The False Self Series, Part 5: Saying Yes when I Mean No

I recently listened to an Emotional Healthy Leader Podcast episode by Pete Scazzero (The September 6 episode, Silencing the Seductive Voice of Your False Self) that greatly impacted me. In the episode, Pete said, “one of the most destructive temptations leaders face is living and leading from the veneer of the false self.” He then listed ten examples of how this can happen. 

These examples made sense to me — and I think they’ll resonate with you too. In the upcoming weeks, I’ll talk about all ten. I am doing this because overcoming the false self is the best way to head into 2023. Leadership is about doing things with and through other people, so leading yourself past your false self is step one to leading effectively.

The False Self Series, Part 5: Saying Yes when I Mean No

Recently, I was invited to be on the board of directors for a nonprofit organization I’m quite passionate about. I financially support the organization and strongly believe in its mission. So I was honored when they asked me to join the board. 

After the “feel good” sentiments of being asked to join the board wore off, I did not feel passionate about actually joining the board. I was still passionate about the organization — I didn’t know what value I would bring to a rather large board. I didn’t feel good about the nighttime commitments given our family’s stage of life and my responsibilities at Hoffer Plastics. So I called the CEO to thank them for the opportunity and let them know I was going to say no. 

Then something happened: the CEO talked me into joining the board. I found myself saying yes when I would rather say no. 

This made me ask the question, why? Why was I saying yes to something I was not totally on board with? Here are some answers: 

  • I like, respect, and want to work with this CEO. 
  • I wanted to serve the organization, even if that meant sacrifice. 
  • I wanted to give the CEO the answer they wanted because I wanted them to like and respect me! 
  • Given my passion for the organization, I liked the idea of being on this particular board.

Do you see the problem with my list? While some of my reasons were legitimate, others were wrapped up in what I thought others wanted from me or based on my desire to be liked by others. This is the false self rearing its ugly head! 

Finding Peace

As always, I prayed about this with Sarah. The absence of peace in the situation made me reconsider my “yes,” and through the encouragement of a good friend, I finally talked face-to-face with the CEO mentioned above. But this time, I said something different. I said, “I cannot join the board right now due to family and business reasons. But I would love the opportunity to join when my kids are grown, and I am a little further down the road with the family business.” 

Suddenly, peace returned! 

I use the word peace intentionally because saying “yes” to things you don’t want robs you of peace. The example I give above is a small one, but it would have impacted my home life, work life, and frankly, everything in between. This would have been fine if it had been what I wanted to do, but in this case, it was something I felt I should do. Living a life based on “shoulds” is a recipe for living from your false self. 

My No Leads to Another’s Yes

The point of this post, and this series, is to live according to your authentic self. It is about being the kind of person who can point out flaws in themselves, hear critiques about themselves, and be patient when things are not going their way. They also can say no to things because they realize they do not have to be the ones doing everything. 

My no allows someone else to say yes. Given my responsibilities this season of life, the nonprofit I am passionate about will be better served by someone else’s yes. I’ll continue to financially support, cheer, and pray for, this organization. But, my yes to serving on the board will have to come later.

This week, I encourage you to pay attention to whether you are saying yes to things you would rather not do. If so, then get honest and be real. 

One last note before closing: I will return to this series in Q1 of 2023 and go through the last five aspects of the false self. For the remainder of 2022, I will repost some of my most popular blog posts from over the years, anticipating that all of us will be less focused on work and more on family and friends.