarily selfish. Saying no to one thing means honoring time needed for a commitment somewhere else. You’re not helping anyone if you make promises you can’t keep. If this isn’t reflective of your values, doesn't add anything to your life, and isn't done out of joy (a true gift) for another, then it’s likely you’re building stress and resentment into your life by saying yes. While you might get a temporary high off the idea of sacrifice, consider this… you’re not being a martyr; you’re being a doormat.
People Pleasing - You know who you are and there are whole articles dedicated just to you and this issue you’re having. If you’re saying yes because you hate to disappoint, hope this enhances a desired friendship or finally wins over the boss . . . you’re entering doormat territory. People respect those who manage their time and know their priorities and values. And isn't respect what you really want?
Values - Do you care about this task you’re being asking to fulfill? Like really care about the outcome and benefit that this particular assignment will give to the world? There’s caring about people and then there’s caring about outcomes. You can care about a person and not care about their kid's fundraiser. It’s okay. See above: People Pleasing and Guilt & Obligation. If you want to give to your friend, a gift of 2 popcorn orders because you like popcorn anyway, than fine. But if you’re on a diet, went to his school play last week, and hate the Boy Scouts policy on LGBT issues, than say No.
Remember, you can never get your time back. Don’t give it away haphazardly. Honoring commitments to the things you value is not selfish, it’s smart and principled. Say yes to what matters and no to what doesn't for a better life and a better world.