You know what no one teaches us as children? How to say NO! Sure we may say “no” for a few years in obstinate defiance as children but soon, that is beaten out of us ( not literally but we are told over and over again that it’s not nice to say no!) We are taught from the time we are toddlers that to be pleasing in word, deed and action to those who surround us. We are even urged to look pleasing. Inadvertently, we are turned into yes to people. We are taught that to say no is to be disagreeable. “No” comes with a metric ton of guilt. But what no one tells you is that “no” can be empowering. We all need to learn how to say no, not feel bad about it and carry on. Guilt is overrated. I have enough guilt from drinking the Kool-Aid that’s told me there is such a thing as the “perfect parent”, when we all know the “perfect parent” is no more real than unicorns.
I’ve spent my entire life trying to fit in. That is what society dictates. To be “pleasing” is not the same as coloring my world all unicorns and rainbows but it is also not in your face instigation. I assume it comes from growing up in a household and a society where I was told regularly to ‘be quiet” as to not rock the boat or cause discourse. Why the fuck is it so important for everyone to like what everyone else says or wants? Once I really thought about it, sure who doesn’t like to be “liked” but then I thought, if I’m always saying yes to shit I hate, it’s all a big lie anyways and no ones pleased really; not the people I am saying yes to and certainly, not me. Not to mention, saying yes can become overwhelming and you will find yourself bogged down with things that you don’t want to do and missing opportunities that would be better suited to your life. This can happen in your career, school, family or friendships.
I’m sure the people pleasing started when I was a child. I wanted to make my parents happy like all children. I wanted to feel special among the 6 children they had. My claim to “special” child was pleasing disposition and great grades. I said yes, I did my chores, I did my homework and I strove for perfection in all areas. I thrived in the praise of , “Good job, Debi!” But then it was never enough. Parental approval became like a drug and soon I found myself feeling let down and never able to meet the standards.I just kept saying yes to please people, even though I was becoming completely miserable. In fact, I found myself finding excuses to refuse offers to go or do things because I just felt like me not wanting to was not a valid reason. It seemed selfish and warranted disapproval.
Why can’t we all just have our feelings without seeking validation from others. I have friends that I love but we don’t agree on politics or religion or even the color of the sky but we are friends still; we agree to disagree. I respect them as people and I respect their right to their opinion even if I don’t agree. I like hearing their perspectives. Hell, maybe I’ll learn something or they will point out something I never even thought of. I would never want a friend who only always said yes because if they only ever agreed with what I said, I’d have to wonder if they ever had a thought of their own and if they were genuine at all.
I know all this about myself and I am trying to break the involuntary response to placate others without ever considering first what I want. Still , on a regular basis people ask me to do stuff that I don’t want to do and do not benefit me in anyway and I say yes because I don’t want to hurt feelings, piss people off or I simply have no excuse to refuse other than I just don’t want to. Saying no doesn’t make you selfish. People do huge life changing things for the wrong reason all the time because they are afraid to say know. People marry the wrong person, take the wrong career path,stay in a marriage and even have children because it was what was expected of them. That is just not a good enough reason.
Who says no because they don’t want to unless they are a two-year-old throwing a tantrum? I am an adult and somehow saying no feels petty. Who wants to be thought of as petty? I often find myself frustrated and doing something I didn’t want to do but didn’t think I had the right to say no. Why can’t I say no? I don’t want to do it. I am an adult. I have the right to make a choice. The right to refuse. Remember to consider if when you say yes to others are you saying no to yourself? I am saying no from now on when I don’t want to do something and I refuse to qualify why to others.
Last week, it just clicked for me and someone asked me to do something that I didn’t want to and before I could even think about it, I said no. I caught myself and I felt embarrassed and guilty. It was a simple request from my husband to help him shovel the snow, during the blizzard. He never asks me to but there was a LOT of snow. But I was cold and the thought of shoveling snow that was 14 inches high and still falling felt too daunting a task and I wanted no part of it.I said no and I meant it. I think I shocked him. I eventually acquiesced and we shoveled together. Thank God, it may have killed him shoveling al that snow by himself. But when I said no, you can’t believe how happy it made me to say it out loud.
It starts with little things like, “Come on try a piece of this or that, just a taste.” You want to say no but why bother it’s only a small piece but then before you know it, it’s your virginity, your career, your happiness. It’s your life. When does it stop? We get into a habit of avoiding conflict and just saying yes. Say NO. What’s the worst that can happen? You inconvenience someone else? So what. Isn’t your happiness just as important as theirs.
Forgo the guilt and soak up the giddy excitement and sheer joy that comes with saying no. It’s invigorating to say no. Now, I understand why the two-year-olds love it so much. The liberation of saying no to something that you genuinely don’t want to do is one of the most . Consider yourselves, your wants and needs before you answer and if you don’t want to do something, feel free to confidently and graciously say no. Grinning and bearing it never made anyone happy and lying to get out of things is exhausting. Feel heard and know that you should never feel afraid to have an opinion. Somethings in life we have to do, even if we don’t like them because they are what is best for us. Guilt should not be a part of saying no.