say no and ask for help

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The Better Me Project—Day 21

The last time I posted, I talked about lowering my expectations. I am often way over my head with things that I plan to do, causing myself anxiety and unnecessary stress. By lowering my expectations, I could really lower my stress level and ultimately become more efficient (and happier).

But it’s not so easy to do. It’s going to take a step by step process to allow myself to not expect miracles. I decided that over the course of four days, I would take steps toward this end. Yesterday I vowed to “Do Less”. Today I am going to learn to “Say No and Ask for Help”.

Say No? Are You Smoking Something?

Let me explain to you how painful it is for me to say no. I honestly don’t think my mouth can form the words. In fact, when my kids were little, I hardly ever would actually utter the word no. I would just say “we’ll see”, which the kids quickly came to learn was code for “no”.

Don’t get me wrong, I want to say no, but I don’t want to disappoint anyone. I realize that I put more stress on myself that way. No only do I expect myself to complete whatever task I won’t say no to, I’m setting myself up for not being able to say no in the future as well. People will start to expect me to say yes. I would disappoint them even more.

See how that works? It’s a vicious cycle.

And Ask for Help? Seriously, What Are You Smoking?

Asking for help is akin to admitting defeat to me. If I can’t do something on my own, what good am I to anyone? At least, that’s been my thought process. (And besides the fact that no one really does it the way I want it done…).

Okay, so maybe I’m just a little bit of a control freak. I’d also like to point out that I have a hard time asking for help from my family not only because they do what I’m asking incorrectly (only slight exaggeration—I think they do it on purpose), they complain that I’m nagging. And who needs to hear that they’re being a nag? Especially when 99.9% of the time it’s just easier to do it myself in the first place.

Hence, why I end up doing so much. I may be a little bit of a control freak, but here’s an example. My son used to empty the dishwasher. It would take 97 hours to get him to empty one batch between reminding him and getting told “in a minute”, and him never being home. The dirty dishes would pile up and start stinking up the house because I couldn’t put them in the full dishwasher. Then when he did empty the dishwasher, he would pile half the dishes up on the counter because he never “knows where they go”. I call bull$hit.

I’d Be Even Less Likely to Ask Someone Outside the Family For Help

Admit I can’t do it all? I would feel guilty that I can’t get it done or I can’t help someone else out. I feel guilty and selfish and a whole bunch of other terrible feelings. So guilt + incessant need to be in control= constant stress.

But Yesterday You Vowed to Do Less, Heather…

And so I did. What’s the easiest way to do less? Commit to less. Ask for help more. Ughhhhh. I guess I have no choice, right? I’m going to have to do this. I had a list as long as my arm on Sunday. For some reason, Sundays aren’t as relaxing as I would like them to be because I am usually beating myself up for slacking off on Saturday and running around like a madman to get it all done on Sunday. And in this case, I had a WHOLE week off and I somehow left everything I needed to do for the last day.

Well, this precept came up on Sunday and I decided I would see if I could execute it. Hubby and Child #2 were bored and wanted to “do something fun”. Remember that list I mentioned? The one as long as my arm?

Normally I would say “Sure, I can do everything,” and then I would knock myself out trying to figure out how to please everyone and still get done what I think I need to get done. And I wouldn’t accomplish half of what I wanted to do and I would end up stressed and anxious and generally miserable.

So…I Said No

Sort of. I said they were more than welcome to go out on their own—I wasn’t stopping them. I couldn’t spare the time to “do something fun” because I had too much to do. BUT, if anyone wanted to help me out, I WOULD be able to spare time. See what I did there? I tried to both say no AND ask for help. 

Believe it or not, hubby stepped in. He folded the towels for me. A tiny little thing, but it was enough to offer me some relief. And then later he cooked dinner instead of leaving it on me. I still didn’t get everything on my list done—in fact, I didn’t even get close, but then again, I’ve got to learn to start lowering my expectations. Do less. Say No. Ask for Help.

This May Just Work

The good news is, on Sunday I didn’t have to have a nervous breakdown to make my point. I had to say no and ask for help. It didn’t feel as icky as I thought it would either. I didn’t have heart palpitations and break out into cold sweats.

I think I could even do it again in the future. Will that work every time? Probably not. It probably won’t even work next time (see, I’m lowering my expectations already). But I’ve made a start with my  first “just say no” campaign. I think I would make Nancy Reagan proud.

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