Updated: Apr 26, 2019
In May 2017, I watched a TEDx video about the process to mentally declutter by learning to say no to things you don't want to do and, instead, prioritize the right stuff in life.
I'm using gentle words to describe what the speaker, Sarah Knight, called, "the life changing magic of not giving a fuck." Since that time, the video on YouTube has had over 5 million views. I think it's caught on, but in case it hasn't, I felt compelled to share it with you.
The basic premise is this: stop feeling guilty for saying no, with respect and honesty, to things you don't want to do.
I am a long-time advocate of this advice and was happy to see someone on the TED stage really dive into this concept and give people permission to, in her words, give no fucks. She has a great way of talking about this, too, she calls the fucks you give "fuck bucks" and suggests you don't give them away lightly.
From experience, I can tell you this approach pissed off a couple of people in my life who perceived it as me not loving them and being selfish. The same thing may happen to you.
But here’s the deal: no one is really owed anything in life. Along those lines, I believe our time is ours to use as it serves us best. It is not best spent constantly bending to the will of others and doing things you do not want to do.
I know some of you may be thinking you have to put God, your kids, or your spouse first. However, you don't have to totally de-prioritize others in order to say no, but you do have to consider how you're treating yourself.
What I am saying is:
I know once in a while we have to put duty first, but too much of that and you’re on a sure path to feeling trapped, angry, and like your life isn’t your own. This can lead to a deep sense of injustice and a lack of fulfillment.
If you find you’re doing a lot of stuff you don’t want to, answering every text as soon as it comes in, always saying yes to invitations out of guilt, then let this sink in:
If you don’t shepherd how you invest your time, you are hurting your chances at living your dream life and likely depriving those you love of seeing you truly fulfilled. Why? Because people who operate out of guilt and a need to preserve other's feelings are often not taking good care of themselves. Sound like you? Well, it was me for a while, too.
Taking back my time and energy and putting it where it needed to be was a long process, but it was worth the investment. I’ve been doing it for years now and am comfortable with saying no (even to family invitations). The freedom is like nothing else you'll experience in life: people often won't mind, others who do, will get over it soon enough, and you'll be FREE to take care of yourself.
Notice I did not say it would be easy.
When my mother tried to do something that was best for her and took back her time and energy on Christmas Eve (after having hosted it for over 50 years) there was a bit of a family meltdown. Mind you, her kids are all over 45.
Why the meltdown?
Because change isn’t easy, even for adults.
I felt badly for the pain associated with my mom’s choice on all sides, but mostly I felt badly for my mother. It was a really hard decision for her, and I think part of that was she knew people weren’t going to make it easy on her to make this important change. But she was tired, getting older, and she really needed this break. I felt true empathy for my mother. I encouraged her to do what she needed to do for her own well-being and she did.
I believe my mom deserves a ton of respect, to be treated with dignity when she makes a decision, and should never be chastised for who she is - and especially not when taking action to care for herself. In fact, we should all be treated that way, shouldn't we?
I am really proud of her for doing what she had been wanting to do for a while, and I would support her again if she decided to go back to the way things were before. Change is good! It is a must if we are going to grow in life.
So, if you feel like you’re saying yes to things you really don’t want to do, give yourself permission to say no now without any regrets. Don’t let guilt guide how you live your life, who you should be, and when or if it’s okay for you to decide what to do with your time.
Likewise, if someone in your life is making a change for themselves they feel is best for them, but that change is hurting you, deal with your emotions without punishing or placing blame and guilt on them. Don’t put the onus on someone else to help you process how you’re feeling. Be supportive, because one day you might be in that same situation, making a tough choice for yourself.
You can watch Sarah's TEDx talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwRzjFQa_Og