By Carrie Jurney DVM DACVIM (Neurology)
The word “Yes” has gotten me in trouble more times than I care to count. My brain is the perfect storm of disaster with the word yes. I’m an overachiever. I’m a hard worker. I’m a people pleaser. I’m also very confident. In my bones, I believe that anything and everything is possible, and that I’m capable of getting it done. The trouble is, the cost of that enthusiasm is that I usually pay for it in suffering, in overwork and in exhaustion.
And of course, the simple advice here is to just say “No”. Isn’t that what Nancy Reagan told us to do in the eighties? But my brain rejects no. My tongue can’t seem to form the word. As much as I want to set boundaries and learn to protect myself, I’m fighting against my nature. And let me tell you, you rarely win in a fight against nature.
Am I doomed to suffer? I mean, isn’t that part of what so many religions teach us- that all humans suffer? Even the positive psychologist, the people who study how we can be happy, tell us we should accept our suffering as part of life and learn to be resilient.
I don’t like that either. That sounds like losing, and overachievers like me don’t like losing (which is a whole different can of worms). So, in the interest of winning, which I do like very much, I have gone searching for an alternative.
And eureka! I’ve found it! Ladies and Gentleman, fellow overachievers and people pleasers, lend me your ears. Repeat after me: “Yes, but.”
“Dr. Jurney, can you see this walk-in client?”
“Yes, but only after I’m done with my scheduled appointments.”
“Carrie, can you host this baby shower?”
“Yes, but only if I hire a housekeeper, you help me decorate and we make it a potluck.”
“Carrie, can you go to post office for me?”
“Yes, but only if you can meet the pest control guy.”
I’m really in love with “Yes, but”. I can please my inner people please by giving a path to agreement, but I can protect myself and set a boundary. It allows my brain to play to its strengths and still protects my sanity. It uses my strengths to my advantage. I’m allowing myself to help, but it engages the planning parts of my brain that like to plan. It challenges me to think about it before I agree. It signals to the person asking that I’m trying to be helpful, but have other priorities as well.
So, friends, take that dangerous word and use it to your advantage.
The Admin Team of NOMV is a group of veterinarians dedicated to improving veterinary mental health.