How Learning to Say No Helped Me Make Time for the Things that Matter

By Katie Corbett

Everything in your life takes up room, even if that isn’t physical space. Things, people and ideas can take up emotional space as well as time. If this is a positive, no problem. Negative situations in your life, however, can fill space that could be occupied by something better.

Author Rachel Hollis, in “Girl, Wash Your Face,” advises looking at your life and making sure you only leave room for things you want to be there. I took her advice and made room for a great new friendship. Here’s what happened.

I have a friend from college who is fun to hang out with. We have a lot in common and enjoy many of the same activities. This friend, however, is flexible to the point of being stressful to schedule with; details are vague or keep changing. This person has opinions about where and when we get together, but it takes a while to pin down a plan. This was fine when we were in college since we lived minutes from each other and had more time freedom. Now, however, this is not the case. After one particularly stressful planning session, I said “Screw it,” and cancelled—which I hate doing. I decided I wouldn’t get together with this person unless we had a date, time and place firmly established. I discovered that reliability is important to me and I want all my relationships to be with people who display that quality. I took a break from this friendship for a couple weeks

In the meantime, I started getting together with one of my husband’s friends. This friend loves the outdoors and I had been hoping to find someone with whom to do things like hiking, canoeing and birding. This friend is also reliable and tries her best to be on time.

My other friend texted me and asked to hang out. It took about an hour—I’m not kidding—but we were able to pin down a date, time and place. I had to stand firm and say no to a few ideas that would have made things complicated, and ask many questions to elicit this person’s preferences. In the end, though, we got together at the specified hour and had a nice time.

By letting go of the need to be flexible–and the stress that comes with it–I made room for someone fun to have a more prominent place in my life. And I didn’t have to completely let go of my other friendship to do it; I let go of my need to please others beyond the point to where it’s good for me. I’m relieved I had this realization and can enjoy both relationships stress-free.

I encourage you to take a look at your own life and prioritize the things, ideas and people in it. What kinds of space do they take up? Is there something else you want that you don’t have room for currently? Saying no, even if it’s just to yourself, can be scary. If you stick with it and remain true to yourself and what you want, it will be worth it.

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