Susan Ortolano, M.A., CMRC, PCC
Intuitive Life & Relationship Coach

The Power of No

bigstockphoto_The_New_Beginning_139502 20-ish years ago a close friend of mine told me about a self-defense program she was taking. She said it was really powerful and that I MUST take it. I was living alone at the time and thought it might be a good idea.

The program was really intense. The “muggers” were dressed in big padded suits with huge heavy helmets. We would learn a skill and then have to face the muggers as they attacked us. They went full out on us and we were instructed to do the same. One of the skills we learned was once we got the mugger down, we were to smash their face with our foot and yell NO, NO, NO. Although the physical aspect of the program left me feeling a bit more powerful, the biggest impact for me was yelling NO three times. It felt really weird and uncomfortable at first. It was one of the biggest challenges of the program for me. I had no idea at the time that the word “NO” would be an even bigger deal to me as life moved forward.

In my former profession as a teacher, I had to say no quite a bit. No, you can’t go to the restroom right now; no, I will not change your grade; no you can’t retake that test. There were many moments where my compassion got the best of me and I would give in and say yes. Yes, I’ll stay after school and talk with you; yes, you can turn your homework in a day late; and yes, you can leave a little early today. To the administration it was yes, I’ll be on that committee; yes, I will go to that meeting; yes, I will handle that for you.

I definitely had a hard time saying no and I extended myself way beyond my physical and energetic capabilities. It was exhausting.

I had a hard time saying no outside of my work as well. With my first husband, my “no” didn’t seem to mean anything. No, you can’t buy that motorcycle, its more money than we can spend right now; no, you can’t have an “extracurricular” love life; no, you can’t just “not” have a job; and no, you can’t speak to me like that. I didn’t hold strong boundaries with him or with some of my friends at the time either. I gave myself away, let people treat me badly, let them take advantage of my loving and compassionate nature, and then I got sick.

Although getting sick was a nightmare, it gave me the “motivation” I needed to learn the power of NO and hold better boundaries. NO, I won’t be going to that event; NO, I will not be able to help you; NO, I will not be continuing my work as a teacher; and NO, I will not be in a relationship or friendship that doesn’t work for me.

I finally had the courage to let people out of my life who didn’t treat me well and choose more of what I wanted. It came out of necessity, but it began to shift things.

Today, although I’m much better at it, it is still a work in progress. Having my own business has gifted me with new opportunities to hold good boundaries: NO you can’t have your session if you haven’t paid me; NO, you can’t show up late and expect me to extend you the extra time without charging you; NO, you can’t miss a scheduled session and not pay for it; and NO, I do not do this for free.

Even though holding good boundaries is still a work in progress I no longer need to use my health circumstances as a reason to take a stand for myself. I now have to let people have their own reaction to my truth and let go of thinking I have to fix it, make it better, or resolve the disappointment for them.

Now, I don’t need to provide an explanation or a reason unless I choose to; a simple NO, because it just doesn’t work for me, will do. Funny how so many things in my life have been improving….

Yelling NO three times now feels just fine.

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