Published by MacKenzie on June 22nd, 2022
I remember vividly standing in the back kitchen at my first job in a small town restaurant. I was in high school, but a lower classman. I was talking with a peer that I worked with and went to school with. We'd known each other since the babysitter when we were younger. She made a comment about how I apologize for everything. My response? Yup, you guessed it. "I'm sorry." Oof.
This memory came flooding back to me yesterday as I was talking with a client about this very topic. We talked about why women apologize for things and come up with lengthy explanations for not wanting to do things. We acknowledged doing this to get the other person to understand, accept and validate why we don't want to do said thing and essentially not be mad at us. And we're people pleasers, obviously. The time we spend coming up with these elaborate excuses is exhausting to even think about. Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm just as guilty of doing this. I try hard not to fall into this trap, but sometimes I slip back into that old pattern.
This is not a good look on any of us.
I'm sure there's some research out there that talks about where these things come from, but if you think about it, women have been doing this for decades. Possibly longer. I always giggle at the excuse that a girl in a movie gives of "I have to wash my hair" when she doesn't want to go on a date with a guy. Um...why can't we just say "No thank you" and that's the end of that? Why do we have to find the "right" reasons for why we don't want to do something? Why do we want someone else to validate this for us? Why can't it be enough for us to just decline and move on without feeling judged by others and carrying around the guilt? Why, oh why?!
This whole concept speaks so clearly to the people pleasing tendencies of women. (Again, I have to ask the question of where does this come from?) This insatiable desire for us to be accepted by others at the expense of our own well-being and peace is just becoming more and more damaging to our psyche. We could probably go back many generations and find women interacting like this. I feel like a petulant child because I keep wanting to know the deeper reason for WHY we do this. Why do women show more people pleasing tendencies than men? Is it simply the patriarchy trying to keep us in our place? Is it part of our DNA? Ahhhhhhhh!!!! (Whew! That's a rabbit hole and honestly, it doesn't even matter, but you know, mental health professionals geek out about stuff like that. So, back to people pleasing, apologies and excuses.)
I talk with women all the time about not needing to defend their thoughts, feelings and wants and especially not apologizing for things that they don't need to apologize for. Rather, we focus on defending our right to identify our feelings and experience them. We talk about boundaries and protecting our sacred peace and space. We talk about needing to rest. And have time alone to recharge our social batteries. So what makes us think that we need to explain these things away? Or apologize for them? Yes, our desire is for the other person to still see us in a good light and validate our reasons for not doing something. We desire acceptance and understanding. But at the cost of our own boundaries? Bottom line is that whatever the reason, it shouldn't matter. It just is. And it's our responsibility to work on learning to become comfortable with setting and holding these boundaries and working through those feelings of wanting to justify ourselves to others.
There's a beautiful little word in the English language that packs a punch. If I had it my way, all women would practice this word and use it often.
Short. Sweet. To the point. Ah, isn't it lovely!
Yes, you're going to have a guttural desire to add things after that little word, but I encourage you to swallow that urge and take a deep breath. And remember that your reason doesn't have to resonate with anyone else. It's your reason and your reason alone. Honestly, you don't even need a reason, but, baby steps.
Using the word "no" is such a powerful action that a woman can take to ease her burden. It's going to come with some guilt, second guessing, and it may trigger some trauma from the past. If that's the case, I also encourage you to reach out to a therapist for support in working through those thoughts and feelings.
Using this word and taking charge of your time and how you expend your energy is life changing. It can help you build confidence you lost or never felt you had. It helps you recognize and put your needs first and not everyone else's. (That is a topic for another day.)
I'd love to hear stories about how using the word "no" has made an impact on your life. Send me an email through the website or a message on the FB page. Let's take charge of our lives, Ladies, and be the amazing, strong women we were meant to be.