Finding Sanity By Just Saying "No"

Saying “no” to myself is sometimes a bit of a tricky situation. I was thinking about it recently when on a particular night after dinner I made the choice to firmly say that small (yet big) word to myself and listened. My relationship with saying no to myself is complicated due to the fact that in the past it wasn’t always used in the most positive, healthy kind of way. The positive way that I am thinking of is using “no” in the context of setting realistic, beneficial, healthy boundaries for myself as opposed to being restrictive or too controlling.
I realized that I am sensitive (and maybe sometimes more ambivalent) to truly say no to myself with food and listen because for so long, part of what added to my overeating was the constant seeking of control, not allowing myself certain things, and thinking that if I did let myself have them that I was “bad.” Even if it doesn’t quite make sense, I think sometimes I would rebel against myself and it took a while to learn how to find a good balance between letting myself have what I want and also setting limits with myself.
I’ve come to realize that it’s the relationship that you have with the saying no and the motives and intentions for saying it that are the most important. On this particular night last week, I had already had a substantial dinner and a reasonable piece of dark chocolate for dessert. I was sort of procrastinating some work I had to do and didn’t have the best day. I started kind of searching around for something else sweet, through cupboards and in the freezer (usually a sign that I’m not really hungry and looking to use food for something that it simply cannot help.) I stopped myself mid freezer search (my hands were getting cold and I felt a little silly), and just told myself, “No.” It wasn’t in a harsh, judgmental way, nor was it in a punishing/self-loathing way. I knew that if I were to be completely honest with myself, what I was searching for wasn’t food and that if I didn’t want to get myself into a black spiral downwards, I needed to stop.
I did stop and I walked away, probably 95% believing that I would actually listen to myself (because I knew my intentions were for the best) and 5% skeptical that I wouldn’t actually listen and have things be okay. I walked myself through the thought process of recognizing that I wasn’t actually hungry, I didn’t need anymore food, I was looking out for my best interests and I was saying no because I knew that by not asserting healthy limits with myself I would in a way be contributing to self-destructive and misplaced behaviors.
In order to find the positive balance of saying no, it can be helpful to investigate and observe where your “no” is or isn’t coming from. Asking questions like, “Am I saying no from a place of attempted control and restriction, or because I know it’s what is truly right for me?” Or, “Am I having a hard time saying no because I don’t want to feel like I can’t have something?” It’s important to remember that you can have whatever you want, but sometimes having whatever you want isn’t what’s going to make you feel best or get you to the place where you feel sane about food.
In the case of my evening hunt for food that I knew was prompted by non-hunger driven cues, I said no and walked away. It was a bit of challenge to stick with it and trust that the feeling would pass, but I took some deep breaths and did it. I went and did the project that I needed to get done and the sort of swirly, compulsive feeling inside of me for a snack did subside. Saying no to myself and listening allowed me to step away and forced me to tolerate some of what else might have been going on. My attention was also elsewhere and I had room to shift things.
Saying no to myself this time didn’t feel authoritarian or controlling, instead it felt like I was honoring myself while being honest and real. It definitely takes some patience and practice to get here, but I think it is definitely something that is really helpful and worth looking into!
Do you guys find it hard to say “no” to yourself, or do you find that you say it too much? What kinds of intentions or motives are usually behind them? -Morgan

2 Responses to Finding Sanity By Just Saying "No"

  1. This is such a great post! Saying no it’s bad. You can say no as long as you also give yourself some leeway sometimes.

  2. Sunny says:

    Finding the balance between treating yourself kindly and with compassion and saying “no” when it’s necessary is so tough. But it’s so important. Great post, Morgan. xo…Sunny

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