The holiday season is here. Like me, your focus is likely shifting to all of the needs around you. Giving to others is important work.
But, did you know that saying “Yes” to yourself is just as important?
Saying yes to yourself isn’t about being selfish. Instead, the work is sacred. It’s about staying connected to yourself and to God in deep and life-giving ways.
Saying “Yes” to Yourself
After counseling women for over 15 years, I’m convinced that the key to emotional, spiritual, and relational health is to STOP focusing on saying “No” to other people. Instead, real maturity occurs by learning how to say “Yes” to your own needs, wants, and values. Claiming the life God has for you doesn’t start by shutting others down. It starts by creating the space to get clear about the person God made YOU to be.
The problem is that we are often taught to shove this important work to the sidelines. We’re affirmed for responding to the needs of everyone around us. We’re not taught the importance of saying “Yes” to ourselves. Instead, we’re taught to be eternal need-meeters and people-pleasers.
But, what if you started to pay attention to the worn-out parts of yourself? For example, what if you took a moment to answer these questions:
- What do you want more of in your life in this season?
- Who do you want to let IN?
- What part of your body or soul needs to hear you say “Yes, I am listening”?
You may have been taught that it’s selfish to think about these questions. But, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, I believe that saying “Yes” to yourself and “Yes” to restoring the beautiful person God made is your most important job on this earth. It’s what the world needs most from you.
What holds you back from saying “Yes” to:
- Caring for the parts of yourself that are hurting,
- Claiming your God-given voice, and
- Choosing activities that nourish the heart and body God made?
Remember, you are a beautiful soul made by creative design. You have been given the power of God’s Spirit, who lives within you, comforts you, and counsels you every step of the way. No matter how shoved aside, burned out, or put down you feel, there is a power within you waiting to be unleashed. God is in the business of restoring what he made. And he wants to heal and restore you.
Saying “Yes” to God
When Jesus encountered a sick man laying by a pool, he asked him a simple, but profound question: “Do you want to be well?” (John 5:6)
If you are like many women, you might feel hesitant as you consider this question. Part of you cries out, “Yes!” But another part of you might feel any of these ways:
- Shouldn’t I always sacrifice for other people?
- It’s selfish to want to feel better about my life.
- It’s wrong to pursue dreams held within me.
In fact, most women think that saying “Yes” to God means saying “Yes” to helping other people. For example, you might already be praying, “God help me to be more loving and kinder toward that challenging person. I know that’s what you want from me.”
But, what if saying “Yes” to God also means saying “Yes” to helping the parts of your own soul in need?
This way of thinking might go against your nature in so many ways. Instead of turning toward the weary parts of yourself desperate for your attention, you listen to these voices instead:
- Just bury it.
- Focus on all those needs over there.
- You’re not worth the time.
- You don’t have the time.
But, refusing to pay attention to the voice of your own needs and areas of pain is soul killing. And the people in your life need a woman who is moving toward healing. They might not like it at first if you start taking time for yourself. But, trust me, they’ll adjust.
Learning to say “Yes” to yourself starts with listening to the needs of your own body, heart and soul, not just to the needs of other people. Listening to the voice of your own needs can be painful and scary at first. It takes courage and commitment. It takes showing up for yourself when much of you would rather just stay in denial. But, if you can learn to turn toward yourself when you notice the tug of pain, anger, or longing, you’ll start to train yourself that you are worth healing.
Remember, as you commit to taking time for yourself, you can bank on certain outcomes. For examples, God always says “Yes” to the following, as you set time apart to connect to yourself and to his love:
- Drawing close to you when you draw close to him (James 4:8).
- Completing the good work he started in you (Phil. 1:6).
- Setting you free from guilt and shame (Gal. 5:1).
- Bringing more love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, and self-control in to the depths of your being (Gal. 5:22-23).
Learning to say “Yes” to yourself goes hand-in-hand with saying “Yes” to God’s hand reaching out to you. And, as you say “Yes” to yourself and “Yes” to God, the yes that you say to other people will shift for the better, too.
“How can you draw close to God when you are far from your own self?” —St. Augustine, Confessions
Questions to Ask Yourself
Over this coming week, I invite you to take a step toward saying “Yes” to spending just 20 minutes a day by yourself with a journal. If you have to hide in a closet or in your car to get privacy, that’s OK. (We’ve all been there!) Use the following questions to guide you:
1.) When you consider the work of saying “Yes” to yourself, what do you feel inside? It might feel exciting, selfish, or even a bit frightening. Pay attention to what you notice without judgment. Write down what you feel in your journal or share it with a friend. Invite God into your honest experience, too.
2.) Consider these sentences:
- God made you whole before the world hurt you.
- God called you good before shame entered in.
- God named you beloved, before parts of you were taught to believe otherwise.
Notice which word or phrase stands out to you. Which phrase calls out to your soul? Why do you think that is?
3.) Do you believe God is for you? If not, where did that other message come from?
4.) What comes up inside of you as you consider Jesus’s question: “Do you want to be well?”
5.) This holiday season, what is one way you could say “Yes” to yourself each day?
For Further Reading:
An Emotional Healing Process Everyone Should Know
Should I turn the Other Cheek?
Are you Really Supposed to Die to Yourself?
Join the conversation. Leave a comment below:
Is it hard for you to create space to focus on your own healing?
“God made you whole before the world hurt you.
God called you good before shame entered in.
God named you beloved, before parts of you were taught to believe otherwise.”
The power of God’s love in your words, Alison, has touched and entered deeply into my heart and soul.
For the first 37 years of my life I experienced trauma after trauma – from before birth – resulting in symptoms of complex PTSD. Becoming a Christian at 37 and joining a church (and moving to other churches) I experienced and went through spiritual trauma after spiritual trauma – for 28 years.
Church closure during lockdown (here in the UK) has been the best thing that happened for me! Since March I have enjoyed the healing and restoration in the widerness place – walking with my husband on moorland close to where we live – of hearing God’s healing voice of love for me (and Mervyn). It has been so real.
I have recently found and read your work – also Chuck DeGroat’s (I am reading “When Narcissism comes to Church”) – that has further helped me to not see me as the problem but as a beautiful accepted loved child of God. I have known this in my head, but now I feel this deep within myself, even parts of me that are weak, damaged and vulnerable.
Thank you so much for your important and much needed work, Alison. I absolutely identify with what you write.
I am encouraged to continue with my writing, begun two years ago, on abusive religion in churches, based on my own experiences, and how controlling religious leadership (or narcissism) contrasts with who God really is, including some theory and practice gleaned from my work as a former Mental Health Nurse (very much based on true Christian principles), and how God is actively involved in our healing.
Alison Cook says
Thank you for sharing this part of your story, Sue. I am so touched by your persistence in pursuing the real God who heals. Prayers for you in the important work of writing about your experience.
This seems to be a theme for me right now. So much negative self talk has led to poor choices and poor care of me. I want to change this- I’m 65 and feel like is this the rest of my life?
Alison Cook says
It’s never too late to change – one step at a time with God’s help. 🙏🏻
When you consider the work of saying “Yes” to yourself, what do you feel inside?
I feel confusion. I honestly do not know what that looks like or is supposed to look like. What do I do when I say yes to myself? I’ve come to realize that I see my worth solely in what I do for others – and it was “confirmed” by a narcissist (ex) husband & an emotionally unavailable mother. Growing up in the church didn’t help either.
I really don’t know how to say yes to myself or what that means.
Alison Cook says
Thanks for being so honest, Ruth. So many women were not taught how to say “yes” to the important work of tending to your own heart, mind, and body. It starts by taking small steps toward noticing what you think and feel. 🙏🏻