With a single Facebook post, one mom is giving me full permission to begin saying “no” more.
Irish mother of two Emma Lou Harris, just got real about her former obsession of always pleasing others. Harris shares how her longtime fear of saying “no” kept her from ever speaking up. Consumed by anxiety and guilt, the mother agreed to whatever life handed her.
“’No’ provoked a guilt in me that I wished to avoid, so it always seemed easier to say ‘yes’ than to face the consequence of decisiveness head-on. Even if that ‘yes’ led me into situations I also wished to avoid. And I now wish I did,” she writes.
It was through parenting that Harris saw her lifelong desire to please negatively impacting her children. Afraid to disappoint or upset them, she often gave in to the wishes of her 3-year-old daughter, Frankie, and 2-year-old son, Jax.
“I always said yes. I always worried my kids would hate me for ‘No’s’ the same as I worried people would hate me for them before my children. I was happier to accept looking like a walk-over then a monster,” Harris continues.
But all that changed when Harris realized a very important truth — her kids are growing up into a world where learning to say and receive a “no” can be extremely valuable. She knew she needed to start teaching them the power this statement has in setting critical boundaries as adults.
“It’s telling my small son, who will one day be a man, that NO means NO. A man who I hope will go on dates, or have relationships or marriage,” she explains. “He needs to know that ‘No’ means ‘No,’ and there are not any exceptions to that.”
And as for daughter Frankie, Harris wants to encourage the word to be something she feels comfortable saying. “It’s teaching my daughter also, that NO means NO and that she needs to feel ok with that decision. She’s ENTITLED to say ‘No’,” she writes.
The biggest takeaway I’ve found in Harris’s post is one I will share with my own children. She wants her kids to know that turning down a request can be as courageous as accepting it. She is now instilling within them the confidence to see that receiving a “no” does not mean they have failed or will not achieve what they want in life. This seemingly tiny word holds a massive amount of power to teach them about respect for others and themselves.
“’No’ is brave. ‘No’ is protection. ‘No’ is knowing your own mind and being aware of its boundaries. It’s discipline. It’s respect. It’s the cruel to be kind. It may be the bad cop. But ‘No’ is never bad. Now I say ‘No’. Not because I don’t love my children, but because I love them TOO much to always say “yes,’” she writes.
For Harris, the words from her post will remain at the core of her parenting. She shares with Babble that since integrating “no” into her regular vocabulary, she has seen some amazing internal changes.
“I’ve slowly allowed myself to become more assertive to conquer my anxiety and it’s snowballed from there,” she says. “I now feel confident to make decisions, and I’m not all that bothered about what people think of me. So I suppose that learning to love and trust the world now has just come along with that.”
As a former people-pleaser, I deeply relate to Harris’ story. It took the heartbreaking end of my last marriage to realize I wasn’t fully living the life I wanted. Since healing from that experience, I have learned to speak up for myself more and deny any request that doesn’t feel right to me. As a result, I have learned to make friends with the word “no” more than ever before.
Most of all, Harris’ post helped remind me how truly powerful parents are in setting the tone for the rest of our children’s lives.