Things I've learned: It's OK to say 'no'
A good friend of mine once told me that you’ve got to look out for number one, because in the end you’re all you’ve got. I remember thinking how depressing that sounded after she said it, but how incredibly true it was. From that point on, I started living on my own terms. I would no longer go out if I didn’t want to. I wouldn’t meet up with a friend if I didn’t want to. I wouldn’t wear the latest style if I didn’t like it, and I wouldn’t watch the latest movie if I had no interest in it. I would only do the things I wanted to do. Saying yes to saying “no” to things I don’t want to do has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.
I don’t think I’ve ever really been a people pleaser. However, there have been times when I was more easily influenced into doing something. When I was in college, my girlfriends would get all dressed up in their sparkly somethings and coax me into going out with them. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I was the coaxer, but now, five years out of college, I am far less easier to talk into things. If I don’t want to go out, I won’t. Sometimes, my couch is super cozy and Netflix calls my name. Sometimes it doesn’t. Regardless, I don’t care if I say no. I no longer feel guilty if I say no. AND I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything if I say no.
The same thing can be said of past experiences. There have been things that my friends or family have advised me against doing. Had I listened to them, I would have not experienced some of my greatest memories. Last summer, I randomly decided to go hiking the Red River Gorge in Kentucky. The drive was about 3 or 4 hours and my family wasn’t too keen on the idea. My ceiling had just caved in on my apartment and running away for a brief hiking weekend trip was probably not the best idea at the time. I went anyways. There was nothing more that I could do in that precise moment for my apartment anyways and staying there would just be a reminder that world was literally caving in. So I hiked. I climbed up hills and made my way up to the top of the trail, where I overlooked the foothills and felt small, yet invincible and there was no better feeling than in that moment on top of my “mountain.” Later, there was screaming in cave tunnels, and rain water mixed with sweat. It was everything I needed. Had I not gone, I wouldn’t have experienced such beautiful, cathartic moments.
I’ve also learned that being a “yes” woman puts you in a position to be taken advantage of. If you say yes to everything whether it be work related, friend related, or family related, the people in these situations will come to expect that you will say yes all of the time. They will come to expect more from you, which isn’t fair. When I was working at a previous job, I would always take on more responsibility on purpose. If someone asked me to do something, my immediate reaction was to always say yes. This ended up backfiring on me, because as soon as I said “no” to something, my co-workers were surprised and thought something was up. Had I said no sporadically before, it wouldn’t have been such a shock. I was too concerned with impressing my higher ups, but by the time saying yes to everything had me exhausted enough to say “no,” it was too late. The expectations for me were higher. I wish now, that I had said “no” a little more often before.
Ultimately, I think, as you age, you care less and less about what others think about you, which is the real reason people say “yes” all of the time. I think at a certain point (for me it happened in my mid-20s), you realize that you really have little to no control about how others feel about you and at that point, there is a sense of relief. You don’t have to try so hard anymore. You don’t have to say yes to things anymore if you don’t want to. People will like you or they won’t and the people who do like and you matter in your life will understand if you say no to something. I’m not saying that “yes” is a bad thing, I’m just saying that “no” is equally acceptable and you should embrace your right to choose what’s best for you.
(Image via iStock)