In one of her early sessions, I asked her what would happen if she said NO. She answered very honestly: “I would feel guilty and I would be afraid of disappointing them. So, I prefer to say YES. In this way I don't feel bad".
When I invited her to reflect on the consequences and "costs" of her difficulty of saying NO, Clara began to understand that saying YES had profound negative effects on her quality of life. Clara, in fact, could not indulge in any of her hobbies (especially writing), she could not cultivate meaningful relationships and she was always painstakingly late. Furthermore, she realized that her tendency to avoid disappointing anyone was keeping her away from physical activity which had proved to be an effective tool for managing her diabetes and heart condition. But, despite these achievements, Clara was not yet willing to make time for herself: it was easier to say YES than experiencing the anxiety that a NO would have triggered.
However, when her doctor pointed out that her clinical situation had definitely worsened and that she would have to take better care of herself to avoid heart surgery, Clara decided it was time to learn to say NO: her life was more important than her fear of disappointing others.
We agreed to start a training plan consisting of a series of exercises that would allow her to claim back time and space in a short time. In less than a month, she gradually learned to say NO gracefully, not to react to her husband and her children’s long faces, and to take better care of herself, both physically and emotionally.
Thanks to her determination and practice, she finally managed to understand that there could be a balance between being available for others and making time for herself. This new awareness gave her self-esteem a boost of energy and gave her the ability to enjoy her relationships with people. Clara's heart began to improve.
Now you might ask yourself: how did Clara learn to say NO?