The anxiety of saying no.

I was reminded again yesterday that I am not very good at saying “No”. To anyone. For any reason. And even if my rationale is sound, when I do say no, I find myself wracked with an anxious guilt that takes days to wear off.

Yesterday’s episode hinged on a request to attend a meeting in Ottawa next week for my union. By the time I got approval to arrange a flight, no cheap options  were available for the day I would have to fly – leaving me with the option of giving up my whole weekend, or showing up a day late which would really nullify my attendance in a number of ways. After this autumn’s collective bargaining roadshow, some of which took place overtop of my marriage celebrations, I am more than a little reticent to give up more time to the union and so decided that travelling on a Saturday is just not an option for me given other things already committed to this weekend.

So I wrote last night and said that given all this I would NOT be attending the meeting. And then promptly called B. and cried through my anxiety upon doing so.

Odd, because having a good reason to cancel this trip is a huge relief – I’ve been feeling stressy about the fact my honeybees are supposed to be delivered this week and we have friends in town and I’ve gotgardening projects I would like to spend time on if the weather permits. Not to mention that I’m never keen to fly east in the winter, particularly as snowstorms continue to be predicted for the area and that means a good chance of getting stuck out there.

But the NO part of this has me guilt-wracked. Feeling as though I’m shirking responsibilities and everyone will think bad things about me. Worried about missing out on something important (even though I know that won’t be the case because none of these meetings are really that important). Stressed about disappointing people who have supported me over the years. Fear of potential retaliation if I decide to run for another position later on down the road (doubtful, but it could happen)…..

Apparently this is all tied to self-esteem and lack of it – an issue that I have struggled with (tied to depressive episodes in particular). Specifically, it is a habit of putting others feelings and needs before our own – even to the degree that I believe a faceless entity like my union or employer have needs to which I must always acquiesce. According to this psychologist, the only way out of this trap is to develop the ability to say no and to be assertive around one’s own needs (without guilt) – thus bolstering self-esteem and supporting self-care.

The reality in this case is that my union’s “need” is to put me on a cheap flight, and that superscedes their “need” to have me at the meeting next week which became apparent in the negotiations I was having with the office over my flights. Upon realizing that, I can see that this is a situations considering the balance of competing needs is important. The need for my organization to be cost-conscious against my need for rest days with family and friends, and time spent around home.

And why should I feel guilty upon determining that my need is just as important (or more important to me) than someone else’s?

Yeah – exactly. I shouldn’t. So I’m working on that, but still proud of myself for saying no in the first place even though I’ve got some reisdual guilt to work through afterwards.


3 Comments on “The anxiety of saying no.

  1. One of the smallest words in the english language and one of the hardest ones to say. If it is of any consolation, there are lots of people who have the same problem – me included. Be kind to yourself and put yourself first 🙂

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