The Benefits Of Learning How To Say “No”

July 3, 2015  |  

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The older I get, the more comfortable I am with saying no.  A simple two-letter word, “no” is a lot more powerful and freeing than its negation suggests.

For too long, I was the adult equivalent of that eager beaver you loved to hate in school.  You know the one. The first to shoot their hand up before the teacher even finished posing a question.  To me, the word “no” seemed to be rife with qualities I didn’t want to be associated with – disagreeable, unlikeable and difficult.  It was like talking back to your parents when you were a kid.  You just didn’t do it.

So I often said yes to appease the needs and desires of others.  “Yes” to spending money I didn’t have for fear of being left out.  “Yes” to going places I didn’t want to go out of a sense of obligation.  “Yes” to more work, despite not having enough energy or time to complete it.  “Yes,” so that no one I cared about would feel like I was letting them down.

By saying yes all the time, I was feeding into a Superwoman complex and taking on way more than I could chew.  There’s a misconception that as women, we have to do it all.  That other people are somehow incapable or unfit to do the job we’ve been asked to do or the job that’s expected of us; that we have to step in and step up at all times.  But that’s nonsense.  Things suffer when you try to be everything to everyone but yourself.  That includes friendships, your mental and physical health – the list goes on and on.  Forgo the guilt.  You are not less than, you are not unworthy, you are no less woman (and we can still hear you roar) if you choose to say no.

Here’s what happened when I denied myself that opportunity.  I noticed that by being so agreeable and by not saying no, I was getting angry.  A lot.  I grew unjust resentment towards my friends who had obviously grown used to me saying yes and to always being down for whatever.  They were just feeding off of the precedent I had established.  Worse yet, I honestly felt like I was being taken advantage of when all along, I was the one pimping my damn self.

I also felt the need to explain myself on the rare occasions when I did say no.  Out of guilt, I would try to justify my reasoning and logic.  But “no” is not a mathematical equation.  I don’t need to back it up with proof.  Sometimes I even managed to talk myself out of a “no” into a “maybe” and an eventual “yes.”  That’s how deep the rabbit hole went. That’s how much pressure I put on myself to look good in the eyes of others (and then curse them under my breath because I felt that they should have known better).

As adults, we don’t always have the opportunity to pick and choose the things we want to do.  There are these wonderful things called responsibilities and obligations that we kind of have to acknowledge.  But there’s power in choice and selection.  I had to learn how to say no because saying yes to everything left me utterly exhausted.  And if you’re tired all the time, you’re no good to anyone, least of all yourself.

Saying no also gave well-meaning people too much control over my life, my choices and my decisions.  With maturity came the relieving realization that the people in my life, the people who really matter, are going to love and support me regardless of whether or not I say yes or no to them.

The word “no” also enabled me to carve out time for myself and to be content with being alone.  To relax, regroup and recharge.  To avoid mental and physical wipe out and strengthen friendships.  Sometimes saying no allows for quality over quantity, and I’ll take that any day.

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