I can’t, I shouldn’t, not today, maybe tomorrow, not right now, later, I’m busy, I’m too tired, sorry but…, I would but…, No. Whatever way you choose to say it, you are saying NO.
And there is a time for no. No is for setting boundaries, no is a powerful stand against something, no is to warn against harm or danger. No should be a conscious decision to not do something. But how often are you really using ‘no’ as intended? And how often are you just saying no to avoid being seen, avoid taking chances, avoid being out of your comfort zone, avoid being who you really are?
If you are saying no more than you are saying yes, the likelihood is that you are missing out on a lot in life and you are saying no to parts of who you are. This leads you to feel like you have lost parts of yourself, because in some ways you have. Every time you deny who you are, you gradually bury that part of yourself until you can’t remember what you were like.
When I reflect on all the times I have said no to myself over the years the memory that sticks out most for me is being at a friends birthday party and being asked if I wanted to join in a baseball game. I knew my younger self would have loved playing, would have jumped at this opportunity, but in that moment I said no. I didn’t want to look stupid, I didn’t want to be noticed, and I didn’t want to allow myself to let loose and have fun. I remember feeling sad that day but not really understanding why. Now I can see that I was not being true to who I am, I was denying myself the opportunity to be me and have fun.
On face value it doesn’t sound like a big deal to say no to playing baseball, but if I didn’t have a real reason not to, then why didn’t I say yes? And if this seemingly insignificant memory stands out to me, then how many times did I say no to things without recognising the damage it was having.
As Shonda Rhimes writes in ‘Year of Yes’, “losing yourself does not happen all at once. Losing yourself happens one ‘no’ at a time.”
If you’re saying no to things a lot, and your no’s aren’t making you feel empowered then ask yourself:
- What part of yourself are you saying no to?
- What are you missing out on by saying ‘no’?
- What would be different if you said yes?