Psyche’s 4th Task: Learn to Say No

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Lonely? How can you be lonely? You’ve got yourself, haven’t you? If you ever lose yourself, then you’ll really be lonely. Joseph Delaney

Whenever I attend PTA meetings I seem to volunteer for something.

A big something.

Last year, I volunteered to chair the Cultural Enrichment Committee; this year I'm also the Hospitality Chair.

Here's how things unfold.

The PTA president asks for volunteers.

Amidst the ensuing, and uncomfortable silence, my brain starts to run the script: good mothers volunteer at their children's school; over the years, I have volunteered far less than most because of my work schedule; I want to be a good mother; I want others to think I'm a good mother.

Impulsively, dare I say compulsively, I volunteer.

Five minutes later, I regret it.

Have you ever said yes when you really wanted to say no?

Photo courtesy of Steve Santore aka Valentinian

Learning to say no, and thus exercise choice is Psyche's fourth and final task.

Before she can be reunited with Eros, Psyche must descend into the underworld to fill a box with beauty ointment. This journey is especially difficult because she encounters three people whose pleas for help she must not heed.

Setting a goal and pursuing it in the face of requests for help from others is especially difficult for women whose lives are focused on care giving. And yet, as we say no, we are learning to set boundaries, to exercise choice, and, paradoxically, can more capably say yes to relatedness and nurturing..

In his book The Power of a Positive No, William Ury, writes:

I learned…

[the importance of saying no] early on in my career from the…extraordinarily successful investor Warren Buffett. Over breakfast one day, he confided in me that the secret to creating his fortune was his ability to say No. “I sit there and look at investment proposals all day. I say No, No, No No, No, No–until I see one that is exactly what I am looking for. And then I say Yes. All I have to do is say Yes a few times in my life and I've made my fortune.” Every important Yes requires a thousand Nos.

One more time, and with feeling — Every important Yes requires a thousand Nos.

For women these thousand No's are particularly nettlesome, as they require us to move from an either/or mindset to both/and to do what Ury describes as “marrying the two must fundamental words in the language: Yes and No. Yes is the key word of connection (Psyche embarks on a hero's journey to say yes to Eros). No the key word of protection (Psyche says no to others to say yes to her self, her loved ones).”

“The secret to standing up for yourself and what you need without destroying precious relationships is to marry the two.”

This is no easy task.

It wasn't for Psyche.

But isn't it worth saying no, no, no, no, no, no, no…

So that you can capably say yes to you, your relationships, your dream?

P.S. Yes, I am going to honor my commitment to chair the Hospitality Committee, but I'm going to take a page out Psyche's book and delegate.

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