The art of saying “no”
When my business partner, Neil Smith, told me he wanted to name our studio LANO (Look After Number One) my initial reaction was the same of most people; it’s selfish, it’s ‘not very yoga’, it lacks community spirit. But, as I embraced the name, embraced the ethos, I came to live and breathe the values it stands for. I started to notice my needs more, and how at times I was sacrificing these needs for others. I discovered that I needed to learn the art of saying no.
The inspiration behind the name came to Neil when he found that he was putting people first in his life at the sacrifice of his own health and well being. He was giving out far too much for others and undervaluing what he needed. And isn’t this what most of us are guilty of, sacrificing ourselves and needs too much in order to fulfil other people’s wishes and make them happy? What would it be like if we all thought more about our own needs and wants, what would that life look like? People often say they don’t have time for themselves, but sometimes by simply saying no to things that aren’t a priority you can make time to look after yourself more, to look after number one.
You see, like many, before I would run around like a headless chicken, busying myself doing lots, never saying “no” to work (I’m a perpetual ‘hate to let people down’ person), doing lots for others, over-committing myself. In short, I was feeling exhausted and living off the adrenaline of doing, of achieving. The thought of taking time out for me was pretty alien. Even my yoga practice had in some way become for others- I would generally be practicing what I was going to be teaching later, or practicing with the ‘yoga teacher head’ on. I found a sense of achievement from all this doing, it felt good prioritising others, there was short-lived happiness and joy from it. Long-term though, I was giving too much of myself away and I was drained and running on empty. Then LANO came along…
LANO was formed in February 2014 and it was from this point on that I noticed how I often over-prioritised others to the detriment of myself. I was drained, frustrated and knew I had to make some changes, starting with saying “no”. This was terrifying for me, as it usually meant letting people down and I found it easier to say yes so that people were happy. But very quickly I felt the benefits of saying no. I noticed that I felt more energised, had more time, wasn’t as stressed, and as a result became a genuinely better person to be around. I found that when I would do things for others I did it with real intent and purpose- I became less autopilot in my approach. I actually wanted to do for others, rather than thinking it was my moral obligation. On top of that, the process wasn’t all about saying no, I also started saying yes; saying yes to new experiences, meeting old and new friends, going to yoga class more. I said “yes” to my needs, wants, desires. I said “yes” to me.
Through all of this, it has become clear to me that the more time I take to look after myself, the happier I feel and the happier those closest to me are. I now strive to live this way each day and have felt the benefits of doing so in all areas of my life. Less ‘doing’ and more ‘being’. I believe that a commitment to practice is a commitment to looking after yourself. Taking yoga class, getting on your mat, in whatever style, form or fashion is an incredible and powerful expression of looking after number one. A regular yoga practice will not only strengthen you physically and mentally, but it will also help you destress from the expectations, demands and social norms of the world we live in. I have also witnessed the positive impact a regular yoga practice brings to the students I teach; people become happier when they decide to be more attentive to their needs and wants. As a yoga teacher I hear it day in, day out: people always feel better on the other side of their practice. It is these benefits, I believe, that keep people practicing, sometimes for a lifetime. Taking time to look after yourself can be as simple as a morning ritual, it doesn’t have to be an hour-long practice.
So try this…each morning take 5-10 minutes to do something for you. This could be a quick practice, some time to sit, set an intention. Do something for you, something that makes you feel good, it doesn’t matter so much what it is. This way you’ve started your day with some time spent for you, and for this you will be in a better place to not only serve yourself, but to serve those around you. Find moments throughout the day where you take some time to check-in, making sure that you aren’t over-sacrificing yourself for others – let’s call these L.A.N.O pit stops, you will then be better equipped to know when to say “no” and when to say “yes.”
The misconception of (L)ooking (A)fter (N)umber (O)ne is that it is a selfish act- I couldn’t disagree more. As people we need connection; friends, lovers, family. We know who we are through our interaction with others. These connections are strengthened, honoured and respected when we first look after ourselves. When we listen to our needs, we start to work toward being the best version of ourselves. As a result we are better positioned to serves our friends, family and the communities we are part of.