Hi friend! My name is Jessica, I am a family and portrait photographer based in Washington Dc. I am a Christian, wife, and identical twin. I love lilacs, candles, rainy days and honesty. I love finding joy in simple things.
I first heard the phrase “gentle no” from Abby with Abby Grace Photography. She spoke about it at Justin and Mary’s conference a few years ago, The Event. Here is a snippet form her blog post:
“Small business owners often equate the word “no” with “negativity,” but let me be very clear: they are not the same thing.
“No” can mean boundaries, which result in freedom and the ability to love what you do even more! “Negativity” on the other hand, is a chronic lifestyle in which some people choose to live.
“No” can mean “I respect you, but I also respect myself and I know my own needs, so while I appreciate you asking, I need to decline.” And there’s nothing negative about that.”
Then a few years later I read Lysa Terkeurst book: The Best Yes. I was in the middle of overwhelm and burnt-out. I was working 70+ hours a week, filling in shifts and trying to run a business. I was getting everything done but nothing done WELL and dealing with several anxiety attacks a week. One week it was so bad I thought I was having heart trouble and couldn’t cross my arm over my chest without bending over in pain. I knew something had to change or I was going to face serious health and mental issue. I know that sounds dramatic and it’s taking all my strength to write/share this but it’s true. I think it is more common in us “go-getters”, “ceatives”, and “competitive people” than we care to admit.
The short answer to all of this is I wasn’t saying NO enough. Or maybe I was saying NO to all the wrong things like breakfast, health, personal devotions and family time. I was working too many jobs (my fault), I was taking on clients that weren’t my ideal clients that left me uninspired, and I had terrible health habits (again, my fault). I joked that I had a stomach of steal because I went hours without eating or would grab something on the run.
So how do we say no to things and people that matter to us and that “need” us? I am naturally a Yes-person and feel incredible guilt when I have to say no to anything. Well, I realized that everyone’s emergencies weren’t always emergencies and it was up to me to decipher between the two. I also needed to prioritize my relationships and commitments. Who truly means the most to you? I know this feels unkind but it is so important.
So, what happens when you are needed in several different situations and you are feeling stretched thin and tired? You have a meal to make, backed up on house chores, have a family demanding your attention and a commitment you forgot about coming up this week….
I do three things (well, I try to do these things) before saying no to something. I give it some time if it doesn’t need an immediate response. I run it by my husband, who knows me better that myself most days. Then I pray about it. It’s amazing at what clarity I get after a prayer.
For example: This year the family I nanny for asked me to sew a costume for the 5 year old who was in the school play. I love sewing, I love pleasing people (sigh), and I love the children. The “old Jessica” would have agreed to make the costume on the spot, feeling great in the moment for helping and then a month later feeling entirely stressed above the project and filled with regret. In complete shock, I heard myself gently decline the offer. I didn’t have the time, it would cost more that they imagined, and why waste all that time when you can order one on Amazon. Again, Amazon for the win!! That simple no ended up giving me hours to spend on a better yes later. See how this works? 🙂
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Jessica you just described be 100%! I’ve been following your photography blog for awhile and I love your work! I love photography but I’m very new, just at the stage where I’d like to launch into it and actually call it a business. I’m the local photographer people come to not because I profess to be one but I do enjoy it and they obviously like what they get. Anyway you’ve been an inspiration to me in many ways! I would love to meet you.
Hi Mary! It would be so fun to meet you. Keep working on it before it leads to burnout. It’s hard but worth it. Best wishes on your photography business.
Oh my, I soooo know what you are talking about! I am so proud of you for being vulnerable and making the changes you needed to for your life. ❤ As for myself, I am still learning the art of saying no also! ….my sister is good at keeping me accountable
Thank you Charity, I am still learning too. 🙂