I’ve watched the movie 27 Dresses at least ten times and I’m not ashamed to tell you that. This most recent time, however I noticed something different—an exceptional metaphor for how saying no can reconnect us to ourselves.
There’s a scene where Katherine Heigl’s character is literally practicing saying ‘No’.
She’s the character that is always rushing around give, give, giving to everyone else, without pausing long enough to reflect on her own needs. It’s so unnatural to her to say no because she’s just never done it before. At this point in the movie she’s starting to realise that saying No might be just what she really needs. That saying No is the only thing stopping her from feeling really truly connected and fulfilled. Like’s she’s living her dream and not just taking care of others’.
And this ‘character’ that exists within so many of us.
From the outside we look great. Great job. Great home. Great friends. Just Great. We’ve been going through external motions, to maintain an image. If I do this for that person that makes them feel good and that means I get to maintain my reputation as great colleague/mum/boss/friend/daughter/sister.
On the inside, well, there’s so much else going on. We’re feeling rather fed up. It starts like a tiny little skin irritation that we scratch at until it becomes an overwhelmingly itchy red rash that JUST WON’T GO AWAY. And feel empty, vacant or just well, numb on the inside. We’re trapped in the feeling that the more we give—of our time, energy, selves—the more valuable we become and that should make us feel more connected, respected, and loved. Instead it gets to the point where it just aggravates the itch even more and we’re left feeling at a loss as to what to do. So, we keep doing the same thing. Over and over, and over again.
There was a time for me where that itch was more like a severe all-body-break-out allergic reaction. Physically it started manifesting in digestive issues, migraines, lack of energy and exhaustion.
Emotionally it manifested, well, in tears. Lots of them. Not just the weepy sort. I mean the all-out-gut-wrenching-sobbing-like-roar of tears. You know the kind, where you sob so much you actually have to pause mid-way to take a deep breath, have a cough, and then keep going? Like you have to swallow them just to breathe.
I was stuck. I kept doing the same thing over and over and over again. It took a lot of suffering to realise that one of the biggest contributors to my emotional and physical pain was my non-existent ability to say No. (Just like Katherine!).
At that point in my life everything I was doing was saying ‘Yes’ to others. I was saying yes to fit in, please, placate, avoid, band-aid, connect, numb, feel significant, you name it! Everything was about everyone else. And yet externally, things were Great: new relationship, promoted at work, studying Masters, great home life, social life, travel.
One of the first catalysts to break me out of my cycle was being asked two terrifying questions:
What is the one thing that you need that will have the biggest impact for you right now?
What’s the worst thing that could happen?
The answer for me was for to take two weeks off, which at the time felt like the most immense void of space and time—much needed and also much feared. However it vanished rapidly and the Doctor ended up writing me off for a total of six weeks. A sabbatical of sorts from my life routine I’d entrenched myself in and an opportunity to reset the clock.
What I learnt – and this was a huge turning point for me – was the foundations of how to stay saying Yes to me. Since then every decision I’ve made to support what I truly need for me has had a reference point. What that time away gave me, other than rest, was a chance to recalibrate all the things in my world that were no longer serving me.
I know I’m not the only one who loves 27 Dresses 😉 Share this post with a friend today to help them learn to say No too!