I often refer to myself as “a slow learner and a late bloomer.” I say it a bit tongue in cheek, with self-deprecating humor.
It’s not completely true. But sadly, it’s more true than not.
I like to see myself as thoughtful, cautious, mindful.
How is it then, that some of my past decisions I look back on with the familiar, “what was I thinking?!” question?
Just this week I had a chance to make a choice, a big choice, about direction in life.
There was a need, and I could be part of the solution.
It was tempting, so tempting, to say yes. To rise to the occasion.
But the opportunity wasn’t one I wanted, not the direction I wanted to head in, not by a long shot.
But I also couldn’t completely walk away. I have some commitment to this work already, and it’s not really possible to break it off cold. Nor do I think that would be the ethical choice.
Instead of accepting the opportunity offered, taking the all or nothing approach, I found a third way. I found a way to honor myself, and the need that is before me.
The specifics of the situation aren’t relevant to anyone else. What is important is that I’ve learned to listen to myself, to recognize that giving in to a need on someone else’s part, even if the task is something I could do, isn’t the right answer, if everything inside me says that “yes” is the wrong answer.
I’ve finally realized an honest “no” is better than a grudging “yes.”
For someone like me, programmed, it seems, with a “yes” policy, this is big.
I was brought up to put others before myself, and to do what I can to contribute, to help, to do my best.
Somewhere along the way, I let those attitudes become a default for better judgment, at times, and quieted the voice in my head that I should have listened to, more than once, when I’ve been at a life crossroads. I defaulted to saying “yes,” when “no” was the real answer.
Opportunities aren’t necessarily right for your life, just because they appear in front of you, because they’re the path of least resistance at the moment. Or because someone else thinks you’d be perfect for the job.
It’s taken years to ask the question, “what do I really want?” and not see that as a selfish position, in the face of the needs of others. I’m speaking mostly of professional life choices here, but in any context, I think it’s important to honestly confront personal desires. I can’t make a real choice if I don’t even recognize the options.
This self-blindness hurt me, my marriage, and created a lot of angst, as I tried to whole-heartedly honor commitments my heart was never in, in the first place.
So finally, I see…being honest with myself, first, is the best way to be honest with others. If I’ve committed to work because I feel pressured, rather than inspired; if I feel on the spot to be the solution, rather than feeling a desire to rise to the occasion, I need to heed those feelings. I am not the right person for the job.
I’ve tried to honor the commitments I’ve made, as I moved through life. But some I shouldn’t have made, and it took me a long time to acknowledge that reality. I owe it to myself, to my marriage, and to others I interact with to be honest rather than hiding behind a veil of being nice.
The word “no” doesn’t make me a bad person. How did I confuse the two…”no” and “nice?” This sounds like I’m just spineless, but really I’m not…I just haven’t recognized my patterns in this area until recently.
Hindsight is 20/20, and finally, finally, I can bring that clarity of vision to the present. I can say “no” when that’s the right answer, and know I made the right choice.