Learning to say no – the power of affirmations

Everyone’s heard of affirmations in some way or another, and in this day and age, the idea of standing in front of a mirror saying “I love and accept myself exactly as I am” may feel a little (ok, extremely) daft.  As Tony Robbins puts it, you can’t stand in your garden saying “There are no weeds, there are no weeds, there are no weeds” and expect your garden to be instantly transformed into an after shot of Alan Titchmarsh (ok, I added the Alan Titchmarsh reference!).  You need to get down on your hands and knees and pull the little suckers out.  Affirmations aren’t some magical spell that instantly create what you want in life, but they do help you to create what you want in life.

My eight year old son is starting to learn martial arts.  First up, is learning how to block when someone tries to punch or kick you.  Copying someone else is fine, but doing it in a sparring session, he’s not so great, his movement usually coming several seconds after he’s (in theory) been hit.  From my own martial arts experience however, I know that a few minutes a day of practicing the movement of the block over and over again implants the movement into your muscles.  Your arm knows how to move, learns to do it quickly, without you having to even think.  When someone tries to punch you, before you have even acknowledged to yourself that you are going to get hit unless you block their fist, your arm has already raised itself, your own fist forms and you have blocked the punch.  Your body reacts automatically, using something you have taught it by repetition.

Affirmations work in much the same way.  You teach yourself something, and although it isn’t your physical muscles learning it, your mental or emotional muscles do.  So when you get that emotional hit, that rug being pulled out from under your feet, that sudden moment of doubt, your mind and heart are already dealing with it before you even realise.  For example, with three children with school and various other commitments and hobbies, a business and a husband who works more than full time, friends and extended family to see, and hobbies of my own, my life is rather busy.  I try and volunteer and help out when I can, but it got to the point where I was so busy running around helping, volunteering, always being the one who said yes that things started to suffer.  I spent little quality time with my children, even less with my husband and the idea of spending some time pampering myself was laughable.  I realised that I had to start saying no, but I struggled with feeling really guilty.  I came up with an affirmation for myself.  “I am generous with my time.  I know when myself and my family need to come first.  I can say no when I need to.”  Granted, it’s not the most poetic affirmation ever, but it worked for me, it was personal to me.  I used to say this to myself in the mirror every morning.  I didn’t carve out some amazing time slot, didn’t get up two hours earlier than the rest of the house.  I just stood in front of the mirror and while I was putting on my makeup and drying my hair I would repeat this over and over to myself.

It definitely helped.  When people started to ask me things, I suddenly found it easier to say no.  I still felt guilty at first, but after a while, before I even opened my mouth, my mind would say “It’s ok to say no.  You have this and this and this and this on this week, as well as all the normal washing, ironing, cleaning, cooking, shopping.  You are not being selfish, you know if you say yes to this, you will have no time with your husband or your children.  You will have no downtime to replenish yourself, and will end up being cranky and stressed and that will affect the ones you love negatively.  The person asking you wouldn’t want that for you, just as you wouldn’t want it for them.  It’s ok to say no.”  And I would.  It did take practice.  It did take time.  But it did work.

After a while I started using other affirmations when I put my makeup on, for other things I wanted to change.  On Sunday, one of the organising team at my sons’ rugby club approached me and asked if I would be the contact for all of the parents involved in the younger teams.  It would have meant liaising with the coaches of five different teams, giving my mobile out for parents to contact throughout the week and weekend, and also running a facebook page.  I didn’t want to say yes.  I already run three facebook pages for mine and my husband’s businesses, deal with incoming calls and emails for those businesses and have my own children’s arrangements for school and various clubs throughout the week.  The idea of adding more made me feel stressed almost immediately.  I managed to say that I would have a think about it, maybe do it along with another parent, then at the end of the conversation said if no one else would do it, I would.  I walked away, very annoyed with myself.  Guess what affirmation got added to my list the next morning!

Why not give it a try?  Commit to using an affirmation or several over a certain time period, but at least three weeks.  Spend 5-10 minutes repeating it, and see if it has any effect on your life.  If you can’t think of your own, search online – there are thousands out there.  I will write a post describing how you can come up with your own soon!