My dear and darling friend, who is a few years younger than I am, was recently talking to me about stress at work.
I couldn't help but tell her that I used to have a lot of work stress, stress that wasn't so much about the job but about the way that I thought about the job. I told her a lot of it had stopped.
She wanted to know what happened.
I told her I learned to say no.
I know that every job has requirements. I have a lot of responsibilities. When you're a lawyer, the people who you work for depend on you to advise them about their rights and responsibilities. If my advice is wrong, it could cost my clients money, prevent them from collecting money that is owed to them. I could be sued, my firm could be sued. Our client could fire me and cost my firm money. In the worst case scenario, my law license could be taken away from me.
It took me a long time to come to terms with the responsibilities of my job. There are a lot of things that I have to do. There are, however, a lot of things that I can choose not to do and that's where the no comes in. A very effective little word. Short, to the point, easily spelled.
Over the years, I realized that I often said yes at work when my gut was telling me to say no. I took cases I didn't want, accepted assignments I wasn't prepared to handle. I kept a job at the "right" firm, even after it was long apparent to me that it was the wrong place for me.
Yes was often making me miserable and I suffered for it.
Let me tell ya'll, I quit that and my life got 100% better.
Knowing when to say no changed my life.
Accepting my limitations (even if they were self-imposed) and listening to myself, my assessments, my beliefs was part of it. Being willing to take the shit when my decisions weren't popular was another part. Putting my ego aside when I didn't feel equipped, for whatever reason, to do the job, was another piece.
I have found that listening to myself has never given me a moment's difficulty. At no time have I ever regretted keeping my own counsel and doing what I believed was right even when it didn't make sense to anyone else, including those who love me. I have only come to grief in this life when I ignored that voice in my head, when I listened to others or when I refused to listen to myself. When I tried to do the "right" thing and not the "true" thing.
I wonder how much happier women would become if they learned how and when to say no.
The next time you feel your stomach churning at work, give it a shot. You might be surprised.