“Off the Beam”: How to Say No for Better Balance

In her book For the Love, Jen Hatmaker encourages us to reevaluate our commitments and stop falling for the lie that we can do everything perfectly all the time. As women, we struggle against this cultural standard that tells us we have to be everything to everybody. To combat that, we need to learn how to say no to achieve better balance in life. We need to take some things “off the beam”.

The Myth of Doing it All

I read For the Love a few years ago and loved Jen’s analogy about the balance beam of life and admitting our inability to “do it all”. I’m now in a very busy season of life where I’m working three different jobs and parenting a toddler. Jen says, “No matter how hard we work or excel in an area or two, it never feels like enough. Our primary defaults are exhaustion and guilt…We cannot do it all, have it all, or master it all. That is simply not a thing.”

We have beautiful lives begging to be lived, really enjoyed, really applauded–and it is simpler than we dare to hope: we gotta unload that beam.

Jen Hatmaker, For the Love

How to Say No

So if we admit that we cannot do it all and the cultural image of the perfect wife/mother/career woman/daughter/friend/body/home is a myth, then what do you need to take “off your beam”? How do we evaluate our priorities in order to make time for self-care? We cannot have self-care without saying no to some things. In a culture of busy, we have to take control of our schedules and learn when to say no. Every “yes” I say to a request, a commitment, a new role or task means I’m saying “no” to my self-care and my family. We must assess our commitments and decide what is life-giving and what needs to go.

Jen says, “When I see another woman fighting for her balance beam, I am inspired because if she has permission, then I do too. Wise women know what to hold onto and what to release, and how to walk confidently in their choices — no regrets, no apologies, no guilt.”

I am fighting to make those choices for my balance beam. And I am fighting for you to make those choices too. And those choices will look different to each of us based on our personalities, or energy levels, and our stage of life. Every season is different. What’s life-giving in one season might be a time-sucker in another.

off the beam how to say no for better balance in life

What I’m Taking Off My Beam

One difficult decision I made recently was to take phone calls with friends off the beam. I used to love hour-long phone chats catching up with friends from different seasons of my life. I love staying in touch with people and highly value loyalty and investing in relationships. However, at this season of life I’m taking it off the beam. A one-hour phone chat now would cost me one hour of self-care. Or one hour to spend with my husband at the end of our day. Or one hour with my daughter when she’s been at childcare and I’ve been at work all day. I love my friends, but right now texting and video chats have to replace the long, deep conversations that used to be so life-giving for me.

Another hard choice I made last fall was to attend a women’s professional networking event. It was in the evening after work, which meant I would not get home until my daughter’s bedtime. I would miss the evening with her and my husband. In this situation, I decided the benefit of meeting other professional women, networking, and hearing from the speaker for the event outweighed what I was giving up that night. I might have made a different choice in another month and you might make a different choice than me. We must ask ourselves what is most life-giving to me, what fulfills me, what excites me, what am I passionate about doing in order to make the hard choices to say “no” to some things, and “yes” to others.

So let’s evaluate what’s “on the beam” and take some things off. Let’s only keep what is necessary, enriching, or inspiring and eliminate what is burdensome, obligatory, and depleting.

What are you taking off your beam?

You have permission to examine all the tricks and decide what should stay. What parts do you love? What are you good at? What brings you life? What has to stay during this season?

Jen Hatmker, For the Love
off the beam how to say no for better balance

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