Say No So You Can Say YES
The Power of Your Ability to Make Choices
It can be super tough to say, “No, I can’t do that.” It’s so easy for fibromyalgia to feel like an enormous taking away of things. We can’t do the job we used to do. We can’t do the activities we used to do. We can’t eat the foods we used to be able to eat. But we can do a little mindset shift and realize we’re doing it for a reason. It’s never about saying No. You learn to say “No” so that you can say “Hell YES!” to other things: the things that really matter to you, the things that will help make your life feel rich and rewarding and fun again.
- It’s very natural to push yourself to do all of the things you want to do, the things you feel like you need to do, the obligations that you have, or even pushing yourself so you can help somebody else.
- Saying No sometimes is very emotional. Sometimes, for some people, it really feels like a failure.
- Are you giving yourself the space to heal, or are you trying to continue on in the exact same way, at the exact same pace, doing the exact same things, as you did before fibromyalgia?
- “It’s not that hard to choose between good and bad. What’s hard is choosing between good and best.” When it comes to fibromyalgia, we have been given the gift of being aware of the fact that we can’t do everything. We’ve been given the gift of having to choose. This means we have the gift of making those choices count.
- How do you go about saying No when there are so many expectations and obligations?
Links & Resources
- Get free copies of Tami’s books here
- Download the Joy List worksheet here
- Below you will find both a full transcript and video of the episode, with any studies mentioned in the show linked in the transcript.
You’re listening to the Fibromyalgia Podcast, Episode 12.
Welcome to the Fibromyalgia Podcast!
I’m your Coach, Tami Stackelhouse.
Today, I want to talk with you more about why saying “No” can mean saying “Yes”. I talked a little bit about this in Episode 9; I mentioned it briefly in the context of self-care, but it’s such an important concept to me that I felt like we needed to take a whole episode to talk more in-depth about this idea.
[01:23] When it comes to treating fibromyalgia, I really feel like there are several different areas we have to address.
- In order to feel better, we have to find the right treatment options for us. There really are things going wrong in our bodies, and we need to find the right treatments to help make that better.
- The second thing we have to look at is our own self-management strategies. This is everything from watching what we put into our body and how we move our body. It includes some of the life hacks and tips on how to live easier with fibromyalgia and some things like the tips I gave in the last episode about how to travel when you have fibromyalgia.
- The third aspect that we can’t ignore is our mindset: what we think, how we think about our bodies, how we think about ourselves and our illness, our attitude and our mindset, how we manage the drama.
[02:33] Those are the three aspects that I believe you have to really manage and address and truly have, in order to manage your fibromyalgia in the best way possible. This podcast is actually going to cover all three of those areas.
There will be times when we are talking about treatment options. There will be times when we are talking about tips and tricks and how you can manage yourself. And there are also going to be times, like this episode, when I’m going to talk about how you manage your mind and how you manage your attitude and how you think about your illness.
[03:17] When I talk about my fibromyalgia, you’ll notice I almost always say it the same way and there is a reason for that. What I usually say is, first off, “I almost never have body pain.” Which is true. On a day-to-day basis — just wake me up in the morning or randomly send me a text message and say, “Hey do you have any fibro pain right now?” My answer is going to be, “No. I actually don’t.”
[03:44] But I can’t say never, because sometimes I do. It almost always happens when I sleep in a bad bed in a motel room, but it does happen. And sometimes I overdo it just like everybody does. Usually, like I said, it has to do with traveling. For me, that’s where I push my boundaries a little bit too close to the edge sometimes, and where I often experience fibromyalgia pain. So, I can’t say I never have pain — it’s almost never.
[04:16] I also say that, “I have enough energy to do the things that I want to do.” I specifically say it that way for a reason.
I can’t say I have enough energy to do anything and everything in the entire world. There is no way this fibro body is going to climb Mount Everest. We talked about that a couple of episodes ago using that as our example for why you might want to hire a coach. If you want to climb Mount Everest, you want to find somebody who’s climbed Mount Everest before to show you how to do that. This girl, in this fibro body… Honey, we are never climbing Mount Everest! And that’s okay! I don’t want to.
[04:58] I do not want to run a marathon. I do not want to do a whole bunch of other things! And some of the reasons I don’t want to is because I know it won’t make me feel good. It would be like somebody who has celiac who cannot handle eating wheat — who can’t have gluten, who becomes very, very ill when they eat gluten — saying that they just don’t want to eat bread. The idea of that is just repulsive to them because they know it will make them feel sick. That’s the way many activities are to me. It’s like I have no desire to even do that. It doesn’t sound good. It’s nothing that I want to do.
[05:46] Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some things that you want to do that I don’t want to do — and we need to help find you ways to do that. And that is totally fine.
[05:57] Here’s where this idea of “saying No so that you can say Yes” comes into play.
We’ve talked on this podcast before about how I see energy in a similar way as I see money. You get a certain amount to spend for the day and when it’s out, it’s out. You can sometimes borrow from tomorrow, but there’s always interest to pay. Right? The same thing is true with fibromyalgia. You only have so much energy, and if you borrow from tomorrow, you’ll end up paying for it more. Sometimes, what we have to do is say No to things, so that we can give our body the space to heal.
[06:40] This actually came up recently in my class — the class of Fibromyalgia Advisors-to-be, where I’m teaching them all of this great knowledge and how to be a fibromyalgia advisor and go on to be a fibromyalgia coach. One of the things that came up was the idea of travel, which I discussed on our last podcast episode. The thing is, so many fibromyalgia patients — my students, my clients, me… I used to be in this place, not as much anymore because I’ve worked really hard at it — it’s very natural to try to push yourself to do all of the things you want to do, you feel like you need to do, the obligations that you have, or even pushing yourself so you can help somebody else.
[07:33] Right now, as I record this, it’s May, and there’s all kinds of fibromyalgia awareness things going on. There are a lot of fibromyalgia advocates who are pushing themselves really hard this month because we are trying to get our communities to understand what fibromyalgia is. We are doing fundraisers to help with education and research. We are doing events and we’re pushing ourselves hard. At the same time, you can’t do that always, or you’re never going to give your body the chance to heal.
[08:10] Imagine that you break your foot. You break a bone in your foot. This happened to me a couple of years ago. I kind of stepped off a curb wrong and twisted my ankle. I didn’t hurt my ankle at all, but I actually had a crack in one of the big block bones in the middle of my foot. I had to wear a walking cast, and I had to try to keep my weight off of it for a while.
[08:36] Imagine you broke your foot badly — worse than I did — and your doctor told you, “You really can’t put any weight on this. You need to stay off of your foot for a few weeks to give it a chance to heal properly, so that you will be good to go.”
What if you didn’t take that rest? What if you kept walking on your foot like you always did? What if you pushed yourself through the pain, through the fatigue? What if you pushed yourself to keep going anyway? How well do you think your foot would heal? There’s a good chance that you might actually end up with foot problems for the rest of your life because you didn’t take the time to rest, to stay off of your foot, and to give it a chance to heal properly. The same is true with everything else with your body.
[09:34] Our bodies need rest to heal. It doesn’t matter what it is. I was actually just talking with a friend of mine about diabetes, and we were talking about food and how your body actually needs rest from food. We call that “fasting”, by the way. Your body needs rest from food to heal, for your cells to heal. Sometimes, this is as simple as not eating while you’re sleeping, but sometimes it means more.
[02:33] What are you doing with your fibromyalgia to give your body the rest that it needs in order to be able to heal? Are you giving yourself the space to heal, or are you trying to continue on in the exact same way, at the exact same pace, doing the exact same thing, as you did before fibromyalgia? Are you basically walking on a broken foot?
[05:53] It can be really, really tough to take a step back and say, “No, I can’t do that.” It can be super tough. It’s so easy for fibromyalgia to feel like an enormous taking away of things, where we can’t do the job we used to do. We can’t do the activities we used to do. We can’t eat the foods we used to be able to eat.
[10:58] Sometimes, it can feel like everything is just going away. But, we’ve got to do that little mindset shift, where we realize we’re doing it for a reason. It’s not being taken away to be taken away forever. The idea here is: you’re going to purposely stop doing things for a short amount of time. And short with fibromyalgia is not days or hours. Short with fibromyalgia is sometimes, actually, years. The idea is that you say No so that you can say Yes to other things, or you can eventually say Yes in the future to doing that same thing again.
[11:47] A few episodes ago, I talked about the Joy List. I suggested you start making a list of the things in your life that bring you joy. In our next episode, I’m actually going to walk you through the full Joy List Worksheet, along with how to add things back into your life. We will be doing that next, but for now, I just want you to bring back to mind that list you’ve been creating. The things that bring you joy. The things you want to do. The things you want to spend your time and energy on.
[12:26] If you’re spending your time and your energy on other things, then you won’t be able to say Yes to those. Right? So, you might have to say No to something else in order to heal. You might have to say No to something else in order to say Yes to the things you really want to do. Again, just thinking of energy like money — what do you want to spend your energy on? What do you want to spend your pain-free moments on? What do you want to spend your clear brain time on?
[13:04] When I was writing my books, that was time I needed to have a clear brain. There were lots of things I said No to while I was writing my books, so that I had clear brain space to be able to write. There were groups that I was a support group leader at the time. One of the things I did was step down from being a support group leader. If I hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be here talking to you guys now. Sometimes, saying No to something in your life makes the space for you to be able to say Yes to something bigger and better later on.
[13:46] One of the things my dad always told me, and I can’t remember if I said it in this podcast before or not, but he used to always say, “It’s not that hard to choose between good and bad. What’s hard is choosing between good and best.” I think that is so true. When it comes to fibromyalgia, we have been given the gift — and yes I do mean gift — we have been given the gift of being aware of the fact that we can’t do everything. We’ve been given the gift of having to choose. Which means we have the gift of making those choices count.
[14:26] So many people in life just go through their lives without really being aware of the choices that they make. And so many people get to the end of their lives — you hear these stories all the time, where people get to the end of their lives — and they have regrets. They have regrets about the things they wish they had done or regrets for the things that they wish they hadn’t done. But, basically, it all comes down to the choices they made throughout their lives. They get to the end of their lives and they realize they wish they had made different choices.
[15:04] With fibromyalgia, we have been given the gift of being aware of the choices that we make. That means you can choose to make those choices count more. You can be more conscious of the things you are choosing to do or not do, so that you can create the life that you want to have.
[15:26] This is about so much more than just managing your energy. This is about choosing who you spend your time with. It’s about choosing what kind of a legacy you want to leave in your life. This about choosing whether you want to spend your energy making the world a better place or just existing. When it comes to spirituality — it even includes that! — how you choose to live your life and what you choose to believe as you are living that life.
[16:01] Fibromyalgia gives us so many gifts. I think the gift of having to make choices is my favorite one, to be totally honest. If it wasn’t for fibromyalgia, I wouldn’t be here at all. I wouldn’t be talking to you guys. You wouldn’t have my help, for obvious reasons. But, not only that, even if I would have become a coach, I wouldn’t have been as aware of the fact that I couldn’t help everybody.
[16:32] With fibromyalgia, I know — like I KNOW — I have limitations. I know I can’t do everything. I know I can’t help everybody. So that means I get to make the choice of who I want to help. Just most recently, this year, one of the things I have decided to do, because, again, I know there’s only so much time in my day, there’s only so much of me to go around! …one of the things I have decided to do is…
[17:03] For many years, I have not been taking one-on-one clients, because I was spending my time teaching other people how to become coaches. I was duplicating myself so that I could help more people. By spending my time training new coaches, I could expand my reach. But over the last few years, I have realized how much I missed working one-on-one with clients. So, just in the last six months, I’ve decided to take on just one or two private clients to work with directly, because I love it so much.
[17:44] This is a choice that only would have come out of the fact that I have fibromyalgia. I know I can’t do everything, so where do I want to spend my time? And also realizing that I get to make the choice of creating the life I want and spending the energy that I have on the things that are going to create a life I want to live. If I was somebody who didn’t have fibromyalgia, it might have been easy to think that I could do everything — and maybe not do everything all that well because we all have limitations. Right? But with fibromyalgia I know I can’t, and so I’m more conscious of the decisions I make.
[18:31] Now that I’ve given you an idea of this concept of saying No to things so that you can say Yes, which is really all about the power of your ability to make choices. It’s the power of making choices. I want to do a little bit of coaching for you.
[18:50] Some of the things that come up when I talk about this with my students and with my clients is, number one: “How do I say No? There are all these people who have all of these expectations of me.” Maybe you’re in a job and you can’t just wake up one morning and say, “No, I’m not going to go to work.” Well, you could but there are consequences to that, right? Maybe there are people in your life who are expecting you to do certain things, whether you’ve committed to doing them or are just standard expectations. Right? Like your family. If you’re a mom, your family might just expect you to do the laundry and do the grocery shopping and make dinner. That may just be a natural expectation at your house.
[19:42] So, how do you go about saying “No” when there are all of these expectations? That can sometimes be a little bit tricky, right? There are some things that you can do… Like if there are new things that come up — once you become aware of this idea and really internalize the idea that saying No to something means you can say Yes to the things you really want to do — then you can assess things as they come up, and decide if that is something you want to do.
[20:16] I read an article years and years ago that I loved. It was right about the time that I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and starting to realize there was a limitation to what I could and couldn’t do. The article basically said, if it’s not a “Hell Yes!”, then it’s a “No.” When you hear about something, whether it’s a concert you might want to go to or a friend invites you out for coffee… Or a talk — you know, in my case, somebody might invite me to speak to their group. If I don’t hear about that opportunity and think, “Oh YES! Absolutely! I want to do that!”… If I think, “Well, maybe…”, then it’s a no, because I want my life to be full of the things that are “Hell, Yes! I want to do that.”
[21:09] That is one way you can make decisions, as things are coming in, as new opportunities are coming up, you can assess those.
If you aren’t very good at saying No, one of the things you can do is just train yourself — and when I mean train yourself, I literally mean practice this in front of the mirror — so that when somebody asks you, it automatically falls out of your mouth. You can say, “You know, I’m not sure. Let me look at my calendar and let me get back to you.” It gives you an opportunity to step away, truly look at the bigger picture of your life, what else is going on. Literally, look at your calendar, see what else you’ve committed to, and decide whether or not you want to say Yes, rather than being put on the spot to say yes or no immediately. So, just practice that: “You know, I’m not really sure. Let me check my calendar and I’ll get back to you.”
[22:08] That takes care of the new things that are coming up.
The other thing you can do is to start making some default decisions up-front, and I think I’ve mentioned this briefly in earlier podcast episodes. In my story, I mentioned how I could only leave the house about once per week. That was one of those default decisions that was made up-front. Once a week, I’m leaving the house. If something comes up… I’ve already committed to doing something during that particular week and something new comes up, it’s either an automatic No, or I reschedule it for a different week when I don’t have anything going on. Or, I can choose to reschedule the thing that is already booked in there. But I can’t book two. It’s just not allowed.
[23:00] One of the things I do these days is Wednesday is my self-care day. If a work thing comes up and it’s on a Wednesday, I know my default answer is No. It’s like, Wednesday is not an option. It’s like I’m out of town every Wednesday or something. It’s just not an option for me to do that on Wednesdays, because Wednesday is all about going to the chiropractor and taking care of me.
[23:33] Take a look at your life and your calendar, and figure out what some of those default decisions can be. That way, you don’t have to think about it in those moments when you have brain fog. You can either say, “Let me check and get back to you…” and then you can say, “Oh yes, that’s right. I already made the decision. I was only going to do things like this once a month.” Or whatever it might be.
[23:57] For those things where you’ve got expectations or commitments that you already have on your calendar, and you have to, sort of, untangle yourself from them… those are trickier. One of the things that you can do with that is to give people lots of early warning. As you are assessing your life, your calendar, your energy expenditures to make sure that you are living within your energy budget, and that you’re saving energy for your body to heal…
[24:34] We talked about that in earlier episodes — that your body needs energy to heal — so we want to make sure we have energy left over at the end of the day, if you want to feel better. If you’re happy with the amount of energy that you have and where your fibro symptoms are, by all means, go ahead and keep spending all the energy you have. But if you want to get better, you’ve got to save some energy for your body to use in healing.
[25:01] So, for those things [already on your calendar], you need to start reassessing. I would go back and look at your entire life. I would look at all of your commitments, and I would look at: Is this something that is supporting me feeling better? Is this something that adds joy to my life? Is this a “Hell, YES” for me? Or is this something that I am still doing because I used to do it? Or is this something I’m doing because I feel like it’s got to be done and nobody else is going to do it? (We’ll talk about that in a minute because that’s not true.)
[25:40] You want to go back and reassess everything. If there’s something that you feel like, “This is no longer serving me. This is no longer a good fit for my life.”, then what I would do in those circumstances is go to the people that you reporting to — like in my case, stepping down from the support group, I would talk to my co-leader. I would let the support group know, things like that — say, “Hey, this is a change that I have to make,” and give them a month. Give them two months. Give them six months. Whatever it feels like you need to give them. Give them a deadline and tell them when you will be stepping down. Just like if you were to give your notice at a job. Right? You would give a two-week notice or whatever and say, “Hey, I’ll train my replacement, but here’s my last day.”
[26:38] Now, back to that idea… We sometimes do things because we feel like it’s got to be done and if we don’t do it, nobody else will. The thing is, guys, nature abhors a vacuum. There may be people who aren’t hearing or feeling that little tap on the shoulder saying, “Hey, you really should do this,” because you’re doing the job.
[27:09] Just using the support group for an example… I’m not saying this is what happened in mine, but just using it as an example. Let’s say you’re leading a support group. There may be somebody in your group who would be an amazing support group leader or who would be amazing at taking over portions of organizing the support group… But if you don’t stop doing it, they will never know that they need to step up. If you don’t step down, there won’t won’t be any space to be filled, and nobody is going to step into that.
[27:47] We actually did this at my church, years and years ago, for the church leadership board. There was a group of people who kind of had always been part of the church leadership, and we used this idea of discernment and calling, like being called to step into something. If the space is full, then nobody is going to hear the call to step up and take that space, because there is no hole to fill. You can’t see that there is a need because there isn’t one yet. Right? So, not until you stop doing some of those things are some people really going to realize, “Oh! I’m supposed to do that!” Whatever your beliefs are — whether it’s God calling you or the Universe tapping you on the shoulder or whatever it is — that idea of being called into something and it being your purpose to fulfill that. But, if you keep doing the things, then other people won’t have that opportunity to step in.
[29:25] The thing is that there are a lot of things in life that you personally do not have to do. Whether it’s asking for help from somebody in your house, or paying for help… I have a friend that I love seeing her posts, she’s in the process of moving right now, and I love her posts saying, “Hey, can somebody come over and help me?” I know it’s not easy for her to ask, but I love that she does ask. So many times in life, there are people around us who would love to show their love by assisting, but they just don’t know what it is that you would need help with.
[30:15] If you’ve ever read the book The Five Love Languages (affiliate link), helping is one of those love languages, both to give and to receive. Be aware that sometimes it is actually a gift to others to be able to help you.
Now, I can almost hear your voices as I say that. I can almost hear you guys. Some of you are saying, “But I ask for help and nobody will help me.” Or, “The people around me just don’t care enough to help.” Yes, that can sometimes be a challenge — and that is a whole other podcast episode we will absolutely get to, because there are things that we can do — in how we ask and who we ask and when we ask.
[31:07] There are so many factors, so many things we can do differently that can increase the chances of somebody offering us help. But that is another podcast episode that will come in the future. For those of you who are sitting there listening to me talking and thinking, “But you just don’t understand!” I want you to know that yes, I do understand. I am just choosing to talk about that in a different podcast episode because we’re already half an hour in and I need to start wrapping up this episode.
[31:41] Back to this idea of *Saying No so that You Can Say Yes*…
Saying No is sometimes very emotional. Sometimes, for some people, it really feels like a failure to say “No” or to say, “I can’t do that for you.” Or to step down from something might feel like you are admitting defeat or something. I want you to shift that mindset.
[32:16] You may need help shifting that mindset, depending on your history, depending on what’s happened in your past, depending on the challenges you’re going through right now in the present. You may need help from a counselor or a spiritual advisor or a coach or a friend to talk to. If you need help with this, and if there’s anything we can do to help you with that, I encourage you to reach out and schedule that complimentary consultation with one of my Coaches, to be able to have that conversation and say, “Gosh, I am really struggling with saying No. How do I do this?” Reach out to a friend or your pastor or a counselor or somebody.
[33:05] When you can shift that thought in your mind to: It’s not about saying No. It’s never about No. It’s always about saying Yes. It just might be about saying Yes to something else.
If my husband were to call me right now — like right this very second, if my phone were to ring — and he said, “Hey, do you want to go to the movies tonight?” I would tell him No. The reason I would tell him No is not because I don’t want to go to the movies. I totally want to go see Avengers with him. He hasn’t seen it yet. I have. It’s killing me that he hasn’t seen it yet. So, yes, I want to go to the movies!
[33:50] But, right now, today, I need to go get packed for another one of my trips for this month. I need to do laundry. I need to start my packing list, so that I’m not up too late to go catch my airplane in two days. It’s not about saying, “No, I don’t want to go to the movies.” It’s about saying Yes to packing and saying Yes to getting enough sleep and saying Yes to feeling as good as possible while I’m on my trip. I can always go see the movie another day.
[34:29] Even if it was something that couldn’t ever be done again, you are always weighing things on a scale, and what is it that you really want to do? We used to talk about this a lot in my support group, about some things being “flare worthy”. There are some things you are going to say Yes to, and you know it’s going to cause you pain. You know you’re going to have to rest for days afterward. You know it’s going to be hard, but it’s worth it. You can always say Yes to those things.
[35:01] But, just make sure you are making the right choice for you. That you aren’t automatically going with the flow. You know, doing what people expect of you, without you making the decision for what it is that you want to do and the life that you want to create for yourself.
[35:27] Again, if you need any help with this, we are happy to have that conversation. This is something I work with a lot with my private clients. I talk a lot about mindset. I talk a lot about shifting that idea from saying No to things to choosing to say Yes to something else instead. This is something we work with our clients on a lot.
[35:54] We also work with you on increasing your capacity — on helping you feel better — so that you can say Yes to more things. That is absolutely part of the picture. We help you figure out the treatments that are going to help you feel better. We’re going to help give you all the tips and the tricks and the life hacks so that you can do more. But we are also going to help you make sure you’re making the right choices, that you’re doing the right things that make up the life you want to have.
[36:25] Alright you guys! Next episode I’m going to dive into the Joy List with you. Before you listen to the next episode, I encourage you to go back and listen to previous episodes. I’ll look it up and I’ll put it in the show notes exactly which one it is that you should listen to before next time if you haven’t. (Episode 9)
[36:48] You’ll also want to go download the Joy List worksheet. I’ll remind you guys all about that at the beginning of the next episode, but if you can do it ahead of time, that will save you a little bit. We will actually go through the Joy List on the next episode. I will walk you through that.
[37:04] In future episodes, we’re also going to be talking about the Family Medical Leave Act and how that applies to fibromyalgia and, potentially, to your life, if you’re working. We are also going to talk about getting special work accommodations to make working with fibromyalgia easier. I have a special guest that is going to join me for that.
[37:27] One of my coaches, Julie Hamilton, has worked with the FMLA, the Family Medical Leave Act, since it was created. She was an HR director and manager for over 20 years. She is now a Certified Life Coach, a Certified Fibromyalgia Coach, and a Certified Youth Life Coach. This is her area of expertise, so we’re going to have her on to talk through all of that with an HR and a fibromyalgia perspective.
[37:58] We’ve got lots of goodies coming up for you, and, as always, every ten episodes we have our “Ask The Coach” — which is our “Dear Tami” episode. This is where I take questions sent in by you, the listeners, just like “Dear Abby” does, and I answer those live on the podcast. If you have questions, if there are things that you are wondering, please, please sent them in. Just go to FibromyalgiaPodcast.com, and you’ll find the Ask the Coach option under the Contact menu, and just send in your questions. We will give you answers to those questions by email when you send them in, because every ten episodes, that’s actually several months apart, and we don’t want to keep you waiting. So, we’ll send you an answer. Then, if your question is chosen, we will also answer it live on the podcast.
[38:50] For today’s show notes, just go to FibromyalgiaPodcast.com/12 (that’s the number twelve, 1-2) and you will find all of today’s show notes, the transcript, the video, and even some fun little quote cards. If you guys haven’t been out there, be sure you go do that. We make these cute little pretty Facebook memes and Pinterest memes that you can share, with quotes. There may be some from today’s episode that you might want to pin, just to remind yourself why you may need to say No to some things so that you can say Yes to what it is that you really want.
[39:34] Alright, you guys. Thanks for hanging in here with me and I can’t wait to see you on future podcast episodes. Bye!
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