The Star Chart

Star chart

I wrote last week about allowing myself to say no and how I managed that this year by designating this the Year of Saying No to Everything. I also wrote about how bad I felt every time I let someone down, even if I knew that saying no in any particular situation was the right thing to do.

I don’t want people to be disappointed in me. Though I know in my head that I can’t meet everyone’s needs and expectations, I really want to.

I have thrown party-plan parties where nearly no-one has shown up. I don’t want anyone to go through that. I have organised prayer meetings where week after week no-one has come along but me, and I would almost prefer to be burnt-out than have another person feel that loneliness and failure. (You might have guessed that I’m not the world’s best salesperson. What my friend is, the one I talked about last week with the amazing fundraiser, I am the diametric opposite.)

I want to be able to go to all the things, meet all the needs, comfort all the people, serve on all the committees.

It’s just impossible.

But what is also impossible is living with the feeling of having let so many people down.

Now that I’m getting used to saying no, I’m realising that I’m not necessarily doing a bad thing by letting them down. There are many instances where I would just be an unnoticed extra in the room. There are other times when maybe God wants the person to learn from something falling over (I’m pretty sure that’s what was happening in my prayer group), and that if I show up and be the comforting person I will be stepping in the way of God’s plan.

If I want to follow God’s path for my life then I can’t veer off onto something else anytime someone asks me for a favour.

So this year I decided to reward myself for saying no. If this was the lesson I needed to learn then I needed a shot of encouragement each time I managed to decline an activity.

Moz made me a star chart with a little path of hearts leading the princess to the castle, and I bought shiny gold stars from the local newsagent.

Every time I’ve said no to something this year I have got a gold star on my chart. I am building up to a reward at the end.

I usually check with Moz, “can I have a star for that one?” and he usually says yes. He sees the stressing and overthinking that goes on whenever I turn something down.

Here’s an example:

I was invited out to dinner with a friend on a Friday night. My friend is lovely, she really understands me. She said, “If you can’t come because your introverted self needs time at home, that’s fine.”

My introverted self did need time at home. But the teaching at church and in some podcasts I was listening to was about how important it was to eat with people. How eating together connects us and makes us family. And this friend is very important to me. But at the same time, so was Friday night date night with Moz (we eat takeaway and watch a movie together) and I didn’t know what to do.

Moz was happy with whatever I decided. My friend was happy with whatever I decided. I had to make the decision. I had to set the boundary. I took ages to decide and in the end I sent her a text Friday morning saying no, I wouldn’t come.

Did I get a star for my star chart? You betcha! And that shiny gold star made me feel better about the decision, which I’m sure now was the right one.

You may have no difficulty deciding what is right for you to do and what is not necessary. I know that for some of you who are reading this blog you just can’t understand what my difficulty is and think I should just get over myself (I thank you for continuing to read it anyway). But I hope that for some of you, my journey is providing a helping hand on your own journey.

And maybe it’s not saying no that is the difficult thing for you. Maybe a star chart could be helpful in another area of your life – you could get a star for every half-hour walked, for example. Or for every time you do the dishes before going to bed.

For me, saying no is difficult, but the star chart helps. The reward helps. I can do a hard thing and then get some tangible appreciation of effort outlaid. It’s helping me to train myself in setting boundaries and the little tool of giving myself a gold star when I succeed has made a big difference to how I feel.

Only three stars to go until my final reward. Which I’m pretty sure is going to be a weekend away alone – just me and my books. And a whole heap of chocolate.

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