The Art of “No”–or Why Saying No IS Self Care (Part 1)

Me in the Cosmos, France-recovering from small business owner burnout
Me in the Cosmos, France-recovering from small business owner burnout

When I was 24 I didn’t really know what I wanted to “DO” with my life. So, I bought a flower shop. (Obviously. As you do.)

As anyone can tell you who is self-employed or has owned a small business, it’s no cake walk—certainly not at the start. People have lots of romantic assumptions about small business owners. Like: “But you can get time off whenever you want!!” (as if you are not working your ass off running the show every day 10+ hours and often weekends too.) And “But you can write that off!!” (yes, with all that spare cash I have that’s not literally going to the last cent back into building the business or on repair or upgrades) or: “but you can do (or buy) whatever you want!!” This to some degree is true—time and money and energy permitting.

But mostly what you get a healthy dose of stress & overwork (in between a few fun things). Lol.

I over time grew to understand something really really important from running a small business, and something that I have come to learn applies to many areas of our life as women:

“What you say no to can often define you & nourish you more than what you say yes to.”

This has nothing to do with being a glass half-empty kind of person. I figured this out through my experience of business but over time I’ve seen how this is so true in many areas of our lives.

What you say no to is very, very important.

In my flower shop, I was essentially marketing my creativity with flowers and design. I came to understand that saying no was important to me expressing (or you could even say protecting) an aesthetic that was unique to me—an expression of myself.

If you have never owned a small business, you need to understand how badly everyone wants your money. (It’s kind of like regular life, only worse. You can’t not answer your phone or not answer your door when solicitors come calling!) There are hundreds and hundreds of wholesale companies and distributors who send out commissioned sales reps out regularly to convince you that THEY have what you need in your store. They don’t care at all what your budget is, how many hours a day you work and they are 100% not accountable should 100% of all the things you buy from them not sell.

And it’s like this in life. There are so many demands on our time that are coming at us from all sorts of places: maybe it’s volunteering, working overtime, helping out at your child’s school, doing fundraisers, or donating to umpteen different good causes.

(There’s also the pressures of living in & affording a certain kind of house, working out & staying fit, looking young, keeping that perfect house perfect, being a perfect parent, etc. etc. There’s a LOT of demands that we are expected to juggle.)

In business, I had a set & finite budget for purchasing inventory, & I regularly had to decide: am I that shop that carries a little bit of everything and tries to please everyone? Do I want balloons and stuffies and ceramic baby booties and little knicky-knacks AND high end silk flowers & glassware for custom work AND cutting edge contemporary fresh floral designs? Would that really please everyone? Is that how I want to express myself? Is that what I want to put my time & energy into managing?

And our available energy that we have to dedicate & expend on all of these life demands is much like a business—it is finite & only renewable so far. Do we want to spend all our time working? Volunteering? Hand weeding our lawns? Being the model neighbour  with a postcard perfect yard or a flawless supermom? We have to decide where we want to expend our energy, because we are pressured to give it freely just EVERYWHERE.

And no one is held accountable for how that might actually affect us-except us.

So I had to get really good at saying no to sales people. This did not come easily at first. This does not come easily to a lot of women. We are extremely conditioned to be polite and be accommodating. But when your money is on the line you learn fast what is going to be a total waste of your money AND your time.

You learn to say no.

And yet, somehow when our actual lives are on the line—i.e. our time, & the finite amount of energy we have to spend on our jobs & with our family & loved ones, we can’t seem to draw that same parallel. I sure learned that I wasn’t.

Did the people walking into my shop everyday see that I was saying no to at least a half a dozen sales people per month? Probably not. Did they see all of the typical merchandise & flowers I passed over in the wholesale trucks 3 to 4 times a week? Probably not.

(This all leads into something relevant, I promise!!)

When they came in what they did was see a unique & vibrant selection of bold and tropical cut flowers front and centre that I hand selected (& cherry picked). They did see and appreciate our eclectic selection of unusual potted orchids that no one else in town carried. They loved the unique colour and texture combinations in my arrangements and knew that when they came in for something, it would be creative and one-of-a-kind and miles away from a grocery store floral offering.

Those were my “yes’s”, yes—- but my “no’s” defined my aesthetic and the feeling that people got from being in the space I created just as much.

So what I’m saying is: Saying no to what I didn’t want in my flower shop essentially allowed me to say yes to the things I wanted. This meant I got to work with colors and textures and scents that I loved and I loved making beautiful things for people.

Is this not kinda like life? If we protect time for ourselves, does this not allow us to have room for the things we would rather do? If we clear some of the noise does it not make room to enjoy some sweet music??

Saying no makes space for self nourishment. It can protect our energy, time & integrity. Check out Part 2-where I expand a little on the detrimental effects of trying to people please all the time–and how you too can protect some sacred space & become a “No Pro” without guilt, K?


With love & green blessings for a nourishing & restful season,

Dionne xoxo

your YEG Community Herbalist

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