It seems so much easier to just say “Yes” to someone or some thing than to risk disappointing or upsetting that person. But when we really mean “No,” and still say “Yes,” everyone ultimately ends up disappointed and we, especially, feel we have broken some cardinal rule by not going along. Subsequently, we may develop feelings of guilt.
Much of the confusion that arises when we develop a habit of not responding in a manner that reflects our honest desire is due to the sets of expectations we hold in mind. We have certain expectations of ourselves, sometimes without realizing we do. We expect to be a good person, to respect others, to want to be there for them. Failing, in our mind, to honor these expectations can make us feel unworthy or can lead us to fear we will not be loved.
It is also true that others have expectations that may or may not be obvious to them or to us as we interact with them. Without saying so clearly a person may harbor an expectation that we will take some action or perform some act that they think they need us to do for them. It is clear how the unspoken expectation can lead to disappointment and perhaps even more serious frustration that damages the relationship.
In The Book of Awakening the author, Mark Nepo, writes of this conflict:
And how many times, once trained in self-sacrifice, do we have the opposite conversation with ourselves; our passion for life saying yes, yes, yes, and our practical guardedness saying, don’t be foolish, be realistic, don’t leave yourself unprotected. But long enough on the journey, and we come to realize an even deeper aspect of all this: that those who truly love us will never knowingly ask us to be other than we are.The unwavering truth is that when we agree to any demand, request, or condition that is contrary to our soul’s nature, the cost is that precious life force is drained off our core. Despite the seeming rewards of compliance, our souls grow weary by engaging in activities that are inherently against their nature.
He also mentioned how he realized his first marriage was a case of saying yes when he meant no. Especially when we are young, having been brought up to think and act in a certain way, we may confuse doing the “right” thing for someone else with the “wrong” thing for ourselves. Until we recognize the need to be true to ourselves, we will fail at being true to others. More importantly, we will fail to find the happiness and fulfillment that we seek.
Then there is the whole issue of doing things we believe will earn the love of someone important in our lives. Love does not exist because you do or do not do something for that person. Our love for someone cannot depend upon them changing to more closely reflect our expectations for them. Either we love freely because we love, or there is something else going on in the relationship.
To do something someone else, a family member or friend, wants us to do when we honestly feel it is not something we want to do, can leave us feeling that we will lose their love or acceptance. This is a strong inhibitor that can prevent us from clearly communicating why we choose to not comply.
Expectations are often dressed up as “should.” It is almost an absolute rule of thumb that the minute the word “should” is attached to a request or an action, we must step back and clearly consider the more subtle elements of such a request or action. Are we doing it only because we were taught that we “should” do it? Each of us must ask and answer this question for ourselves, but it awaits our consideration.
Most of us are familiar with the words of John Lydgate and adapted by Lincoln:
You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
Expectations and shoulds are part of the problem that comes of saying yes when you really mean no. Say what you mean and mean what you say! This may not prevent every problem we have in our relationships or in our goals in life, but it will certainly free us from many of them.