How to Say “No” When You’re Expected to Say “Yes”

We were new to town with a new baby and a new home. Every step into all of the new was a little scary and a lot overwhelming. I joined an organized mom’s group to have a place to go where I could meet other women and face the fact that my life had forever changed.

At one of my first meetings the kind leaders announced that a woman from the group just had a baby.

IMG_7002Well…that’s really nice, I managed to think as I looked down at my baby who was fussy (as usual). I anxiously bounced and hushed and pacified her so I could focus enough to engage in the moment. While I was scrambling around in the diaper bag, another kind woman in my group handed me a paper.

“When do you want to take a meal to this new mom? Our small group is responsible for eight of them.”

Tears immediately welled up in my eyes as I stared at the list of open dates.

I can hardly put a meal on my own table – how will I put one on hers? I don’t even know her. I can’t believe they are making me do this!

I don’t remember if I actually took a meal to the young family or not. And now I am confident most of the moms there would not have thought poorly of me if I explained and passed the opportunity. But in that moment, I felt trapped. Overwhelm escalated to internal outrage and a strong desire to rebel against this external expectation. Inside, I beat on the walls that were pressing in on me.

Under Pressure

There are all kinds of expectations and assumptions we deal with on a daily basis. Our jobs pulling for us to do this. Friends pressuring us to do that. Sometimes we know exactly what they want. Sometimes we make guesses and play mind games, trying to figure people out. In our heads we hear them say:

Don’t let us down.
Don’t question the status quo.
Work your way into the group.
Earn your keep.
You’re a bad person if you don’t.

Of course, I can’t lie and say people never think those things. We will always live with the expectations of others. They may be communicated explicitly or they may be implied. Sometimes they may just be in our head. But the important thing to remember when you feel trapped in expectation is…

You always have a choice.You choose to say Yes or no.The decision you make has conseq

No one can make you do something you do not want to do.* You are a valuable and valued human being who gets to make choices – choices with consequences. When you and I act like we do not have a choice, we believe we are victims and we may become bitter toward those who seem to be holding us under their power. But we give others that power when we accept the pressure placed on us and lock ourselves in their cage of expectation.

You choose to stay or leave.

You choose to say no or yes.

The decision you make has consequences, so choose wisely. Choose intentionally. Put the pressure aside and think hard about what you most want to offer – what you most want to protect. And then own your decision.

You will build more robust relationships when you build them one honest and intentional decision at a time.

So if I bring you a meal, rest easy and know this: I choose to bring you a meal because I want to do it.

*If you really are trapped and do not feel you are able to make choices for yourself, I encourage you to seek guidance from a professional. Tell a friend or someone you trust. You are valuable human being and your voice matters.

Originally published at Her View From Home.

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The Opportunity in Your Imperfections

Stepping Out of Self-Shame: Part 4

Messing up is exhausting. Guess who didn’t wear her glasses to school again today? I mean, seriously! Four weeks ago I started this series talking about my sweet Amelia and how both of us forget to be sure she’s wearing her important reading glasses to school.  I don’t pay close attention to these details and I forget stuff like this a lot, so a few years ago I fell into a pattern of calling myself “stupid” and “an idiot” and “the worst mom” as punishment for my failures. And I tell you what, that self-shame didn’t improve my performance. In fact, it did nothing but make me feel horrible and act ugly toward others.

(Click here–>The Prerequisite to Empowering Others)

Just like most people, I would rather hide the ugly and weak parts of me than feel exposed. I don’t want to put myself in a vulnerable position where others might see these things and think less of me. You know…like in a blog post…on the Internet…for all the world to see! But as a reader, when do you feel the most connected to me as the writer of this blog? When I have all the answers and look good, strong and competent? Or when I tell real stories that expose my honest thoughts, feelings, weaknesses and the ways I mess up? IMG_5478

When do you suppose others feel most connect to you?

How Do You Love?

Love is such a confusing word. We love a great burger and we love our parents. We can be in love with that dress and in love with that man in my arms. But when I’m talking about loving others despite how I feel, I’m talking about a certain kind of love.

It’s not a pressure-filled love that comes from a place of shame. I’m talking about a kind of love that comes from a heart that knows what it’s like to be forgiven. It’s the kind of love that longs for others to experience the freedom of forgiveness, too!

And how do we know if we’re sharing that kind of love?

“We don’t believe something by merely saying we believe it, or even when we believe that we believe it. We believe something when we act as if it were true.”
— Dallas Willard (Renovation of the Heart)

When you…
take an honest look at your situation,
take responsibility for what you’ve done or not done,
and then you…
bask in the freedom of forgiveness rather than beating yourself up,
You are uniquely qualified and able to invite others into that kind of love, too! Because you are acting on what you believe.

Every time I feel exposed and have the urge to beat myself up with my thoughts and words, I have to ask myself again – what do I believe? Is it better to beat myself up when I mess up or to step into the light of love that exposes the reality of my situation and warms my heart to accept responsibility so I can also accept forgiveness and help? Which of these scenarios compells me to love others well?

Download this free printable poster!

My imperfectionsare anopportunityto let my lightshine.

Download

4. Boldly go and display this light of love by inviting others to be honest, allowing them to take responsibility for their mistakes or wrong-doing and then demonstrate your love and forgiveness for them.

It’s not easy or comfortable to invite others to be honest and allow them to take responsibility for what they’ve done or not done. It’s way more comfortable to say, “it’s OK” and try to make them feel better about themselves than it is to actually say, “I forgive you.”

It’s hard to ask for forgiveness and harder still to offer forgiveness. But when you’ve basked in the warmth that love and forgiveness provides, you know it’s more powerful than being defensive, making exuses or punishing yourself. Will you take the easy route or will you press in and dig deeper to both receive and offer real grace and forgiveness? It is, after all, the prerequisite to truly empowering others.

What is more compelling than that kind of love?

 

Why I Wear Sunglasses In Wal-Mart, And Perhaps You Should Too

Indications of Sensory Sensitivity

It just happened. We were looking at pictures of the Nebraska State Fair in anticipation of visiting soon when Grant screeched with glee, right in my ear. I don’t know how to describe how disturbing it is for me when loud, sharp noises upset my internal equilibrium. I went from being at complete peace to feeling inner turmoil in an instant. An INSTANT.

This, my friends, is not a an emotional problem. It is not a relational problem. I am not screwed up and neither is my son. It is not a spiritual problem, though I believe everything is spiritual in one way or another. No, this mood-altering screech was a direct hit to my nervous system. It is physical. I am extremely sensitive to sound.

I don’t think I really noticed it before I had kids. Perhaps something happened in childbirth that impacted my nerves in ways that left me more sensitive to sensory stimulation than I was before. (Check out my series on Childbirth and Postpartum Depression by clicking here) I’ve done a lot of personal research on the matter and I absolutely believe that sensory sensitivity is a thing. A real thing. The sounds of chaotic play, startling “bangs” and screeching children can throw me into instantaneous sobs. INSTANTLY.

shadesMaybe I’m Not Crazy

I avoid our local Wal-Mart* as much as I can unless I feel lazy or desperate. I’ve heard of many reasons why different people avoid it but I have one: It makes me crazy.

I am well aquainted with my tendency to become irritable as I shop there but the other day I courageously stepped into the door with both kids and a short mission. I wondered how long I had before I would start to feel overwhelmed. It took all of five minutes. Aware of how bright lights also bother me, I took note of the fact I was squinting as I pushed the cart down the asile of dishes I ducked into a moment before. So I put on my sunglasses.

Instant relief. INSTANT.

The muscles around my eyes relaxed and nothing felt as urgent. I wore the glasses for a few minutes before I felt really awkward and tucked them back in my purse while I rushed through collecting our remaining necessities. As we checked out I looked around and saw narry a smile. I wondered how many of the employees who work there day after day are also sensitive to the harsh light bouncing off of the blue walls, white fixtures and shiny floors? How many people leave this store believing they hate it, not really knowing why?

How Do I Know & What Do I Do?

Friends, many of us are sensitive to sensory stimulation and just think we’re irritable people. Many of your children are and don’t know how to tell you. So let ME tell you.

If you prefer to work with the lights dimmed…

If you think more clearly when music with a strong beat is playing…

If you cut out the tags in your clothes or find comfort in twirling your hair…

You may be sensitive.

If your infant relaxes when listening to loud heart-beat sounds (as described in this article: click here)…

If your daughter likes to wear tight clothing that presses securely on her skin…

If your son refuses to eat foods with strange textures…

Your child may be sensitive.

There is much more to say on this matter, including the power of sensitivity. I will likely be writing about it for years to come. But for now, know this. If you or your child is sensitive to sight, sound, taste, touch or smell, do three things:

  1. Be Aware. Watch for it. Take note of moments when you feel or your child feels irritable or overwhelmed and consider how your environment may be making you uncomfortable. Plan ahead for next time.
  2. Increase Your Buffer. Intentionally stay in your super-comfort zone at times so that other times you can take courageous steps into an overstimulating environment.
  3. Rest. And above all, get sleep! Sleep makes a world of difference.

Are you sensitive? Do you think of yourself as an irritable person at times, perhaps especially after having kids? What steps do you want to take to help yourself or your child?

Maybe we could all just wear sunglasses in Walmart so no one feels awkward!

*I do not intend to ever bash anyone or anything and that is not the purpose of this article. If you know someone who has a voice with Wal-Mart, please forward them this post so they are aware of this issue that negatively effects their company, completely unrelated to their business practices. Thank you.

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Not So Great Expectations

How do you deal with others’ expectations?  I know that some people are better at meeting expectations when there is a threat of shame. Not me. I would rather run away. Put pressure on me and I avoid you and your task. Ugh. Not the most healthy option…

So I have to think of other ways to deal with expectations. This week my post is an article I wrote for Her View From Home. In it I explain how I’ve learned to deal with expectations. It’s not about people pleasing and it’s not about running away. I hope you’ll take a minute and click to read more here:

When You Feel Trapped… Andrea Joy Wenburg at Her View From Home

Deeply,

AJ

Photo by Amelia Wenburg

Photo by Amelia Wenburg

When The Walls Close In

This weekend I made a poor decision: I went to the department store Sunday morning. My daughter had a birthday party to attend after church and needed a gift. We were up early and in need of a few staples, so I grabbed my bags and we headed out so I could cross one of the jobs off my list. Sometimes it feels good to get a head start on the day.

Sometimes it’s just foolish. Our little mother-daughter shopping date turned into a race against time – a race I knew I was going to lose by the time we hit the self-checkout. Frantic-mommy whispers escaped as my sweet daughter tried to help.

Just stay BACK! Stop doing that! Move! I HATE coming here!

She looked at me and backed off. I can only imagine what was going through her head: “What happened to the kind mommy who held my hand as we walked in?”

I carried that irritable energy with me through most of the day. When I had a few quiet moments, I took a step back and recalled something I said in my talk to a mom’s group last week.

I didn’t realize I was depressed because for two years I covered my sadness with irritability. Sadness was under all of that frustration.

I’m not depressed right now, but I certainly have my irritable days. I don’t want them to multiply and become the norm for me again, so I intentionally work to discern irritability’s cause.

In this quiet moment I asked: What is sad about this situation?

I felt the walls of the store closing in on me. I felt pressure. The competing pressures to be on time and accomplish my tasks pressed in on me in the store. I generally seem to be able to handle one without the other, but when there is a time crunch on my to-do list, I feel trapped.

That’s the thing about pressure. Unless there are actual walls closing in on me, pressure is an illusion – just like this picture. There was no real danger.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons

The objective reality was that I mismanaged my time and there were going to be natural consequences for that. I was going to be the reason we would walk into church late. None of us like being late and I don’t like to miss any music at the beginning of the service. I felt like I was letting my family down. And that was sad to me.

But I wasn’t going to change the sad consequence at the self-checkout, so what did I do? I redistributed the pressure I felt and placed it on Amelia. Brilliant.

Managing time is not my forte. I’m going to mess up again. But I hope next time I will take a breath and choose to reject the perception of pressure, accept the consequences that follow and live with kindness in the moment.

Because finding sadness under my irritability can relieve pressure and release me to love.

For more on my experience with depression, check out my series: 

When I Should Feel Joy & 11 Tips for Preventing and Fighting Depression

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