Summer is finally here, and with the start of July I’m taking a moment to have a sacred pause. I have ended my social obligations for now and I am using the month of July with no other commitments than work and family. I am saying no to anything — which is a new experience for me.
This past year I have learned how to start using the word “NO.” And yes, I realize I am 40 years old and I am just now learning how to say this uncomfortable word and be confident about it. It sounds silly but sometimes “no” sounds like the biggest, scariest, nastiest word in the English language. I used to think saying no meant I would hurt feelings, endanger a relationship, or cause sadness or anger. Until I realized those are all the things I feel when I say “yes” to something that should have been a “no.” What a revelation!
Last month I gave a workshop to a group of young girls over the Book of Esther in the Bible and a theme came up that I had not anticipated. During the first day of class I told the girls if they didn’t like a topic of discussion, tell me no. We also talked about how Esther used “no” to stand up for herself and her people. We revisited that theme over the week and truly, I never gave it any thought. At the end of the camp, I asked the girls to tell me something they learned and half of them said they realized it was okay to say the word “no.” They didn’t realize no wasn’t a “bad word.”
Oh dear girls. I have missed the boat. I had to seize that moment and tell them about the gift of “no” and what grace and beauty there is in saying “no” to what isn’t right or good for you.
No is communication, no is protection, and more importantly, no is standing up for yourself. No means I am important and my time, thoughts and efforts offer worth and value to this world. I have a spirit that will be listened to.
After all, this is the word that women have used to make history. Rosa Parks said “no” when she was told to stand up. Wilma Rudolph said “no” when doctors told her she would never walk again. Amelia Earhart said “no” when she was told to act like a lady. Audrey Hepburn said “no” when she saw how hunger can destroy the body.
No starts change. No makes history. No is an act of confidence. No is a defiant dance of self-worth. All girls must learn the value of a no. No is an act of self-love. No is grace and grit.
Teaching our daughters to become comfortable with the word no is teaching her to be empowered. Help her grasp this concept in her pre-teen years so she fits comfortably in it by her teen years. If she starts learning its beauty now by her teen years it will feel like a favorite pair of sweatpants.
But before I end this blog, fair warning — daughter and I have started this summer with the No Project and she is learning how to say it. She has said no to babysitting jobs she doesn’t want, no to an outing with a friend. I was feeling good with our progress until I told her she had to do the dishes……touché daughter, touché.