2018 Taught Me That Saying No Isn’t Always Just About Empowering Myself

December 16, 2018  |  

the power of no

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With 2019 getting prepared to make its big debut in a matter of weeks it can be easy for us to start beating ourselves up over all the things we didn’t accomplish in the past year. The gym membership that never saw the light of day post St. Patrick’s beer crawl. That cruise vacation that didn’t sail past our vision board. The toxic relationship we got sucked backed into come Memorial Day or the job we entered into 2018 hating and will be leaving 2018 downright despising. As much as I applaud goal setting in the new year, I’m an even bigger fan of giving yourself credit where credit is due no matter how big or small your efforts may have seemed. If you even changed one unhealthy pattern this past year whether it was making your own coffee at home instead of dropping a fourth of your paycheck at Starbucks, that should be celebrated. Or maybe you chose to keep scrolling more often than not on social media instead of posting a negative comment. It’s the slight adjustments to our behavior and outlooks on life that end up making the most impact on our future. This year for me it was as simple as owning the power in the word, “No.”

If you’re familiar with my story, you probably know that my writing took a turn ever since I was laid off in 2015. I lost a whole lot of faith in myself and my 9-5 career goals at that time and became disillusioned with office politics in general. I wasn’t the first nor the last person in life to be laid off from a non-profit. Once I saw a pattern of salary gaps, managers who sat in offices all day while telling direct service professionals how to perform in the field and literally several office environments that resemble Issa’s work day at “We Got Y’all” on Insecure, I made a silent defeating promise to myself that getting a paycheck and health benefits for my family was enough and actually enjoying your job was overrated. It got to a point where I would see entitled managers delegate nonsense on a daily basis and I felt it was much easier to nod and continue doing what I was doing than call them out for the foolishness.

This past October I could no longer be that person. I had once again found myself in a similar work situation full of misery where my colleagues fought routine breakdowns in bathroom stalls and went way too hard at happy hour just because they hated their bosses just that much. It was at this time I felt my frustrations come to a head with a supervisor who manipulated the time, efforts and energy of her employees to cater to her convenience. If she had to leave early for a hair appointment, her staff would cover. She would call out sick for weeks at a time, only to come back with tales of free tickets to a football game she had been blessed with. The day I pretty much lost my s**t involved her not taking accountability for mixing up dates for a work obligation on a weekend and expecting me to scramble to find childcare and rearrange my whole life to accommodate her f**k up. Instead of apologizing, she proceeded to handle the situation with silent treatment and shade at staff meetings.

It was then I finally got the message that life had been trying to teach me in the past in similar situations. Sometimes it’s not enough to nod and shrug off BS and keep it moving. Sometimes you have to call it out exactly for what it is loud and clear. My professional character was assassinated as she chose to gossip to whomever would tune in for her violin performance of playing the victim. Typically I try not to make waves at work. I’ll stay in my lane as long as someone’s subpar work performance doesn’t affect mine and I try to avoid being the person that ever stands in the way of someone’s paycheck. But enough was enough. I chose to handle things professionally by filing an official grievance after promptly informing her that she was a sad excuse for a supervisor. A few weeks later she went on leave mysteriously and as a result her staff no longer needed to stress about rearranging their personal lives so she could live her best one. I, on the other hand, ended up giving my two-weeks notice anyway. My job was done in a variety of different ways.

It was the grand finale on a year it which I decided to take a stand and close the door on things that were no longer serving me: toxic friendships, dead end jobs and stale outlooks on life. I used to believe that you have to take a stand for something or you’ll fall for anything, but now I understand that an assertive, “No. Not today Satan. Hell to the naw,” is necessary when a passive, “I’m good, love. Enjoy,” just doesn’t suffice.

One of my favorite quotes by Albert Einstein states, “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who do nothing to stop it.” Whether you’re in toxic work culture or in an unhealthy relationship with someone who could really use a “Beloved…” or two from Iyanla Vanzant, sometimes it’s not enough to say no simply for your own peace of mind. Sometimes a no accompanied by calling something or someone out for the BS makes all the difference in your life, theirs and the lives of others. Protest and calling out wrongdoing for what it is doesn’t just mean peace of mind for yourself, it can also result in empowering others who haven’t quite found the courage to unleash their own suppressed, “Oh, hell naw.”

Toya Sharee is a Health Resource Specialist who has a passion for helping young women build their self-esteem and make well-informed choices about their sexual health. She also advocates for women’s reproductive rights and blogs about  everything from beauty to love and relationships. Follow her on Twitter @TheTrueTSharee or visit her blog, Bullets and Blessings.

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