On saying NO and not belonging

I have a post-it note on a cork-board above my desk with a quote from James Clear which reads: The most dangerous distractions are the ones you love, but that don’t love you back.

Do you have a hard time saying no? I do. Sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s not hard in every respect.

Invite me to Valley Fair?


Out to a dinner at 8PM on Thursday?


To join a committee that meets weekly?


Saying no can become a habit. We can build it. It’s easier when we know what we choose to say YES to, like focusing on an important goal. Every time we say yes to something, we’re automatically saying no to something else.

Say yes to an 8PM dinner party? You’ve just automatically said no to being in bed before 9PM, and perhaps also to being up at 5AM the next morning, and perhaps therefore also no to writing in your journal, having a walk with your dog, or whatever it is that you would otherwise do if you hadn’t said yes to that dinner.

Life is full of choices.

What I’ve realized is that the most challenging Nos are those which involved people to whom we want to look good.

Notice that I said people to whom we want to look good.

I did not say people who we love.

Those can be challenging too, and then sometimes they can also be easy. I feel comfortable telling my husband that I don’t care to go to a sports game or a concert, because I have trusted him with my honesty over the years – I don’t enjoy crowds, I don’t enjoy staying out late, and I know he will still love me when I say no.

Contrast that with an invitation to a group of real estate leaders who meet weekly. I’m honored to be asked, and I really want these people to like and respect me. It seems like an opportunity to move closer to people I hold in high esteem, yet the truth is that I DON’T WANT TO GO TO A BUNCH OF MEETINGS.

Because I can see exactly what I’ll be saying no to with a yes to this on-going commitment.

This morning I listened to more of that interview I mentioned yesterday with Coach Jerry Colonna, and he spoke about fear of not belonging, and related to our sense of being enough. If we don’t feel that we are fundamentally enough at any given point in time, it becomes very difficult to say no to requests that involve belonging.

Going back to that weekly group meeting invitation, we can see that if I say no, the members might not like me. Or, at least, I won’t get to become one of them.

And if I’m not one of them, I’m an outsider – I don’t belong.

Looking around, I’m curious as to how many things are happening directly as a result of our fear of not belonging?

I’m not gonna lie, I definitely struggle with this.

And yet it bears asking: by clinging to the belonging which is conferred upon us by others, what joys do we sacrifice in not belonging to ourselves?

In a 1973 interview with Bill Moyers, Maya Angelou once said: More and more… I belong to myself. I’m very proud of that. I am very concerned about how I look at Maya. I like Maya very much.

If you know in your heart that you desire to say no, yet struggle with the how, check out this handy list of ways.

And remember: It’s OKAY to belong to yourself.

You were put on this Earth to become the best version of yourself, and focusing on doing so helps not only you, but everyone else along the way.

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