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This weekend, as I sat sipping coffee at a table in the greenroom of a writer’s festival preparing notes for my next session, I stopped for a minute just to take it all in. While it was a busy weekend of juggling professional and personal responsibilities, not once did I feel like I was doing something out of step. In fact it was just the opposite, I knew my value.

A few days before, I had been talking with a friend of mine who is feeling a bit depleted and stretched to her limit.

Both of us have made some tremendous changes in our lives over the course of the last year and one of the discussions we keep coming back to is knowing your value and protecting your bandwidth.

Following one of the sessions, I was sitting with a few authors. One of them inquired about how I decide who I work with. She explained that years prior she had her own business and was frustrated because she didn’t have the flexibility or freedom to say no. Instead, she took on every potential client that sought her out and had to chase down others simply to accommodate her bottom line.

I told her it comes down to two things for me: I need to believe in the content and message, and if I sense even the slightest lack of authenticity, my answer is no.

It really is that simple, but it wasn’t always that way.

When I made the decision to walk away from my previous position, I did so with the intention of being selective about my next steps. While my career had always been fulfilling and meaningful, it certainly came with difficult moments as well. It was those moments that became my guiding force in doing the next chapter on my terms, knowing whatever came next had to be weighted in purpose, passion, and a belief in what I was doing.

Whether my business is still thriving in 5 years, if my dream position presents itself, or a completely new door opens at some point over the course of time, I know that by changing my own narrative, I have the freedom to say yes when I want to. It has allowed me to build a life based on my own value as opposed to overextending myself to the point where the people who deserve the best parts of me are left with very little.

And while having the ability to say no is liberating, for some people it can be extremely difficult.

For my friend, she has an inherent need to please, particularly in her professional life, so although she knows she should say no, at times she struggles to do so.

But what is it about saying no that creates such internal struggle? Both in our personal lives and our professional lives?

How many of you are simply going around and around on the hamster wheel, wanting to jump off and remove yourself from the rat race but are unclear of what will happen once you do? You just keep saying yes and around you go once more.

I understand.

Several years ago, as my husband was at the height of his struggle, I was single parenting, and my beloved dog who had been with me for 13 years passed away, things at work weren’t exactly sunshine and roses either.

There were days when I wanted to grab my things, walk out, and never look back.

But, I couldn’t.

My circumstances didn’t allow me the freedom to say no. I had a family to provide for.

And it wasn’t easy. In fact, it was extremely difficult. But sometimes our greatest lessons come at our deepest moments of pain, forcing us to look at the bigger picture.

For me, owning my value and protecting my bandwidth were things I was forced to learn through the balance of motherhood, single-parenting, and climbing the ladder. But those lessons are different for each of us, uniquely created to challenge us to grow.

I was talking with another friend who is going through some relationship troubles. It was the age-old scenario of girl meets boy, all is going well, and then boy disappears. She feels emotionally invested and like her potential new partner has turned his back on her. It may or may not be the case but what I did remind her of was that she sets her own value.

If someone isn’t investing in you, why would you invest in them?

As I was thinking about both situations, one friend struggling through professional circumstances and another through personal – I received the following note from another friend and it was perfectly timed:

Attract what you expect. Reflect what you desire. Become what you respect. Mirror what you admire.

Although difficult at times, each tough moment cemented a desire in me, little by little building up to when I would lean into my new life – a life based on saying no when it didn’t feel right, owning my value, and protecting my bandwidth.

And much like I said to my girlfriend, you decide. Nobody else can do that for you. You must find the space within yourself that allows you to say no without guilt or shame.

Even if your circumstances aren’t ideal, even if you don’t know what is waiting for you on the other side of that no, even if you are scared – it’s up to you.

This week, allow yourself the freedom to say yes to the things that fulfill you and no to those that don’t. Whether it is a partner demanding too much of your time, a boss asking you to do something you are uncomfortable with, or friends wanting to have a night out while you would rather curl up with a book.

By allowing yourself to say no, you create your value. And why shouldn’t you set that bar high?

Cheers to a new week and raising the bar!!

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