As a self-diagnosed people-pleaser, I have been quite a stranger to the word, “no.” Sure, we have had a few encounters, but our dalliances have always left me riddled with guilt.
My husband calls it my unhealthy need to be needed. One of my friends says I am inflicted with volunteer-itis. Secretly, I probably want to be liked too much.
Here is an example:
Let’s say I get an email that says, “We need volunteers to help guest judge moot court.” I may be painting with a broad brush, but I’m going to guess that many Biglaw attorneys, who have billable hours to meet, instantly click DELETE. But I, on the other hand, check my calendar, and if I’m free, think to myself: “it’s only an hour.” I’ll sign up, and certainly feel good while I’m volunteering, but then I’ll hate myself later when I’m working late or on the weekend to make up for that lost billable time. PRESS REPEAT.
It’s even worse at work. My innate reaction to a request for assistance – whether billable or non-billable – tends to be yes. Oh, you need someone to review a handbook by next week? I have a summary judgment, but….yes, I can help. Oh, you need someone to help organize a welcome / goodbye lunch? Happy to! Oh, you’re having a bad day and need to vent for an hour? I have a response to a motion due tomorrow, but, here is some chocolate…..what happened? Oh, yet another law school graduate, who can’t find a job and wants ideas on networking to find one? I’ve already had two this week, but um, ok.
And I’m not being untruthful, I really want to help. But then the scenario I mention occurs where I am working past midnight and it’s suddenly #FML all over again (and it’s my own doing).
If you’re reading this and nodding emphatically and are looking for a solution, I wish I had a better one, but here’s mine:
HAVE A BABY.
I did, and other than the obvious joy she brings to my life, she’s also the best thing that has happened to me because Baby O has done wonders for my ability to say no (and my resulting happiness).
No, I can’t guest judge your fake argument because I only get to see my baby for a few hours before she goes to bed. No, I can’t stay up all night working because the lack of sleep decreases my milk production and Baby O needs to eat. No, I can’t go out to eat for lunch, but how about a 15 minute call? (I’m still working on the “No. Period.” vs. the “No. Here’s an alternative out of guilt.”)
It’s not that Baby O is my excuse; rather, she has taught me rather quickly what my priorities should be – or rather, who they should be – and that by saying “no,” I’m not being mean or selfish, but rather, I’m saying “yes” to myself (for her). In my short time as a mom, I have learned to say no because if I am running on empty from responding to others, I have nothing left by the time I come home to her and the hubs.
As one of my good friends puts it: “PROTECT YOUR JOY.”
I just wish it hadn’t taken me 35 years to learn this one.
PS. Inspired by Laura’s leap year post, I left work before dark to spend some time with Baby O after working most of the weekend. Happiness meter went off the charts. Need to do this more.