28: Empowering Humiliation

28: Empowering Humiliation

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman

Empowering Humiliation

Saying no can be the ultimate self-care.

~Claudia Black

The phone was ringing again. It was my neighbor, Sandy. “Hey, can Angie come over and play with Mary?”

“Just a sec. I’ll ask her.”

My six-year-old daughter had a worried look on her angelic face. “I don’t want to go, Mom.”

I spoke into the phone. “Thanks for inviting her, but right now isn’t a good time.”

Sandy persisted. “Mary is bored. Why don’t you just send her down so the girls can play, just for a little while?”

“Well, I don’t think…”

Sandy interrupted me. “The girls can help me make cookies. Ask her again, pleeeeez?”


I put my hand over the receiver and whispered to my daughter with urgency in my voice this time. “Sandy said you and Mary can help make cookies. Please, why don’t you just go down there for a little bit?”

My daughter got big tears in her eyes. “But I don’t want to, Mama!”

“Alright, fine!” I growled.

I got back on the phone and said something like, “I’m really sorry, but she just doesn’t feel well right now.” That fib sounded a little nicer than “She really doesn’t want to come to your house!”

Sandy was not happy. That was clear in her abrupt reply. “Well, alright then. Bye.”

As I hung up the phone, I felt tormented inside. But why?

I nagged my little one again, my voice tight and harsh. “I don’t know why you couldn’t just go play with Mary!”

Angie looked up at me, and her huge eyes reflected her own stress. I looked into her sweet, worried face, and something suddenly broke inside me.

What are you doing to your child? She’s only six! That voice of truth screamed from a very deep place within me. It jolted me to the core.

I held back my sobs long enough to say, “No, no, honey. I’m sorry. It’s okay if you don’t want to go over there. You don’t have to.”

I escaped to another room, and the dam broke. I’d known for a while that I had a serious people-pleasing problem. I had some sort of ridiculous fear of making anyone upset. It was so very difficult for me to say “no” to anyone. Yet in that moment of pressure, I’d put that same burden on my innocent child’s shoulders.

I was overwhelmed with shame, confusion and despair.

It was one of the best, most life-changing moments of my life.

I remember another transformational time during that same year. My sister dropped by unannounced with her two young children. She asked if I could babysit them while she went to work that evening.

I said, “Umm, well, I really have a lot to do tonight.” She said that she’d been called in to cover someone else’s shift, and she really needed the money.

I could feel the conflict rising up inside me. I had two young children of my own. I gave in to short-notice babysitting for her on a regular basis. I was so very tired.

Reluctantly, I said, “Well, okay.”

Sis stayed to visit for a while before leaving for work. I was trying to be pleasant, but I was wearing my resentment like a thick blanket around my shoulders.

My sister asked, “What’s wrong?”

I hesitated, but then the truth blurted out. “You put me on the spot like this all the time! It sure would be nice if you’d ask me in advance.”

She looked me in the eye. “This is your own fault. If you didn’t want to do it, you should’ve said no. You can’t agree to do something, and then blame me! Blame yourself!”

Ouch! I was furious at her for saying that, but it was the hard truth I had to hear. That happened many years ago, and I have reminded myself of it numerous times since then.

How could I have been so blind? Why did I almost always go into automatic “yes” and keep-the-peace-at-all-costs mode?

I had to find answers and get help to learn how to stop.

Yes, my empowerment had to start with my humiliation. What? Aren’t humility and power opposites?

That’s the ironic beauty of all this. I had to hit the floor, sobbing on my knees, to realize I needed help to change my life.

I bought a book and took a class about healthy boundaries. I sought out a good counselor and started going to therapy.

It’s been a continuous eye-opening journey for the last twenty years.

There have been other books, mentors and counseling sessions since I started on my road to recovery. This long journey has empowered me in many ways. Mostly, I’ve learned how to have honest relationships with others and with myself.

My “yes” means yes, and my “no” means no — without inner turmoil, resentment or false guilt. Well, usually. But I’m still learning and open to receiving help. I know that’s where my power and freedom are.

~Diana Bauder

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