Cyprus Mail
Life & Style

Learning to say no


By Alexia Saleem

Long before I’d met my husband or had children myself, I remember a childhood friend of mine telling me she and her husband hadn’t been out for dinner alone since she’d had her two-year-old daughter.

I was absolutely horrified and proceeded to tell her all the reasons why it was imperative she make time to have dinner with her husband. She listened, smiled and nodded her head. Once I was done, convinced I’d done a stellar job of stating my case, she spoke: “I hear you. I just don’t want to.”

I thought she was mad and felt she was putting her marriage in jeopardy. I also couldn’t understand why she didn’t want to leave her child at home to have a night out. Life, after children, doesn’t cease to exist. Surely, she had to put herself and her marriage first?

But she hadn’t tried to defend herself. She hadn’t gotten angry. She hadn’t tried to make excuses or felt the need to explain herself. She had simply stated what made her happy. What worked for her.

What I thought she should be doing was, quite frankly, irrelevant to her.

The impact of her words, however, have stayed with me.

“I don’t want to.”

How many times had I done things I hadn’t wanted to but felt I had to? How many times had I wished I’d had the courage to say no? How many times had I ignored my intuition to please others?

Fast forward 10 years and I now have a husband and children of my own.

One of the many things I love about life is that it has a way of teaching you what you need to help you grow, by holding up a big mirror. In that mirror you will often find yourself in the shoes of people and situations you have judged. The experience is both humbling and rewarding.

It has been my experience that these life lessons most often occur when you least expect it. You then have a choice to be tickled by them and grow or to ignore them.

On March 5, 2016 my life changed overnight. And more importantly I changed. It was the day I became a mother. It was the day I started to regain my voice. To listen to my inner wisdom. To say: “I don’t want to.”

Now I’m not sure about you, but in my experience “I don’t want to” or “no” doesn’t go down too well with a lot of people. It never used to go down well with me either. Sometimes it still doesn’t.

I have lost count of the number of times since having children where I have found myself being judged for something I used to judge other people for. And the more aware I have become of it, the more opportunities for growth seem to come my way.

Breastfeeding, co-sleeping, toilet training, babysitting, schooling, discipline, my appearance, my relationship with my husband, the list goes on…

Given the number of opportunities for growth that come my way, it would appear I’m pretty judgemental. The irony is I used to think I wasn’t judgemental at all.

And the beauty of all this growth and all this judgment is that I’ve discovered it’s never been about other people but about me all along.

It’s been about my relationship with myself and my challenge to give myself permission to be me. Without judgment. Without worrying about what other people will say or think.

I look at my own two children and I witness two observers of life. Unafraid of other peoples’ opinions and free of judgment. They still know how to say, “I don’t want to”. They know what feels good and what doesn’t. They are free spirited and brave.

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