Tag Archives: Obligation

Having Your “No” and Eating it Too

Do you ever find yourself in the position where a person asks or expects you to do something you do not want to do but you end up doing it anyway? If so, do you find yourself becoming resentful with that person? If you answered yes to these questions you need to learn how to say NO.

(1)   If you can’t say no you become resentful.

I used to work in an office. I became friendly with a co-worker and we started going to lunch every day. After a while I began to feel obligated to go to lunch with her. I felt like if I got up and went to lunch by myself I would somehow be insulting her or hurting her feelings. So for a long time I went along with this situation. It was easier just to maintain the pattern than it was to stand up for myself and say I did not want to do this. But over time I found myself becoming resentful. At first I noticed I was becoming annoyed with her. Little things she did like flicking her pen started to irritate me. Later on this developed into anger. At the time I did not make the connection between not being able to say no to her and this irritation that was developing.

(2)   If you learn to say no and “own it” you will notice a sudden release of tension.

Finally the resentment and the irritation reached a point where I just started going to lunch on my own. It felt wrong at first. I felt like an anti-social jerk. But after a while I noticed that I was becoming less annoyed and resentful with her. Gradually I began to make the connection that this resentment was directly related to my inability to say no to her. Even though my no at this point was sort of passive aggressive it allowed for the space for the tension to release.

(3)   If you can’t say no you will never be able to say yes.

From there, over time I began to feel more entitled to my right to say no to things I did not want to do. True, there are obligations in life and I am not advocating saying no to everything you do not want to do, but if you cannot say no at least some of the time you will never truly be able to say yes whole heartedly. You will only say yes grudgingly and with resentment. When you are able to say no and own it (i.e., feel entitled to say no without worrying so much about hurting someone’s feelings which comes with practice) then you will have the space to pick the things you really want to do and then say yes with your whole heart.

I think this is really important. On an airplane they instruct you to put on your own oxygen mask first before you put on the oxygen mask of a child. To someone who is afraid to say no, this instruction might strike them as selfish and wrong. But if you don’t take care of yourself first you may be able to take care of other people in the short run but not in the long run.

Saying no to something you do not want to do is like putting on your oxygen mask first. If you find yourself becoming annoyed and resentful of someone, I invite you to perform an experiment and say no to that person. Really try to feel entitled to that no. Don’t let yourself feel bad or at least be aware of this bad feeling. See if over time you become less resentful. If so, know that you have put on your oxygen mask. You will then be able to have your yes and put on their oxygen mask if need be.

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New Years Resolutions for Shame Based People

So you have decided to make a New Years Resolution and you feel ashamed for various reasons a good deal of the time. Here is what I recommend based upon my life experience dealing with shame issues.

First of all, do not make a New Years Resolution out of a sense of guilt. Only make New Years Resolutions for your own benefit. Of course, your shame ego will tell you this way of thinking is selfish and something to feel ashamed about. Remember that the shame ego is the same thing that will convince you that maintaining the resolution you made out of guilt is too difficult to keep up and then once you stop maintaining the resolution will then tell you that you are weak for giving it up. Of course this requires awareness of when your shame ego is sabotaging your efforts and looking for reasons to feel ashamed (but that is a topic for another blog post).

I recommend your resolution should either be to stop performing some self-destructive behavior or to take up a behavior that improves yourself. It should be something you are capable of doing with your whole heart. That is, it should be something you want to do. People with well-developed shame egos have a hard time knowing what they truly want because they have bonded to the message that what they want is wrong. A good way to tell if something is what you want is to pay attention to how it makes you feel. If it makes you feel good then it is (most likely) good and something you like doing. If it does not make you feel good then it is (most likely) not good and something you do not like doing. Be careful. Somethings feel good in the short-term but are destructive in the long-term, like addictions. Addictions are another trap of the shame ego. At first addictions seem like an escape from the shame ego’s constant criticism. That of course feels good. But eventually the addiction becomes self-destructive and gives the shame ego another reason to criticize you.

James Altucher recommends performing what he calls a “Daily Practice” where you perform activities daily that benefit four aspects of the self in order be happy. The four aspects are Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Spiritual. He claims (and I believe him) that you need to nurture these four aspects of the self to be happy. Quick examples: Physical – exercise (even just a little), Intellectual – read a book, Spiritual – meditate, pray, read something spiritual, Emotional – do something that makes you happy, avoid things that make you unhappy. Read the article I linked to above for good ideas about making a resolution that comes from your heart and not shame.

To maintain this resolution make it a habit. Take time out first thing in the morning to perform this resolution. Make it the first priority. Do it with your whole heart and not out of a sense of obligation. Good luck and Happy New Year.

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