And the answer is…No!

Lorien Haynes is a yes person. We asked her to spend a month living opposite to her customary way

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And the answer is...No!

The power of no: Lorien Haynes puts a stop to all the drains in her life.

Before

I’m a yes person. I was brought up that way. I had to be polite; accommodating. I was taught to avoid confrontation; that other people’s needs were more important than my own. Twenty years of that and I give beyond my capacities. It’s a problem. My therapist has begged me to use the word no.

But I needed to sit down and work out how no could be a positive. What do I need to say no to, that would be a good thing? I drew up categories. The first is to say no to what is physically unhealthy for me: coffee, booze, sugar and the rest.

Secondly, no to what is unhealthy for me emotionally. No to the negative voices in my head – self-loathing and doubt. No to people-pleasing. No to those who constantly drain my energy, to friends who ask for things I wouldn’t ask for myself.

Then, thirdly, to break a habit of a lifetime – no to the people closest to me. My daughter, a beautiful teenager, who needs no to combat the 24/7 phone enslavement. No to her treating me like a bank; no to her talking back to me.

So, now there is no one left in my life. It’s just going to be me and Kate, the ex ‘no girl’ (see her story here). 

After

It was a rocky start. Apart from discovering that people-pleasing is an addiction, I find out that caffeine withdrawal causes migraines so chronic I actually threw up in my car.

I had some difficult ‘nos’ to say. No to a flirtation with someone I discovered has a girlfriend. No to my ex, whose job means his plans change constantly and, this month, I wasn’t able to accommodate him.

There was continual fighting with my daughter and amazement from friends: ‘What do you mean you won’t listen to me while I talk at you for 20 minutes?’ Two of my best friends evaporated.

It made me angry to start with. I mean, really – fuck them all. Then the relief set in. I realised how incredibly drained I have been. Without sugar and caffeine, I became less stressed and irritable. And, having broken my poor eating habits, I opted to do my first juice cleanse and, by the end of the month, had lost 7lbs.

Saying no to anything I didn’t want to do, and no to draining friends, to drama, to favours, gave me more time to focus on what I actually wanted to do; my work. I put my work first. I got up early, clearing space every morning to write before anything or anyone could interrupt me. I worked hard and it paid off.

We created a great scene in my acting lessons and got a class win. I redrafted my play and film script – which got through to the second round of the Sundance Screenwriters Labs. And a new friend, who loves my drawings, put me in touch with a friend of hers who’s opening a gallery in Los Angeles – and I was offered a solo exhibition.

All these opportunities came through people I’d recently met or newly prioritised; people who were offering me something. Saying no to the vampires meant I’d been able to welcome some givers into my life. And the support I’ve received from them has been nothing short of amazing.

To be continued…

I’m not saying no is the new elixir, but changing my default reaction from yes means I now take time to consider things before I answer.

Lorien’s first play, ‘Good Grief’, has been workshopped in New York and her exhibition is currently on in LA

Coach yourself: Yes or No?

Consider these points and find your best answer.

Boundaries help us to choose what we allow to happen in our lives and to create what we want in our lives. Do you need to defend your boundaries by saying no more often; or do you need to expand them by saying yes to new opportunities? Try answering these coaching questions in your journal:

  • If you had to write a code of conduct for the people you allow to enter your life, what five rules would you create?
  • What would be the deal-breakers?
  • When someone in your circle challenges a boundary that you have put in place, what would your normal reaction be?
  • Make a list of the people and activities in your life that give you energy; and those that drain your energy and feel like a burden. What boundaries do you need to put in place to spend more time on the first, more uplifting, list?

Photograph: iStock