Most children learn the word, “no,”during the terrible twos age. They are creating their own space and searching for their independence by asserting what they like, what they don’t like and what they just have no use in trying out whatsoever. It’s a part of understanding the process of setting boundaries and even goes deeper than that if you care to discuss the mainstay of human survival. We, as humans, need to create healthy boundaries so we can exist and flourish in this game of life. That’s one of the reasons small children are so fond of the word no – they are expressing their power and trying to assert control over their lives. Now, at two years old, there’s really not a heck of a lot of control they have, but it sets the tone for all things later in life.
But what happens when a child is taught to not create these boundaries? What happens when a child is taught that they cannot say no, and that its okay for other people to dominate them, control them and abuse them?
I can tell you it’s not easy to set boundaries, or even feel like you have a right to tell someone, “no”, when it’s been instilled in you that you have no voice, that your feelings don’t matter, and someone else’s pleasure takes precedent over your pain. As a kid, you feel like you just don’t matter, or you bury it somewhere deep inside in a dark place where it grows like a disease in the recesses of suppressed memory.
Saying, “NO,” sound so simple, right? It’s a small word. It’s easy to pronounce. Most people understand it, no matter their language. And yet, it can be so difficult to express for many of us.
When my uncle first abused me at the age of three, I didn’t know what was happening. I trusted him. I loved him. I just thought he was giving me a bath. When I felt the physical pain of it, he told me this was the way it was supposed to be and I couldn’t say no. I gave away all my power to him.
This set up a lifetime of continuously doing that over and over and over again – giving away my power, especially to those I viewed as authority figures, or older adults. I suffered sexual abuse more times than I care to remember or dwell upon. When I would get in situations where I felt a physical, mental, or emotional violation, I would withdraw and go right back to that three-year old perspective of not having a voice. The times when I did seem to find my voice, it came out screeching and filled with venom. It was as if all the times I hadn’t spoken were bottled up inside and came out in one gigantic wave. The emotion would be so strong, that my opinion still didn’t matter, because I came across as a screaming shrew.
Finding that balance of speaking my truth, while being in my power has been one of my greatest lessons. It’s still something I contend with and am very sensitive about. I analyze my words and do my best to keep myself in check to make sure I am not exaggerating based on an emotional trigger. And honestly, sometimes, I just let the words rip from my mouth, because that’s what the situation calls for.
Mostly, I’ve discovered I am a whole lot happier and healthier by allowing myself to say, “NO”. That word means not at all, to no extent, and it’s necessary to set those boundaries for yourself. It’s not your job to make everyone happy. You owe it to yourself to BE happy.
I’ve learned it’s okay to say, “NO,” to anyone – your spouse, your kids, your family, your friends, your boss, etc. Heck, it’s okay to SCREAM it if you need to.
Just don’t say, “NO,” to your power and your boundaries. They are important and YOU are worthy of them.